Caroline Slotte

It starts now

It starts now. You are here.

The door in front of you is red, the paint cracked in a network of thin, vertical flakes. Moss is growing on the wall.

You pull the door open, shove it against the ground so that it stays open. The stairs start immediately. They are steep, the steps worn-down. Each step has its own contour, sagging, as if the soft parts of the stone had been washed away with water.

You step inside. Bird feathers, dry leaves, scraps of newspaper, pigeon droppings. The cream walls are stained with moisture and rust. On the handrail the paint is flaking, glimpses of raw wood in the cracks. You keep your arms close to your body and start walking. A faint gust of wind blows through the staircase, upwards, makes tangles of cobweb flutter in the corners.

The stairs turn left, you reach a landing. A red fire door blocks the passage. You reach out for the door, it slides open without a sound. Behind the door the staircase narrows, the steps are wooden, the colour on the walls is darker. The outermost layer of paint is alive, the flakes extend into space as if attempting to break loose, get free.

On your right the dust has settled on the yellowish brick wall. The dust forms a dark sediment on the upward sloping surfaces, like inverted shadows, like the reverse greyscale of a photo negative. The dust looks soft, velvety.

You can still feel the draft from the door, it breathes across the back of your neck, evenly and insistently. Your steps echo against the wood.

You reach the next landing. On your left a small triangular entry. All corners of the room are hidden by dusty cardboard boxes, crumbling plasterboard, scraps of paper. This is where you enter. Diagonally to your right is the next doorway, you stop there. The inside of the doorframe is covered with greasy, black fingerprints.

The room in front of you is rectangular, you are standing at the short end. On both sides rows of grey metal shelves. The shelves are empty. The floor is covered by brown tile squares. The surface undulates, as though a sea had pushed it up from underneath, leaving a wave in the floor.

You bend down and swiftly make your way along a curved line across the room. The metal rings in the entire length of the shelves as you stride past.

The next room is darker. The ceiling wooden, the walls a matte black, like soot. The windows are low, five or six of them along the left wall, all overlooking the courtyard below. On the windowsill a dead grasshopper, dry and brittle and completely intact, its tiny limbs bent into a foetal position.

You can no longer feel the wind, the hum is inside the walls now, like a train far away. Somewhere in the pipes a sound, of animals, birds.

The dust is everywhere, thin and even, like a membrane, or thick, in heaps or compressed cakes. The floor, the shelving, the objects – nothing is clear, nothing is clean, nothing is reverberating. Everything is as if sealed.

A fixed wooden structure blocks the way in to the right part of the room. Behind the structure the flooring is removed, as if there were an opening, a way through. You get up, turn off into the shadows at the end of the structure. Here you are out of sight. You reach the stairs at the back of the room, climb up. The door at the end of the stairs is wide-open. You have arrived.

The room is airy and light, like a ballroom or a chapel. You have dreamt about this room, the colours in it, turquoise, red, white. Everything dry, porous, crunchy.

The paint is peeling. Left of the entrance, the surface of the wall has come off in large, heavy chunks. Around the pillar in the middle of the room the flakes lie in piles, like pastel-coloured confetti.

A butterfly has come into the room. You hear the sound before you see it. It flutters against the windowpanes, the wings hitting the glass at a furious pace, like flat little hands against a tightened drumskin.

A rickety wooden table runs along the window wall. The light falls on the table in its entire length, evenly and consistently, like a carpet. At the centre of the table there is a large green patch. Rain has come through the roof, parts of the ceiling lie in pieces on the table. Moss grows on the patch, small bouquets of tiny, green leaves like a smooth fluff on the roof chunks. In the window-frame the cobwebs lie thick like felted wool or candyfloss.

You no longer crouch, you walk over to the table, bend down. The air from your breath puts the dust in motion. Tiny white particles whirl up into the light.

The table has a warm, homey smell. The tip of your nose touches the surface, making a spherical mark in the dust. You open your mouth, press your tongue against the wood. Dust grains flicker in front of your eyes like sequins in close-up. Something melts between the tongue and the table.

A glistening, dark oval is left on the table when you leave, as though a fat snail had landed there, only to immediately take off again.

 

Published in Topographies of the Obsolete: Vociferous Void, ed. Anne Helen Mydland and Neil Brownsword 

Bergen Academy of Art and Design/British Ceramics Biennial, 2013

 


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