In 2006, I found an empty address book in a demolished Cape Town apartment. The page for A had been torn out. There was one address in it, under B for Beatrice. Was she the only person the owner of the book had ever really known? A thing as yet un-named, or already un-named by the mind and time, I began to paint her with red food colouring, but she shifted her identities like a mutinous fantasy. She was alpha – the beginning, a person still becoming, half sensed, half-glimpsed by intuition.
The video installation takes place an empty classroom, in this case at my former high school, the found address book with its empty index instructing half-written exercise books donated by individual learners. Many years after finishing this video, and finding this little red girl repeatedly and inexplicably turn up among images I collected, I realised she had another name, ‘your daughter’s daughter’. She is all that is future, a cipher for the generations to inherit our world.
We speak a language of intimate, silent, imperceptible interchanges with an oracle called ‘the world’, and it allows us to play – like a breath, a dance, a wave, a book of whitening pages. We fill in the blanks, half sensed, half-glimpsed by intuition.
An address book should be filled with the alphabet, a guide to the world. At the seaside that day, I filled it with drawings of strangers and threw the book into the sea. To my surprise it returned. As generations come and go, time comes and goes, unspeakably, and one becomes younger with each forgetting. The beginning is just arriving and yet it has already been before. The end is almost over and yet there will be another one like it. This is what language knows, articulates over and over, but cannot adequately say about its own formation. This is what our post-millenial culture is just beginning to understand about the aftermath, or the desire to be modern.
There are those coming and those who have left. Quantum physics speaks of ripples in time, of events retroactively causing their own beginning. What came first, the ocean or the wave? Watch this space.