Instructions for Mending the World

Instructions for Mending the World, 2007-23

In this series of photographic films, I have placed recordings of cloth alongside those of the cosmos. The cloth images were created in my darkroom without a camera by arranging muslin fabric on the films and exposing it to artificial light. I then inverted most of the resulting negatives into positives using a century-old chemical technique. The images of deep space were recorded on the dry bed of Lake Tyrrell in the Victorian Mallee by exposing the films to the naked light of the moonless night sky underneath old glass-plate astronomical negatives. The metamorphosis of invisible silver halides into dark metal photo-chemically triggered by absorption of the ancient ‘light of the universe’ means each image surface is effectively a membrane of congealed starlight.

The literal threads from which the cloths were woven offer metaphors for connection and repair reminiscent of the mystical Kabbalist’s call for Tikkun olam: to ‘mend the world’. The solace of vast space and numberless stars invites us to consider what such repair implies: redemption, not for any of us personally, but for our species and for the web of living and inanimate kin we share this precious blue orb with, and depend upon: vegetative, animal, fungi and microbe, sea and soil, stone, ice, river and air. In Kabbalist cosmology, sensed reality is neither infinite nor eternal, unlike the Ein sof (‘There is no end’) which is the imagined invisible creative source of everything. Juxtaposed with each other, these shadows of quotidian and cosmic fabric provoke thoughts of that shared, ineffable wellspring. Which film in each piece constitutes the ‘instructions’ and which is for ‘mending’ is undefined, just as what distinguishes the why from the how of reality remains unknowable to us now, and probably always will.