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3:AM in Lockdown 13: Matthew Turner

By Matthew Turner.




I prefer not to. Instead, I would rather think about the normality, not the difference. I would rather imagine a vast fresco painted on the walls of a small cell, depicting spaces of enormous enclosure.

There would be a cloudless sky, a blurred horizon. There would be innumerable cabinets of curiosities; Ole Worm’s museum of fish swimming in mid-air, spears held mid-flight, alligators and tortoises waddling the walls of a rectangular prism; Levinus Vincent’s Wonder Theater of Nature, with its forest of animal cadavers in shimmering spirit, exotic insects, shells and crustaceans, minerals and fossils — a diorama with scenes composed from various kinds of endlessly fractal corals and sponges. There would be Sir John Soane’s perennially congealing alleyway house with clouds of bizarre architectural splinters, Montaigne’s narrow writing tower the hidden conduits between floors transmitting the sound of mass. A cork-lined bedroom. It would be pinpricked with starlit priest holes, with someone concealed for days, wondering over witch markings roughly carved into oak beams. It would be set against cattle running in candlelit cave paintings; the dark, psychedelic temple at Chavín de Huántar, ever expanding light, sound, consciousness. All punctuated by pages from an illuminated manuscript of Julian Assange’s psychiatric report, illustrating his time under house arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy.

There would be stunted trees with extensive cascading roots. We would see Diogenes projecting thoughts of philosophical cynicism onto the blind walls of his home, a large ceramic jar. The blind botanist, Rumphius, collecting shells on an Italian beach, and Pythagoras teaching the principles of geometry from behind a thick curtain. We would see Nabokov shuffling a slim box of index cards, and Dr John Dee communing with other worlds through his dark obsidian mirror. Then inuits thinking in swirling circles of claustrophobic snow, Annie Edson Taylor becoming the first person to plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. There would be fantastic visions from sensory deprivation, coruscating after images, a small hole in the wall, with a fibre-optic cable running through, alluding to the great outdoors. There will be ceaseless Sundays, transgression, fevers, revolutions of the imagination.

Image: Fra Angelico’s ‘Annunciation’ in a cell of the San Marco monastery, Florence, Italy.


First posted: Tuesday, March 31st, 2020.

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