Emptiness and Lost FormsEnzo Lara-Hamilton
I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m attracted to emptiness. Now, more than ever, I’m surrounded by it.
It hides behind my smile, under the warmth of my chair and in the air outside, alluring and horrifying. Emptiness creeps and dances between the prickles of my legs. Any attempt to capture it pulls me further away. It is elusive.
There is nothing to personify, nothing to capture, yet I can’t stop myself from trying.
Sometimes emptiness is my unadjusted eyes walking home at night. My street’s oddly stapled wooden posts and strange orange brick flats would usually be covered in a thin film of nostalgia. Without vision it is warped. It is unknown. It could be infinitely vast and empty or right next to me, about to grab my neck.
Other times emptiness is a precise gash down my chin to my abdomen. Anxiety-inducing ooze coagulates inside me. It slowly accumulates around the wound, filling my body, freezing and tightening. In these moments I fear for my heart, terrified it might give up…
But it’s fantastic.
I’m not sure why.
“A hole would be something. Nah, it was Nothing.
And it got bigger and bigger.”
And it got bigger and bigger.”
- Rock Biter, The NeverEnding Story.
I have a childhood memory of my mother vanishing at a magic show. This memory is the foundation of my relationship to emptiness.
One moment, she was in the magician’s chair, radiating warmth, smiling cheekily at me. The next, gone.
The destructive mixture of emotions I felt during her absence was overwhelming. Only through knowing her presence could I understand what I had lost, and it was everything.
Though, in that cauldron of emotions there was one curious feeling.
She was returned safely to me moments later, but a question remained. Where did she vanish to ?
She could have been anywhere. I imagined her floating in a void, then in an unending and moonlit pine forest. I tried to think of what nothing was, but somethings kept being created. She was released from reality, momentarily. Free.
The current emptiness of public spaces has drawn me back to ideas of absence. The eeriness haunts and entices me, a warm coldness hanging around. It has an allure.
Between breaths and faint engine noises is the nothing. Emptiness is in streets and spaces that once cradled conversations of teapots and sexual innuendo. How unsettling it is, and how liberating.
I now feel public space is a question, not an answer. A canvas not yet painted. It seems to beg for meaning and fullness.
Although these spaces lack something, metamorphosis could be around the corner or atop a light pole…
Maybe it’s already there, within the emptiness.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:
Nature abhors a vacuum. There is something decidedly eerie about spaces where presence fails us, and the anxiety that follows presses heavily on us.
Far too often, these editorial notes have had to reckon with the constantly shifting reality we find ourselves in, and as Melbourne has entered into one of the strictest lockdowns in the world – that elusive phrase “COVID normal” feels very far away, and we are left with cold, constrained days and curfewed nights.
Stage 4 feels different. There is a tangible fear and a deep tension. The whole of the city now bears the sign “Danger Ahead. Turn Back”. Melbourne’s emptiness is as cold as the weather and edge-like in its unbearable quietude.
Our instinct is to fill emptiness with an unending stream of somethings, the easiest thing in the world is to place Things in a void, ending the anxiety that comes from confronting nothingness.
Rather than explicitly fill that emptiness, therapeutically glossing over our anxiety, Lara-Hamilton’s work encourages us to be-with the emptiness, live alongside the unending strangeness of the empty, and come to terms with our own fear.