[I’ve been reading Raymond Roussel’s Locus Solus lately, and the other day I started wondering how my forks would appear if they turned up in Professor Canterel’s garden. Below is a treatment of my forks in light-hearted homage to the novel, to see how they might look from a distance. This text is one of several I’ve been experimenting with over the summer as a way of replacing objects with descriptions. The work is developing towards my contribution to Locus Solus by Out of the Box Intermedia. For more about the project, click here.]

This irregular clicking gained clarity as we approached a wide doorway cut into the right-hand wall of the inner corridor. At the professor’s instruction we passed through the doorway and formed a small congregation immediately inside a darkened rectangular room the diminutive proportions of which, on account of the low ceiling and flickering candlelight, lent a domestic air to the tableau set before us.

A slim wooden table occupied the central section of the room before a wooden chair of similar design. The chair accommodated a young woman absorbed in the unsystematic maintenance of several intersecting clockwork machines spread about the tabletop in front of her. Our guide led us further into the room to a point immediately left of the table which from we were able to clearly observe, arranged at random on the surface of the table, twelve squat black cylinders each with a short metal stub protruding from the centre of its horizontal face. Each cylindrical stub was pierced from edge to edge by a pair of perfectly cylindrical holes whose trajectories crossed at precise right angles inside the stub, missing one another’s trajectories by virtue of a four-millimetre interval between the height of the lower hole and that of the higher. Each of these holes provided exactly enough space to accommodate a single prong of a table fork, leaving sufficient width of metal stub at either side as to hold the adjacent prongs in strict tension, such that once introduced into the hole, the entire table fork was compelled to remain in position until it was forcibly removed.

Each black cylinder was connected by means of a thick plastic cord to a discreet power source underneath the tabletop, which provided sufficient energy at an adequately steady rate to slowly operate a rotary motor within each black metal shell, the effect of which was to turn the metal tube on top through 360 degrees at an approximately steady speed, conveying the two forks in a continuous circular journey pivoting about the centre of the black cylinder like the curved hands of a perverse clock.

With twelve such machines in her care the young woman had continual cause to intervene into the circumnavigations of the forks, whose paths frequently and unpredictably intersected one another as a result of minute variations in speed between the motors, and more pronounced variations in shape and weight among the menagerie of forks they manipulated. When left unchecked, these intersections resulted in slow tussles between pairs of utensils until the prong of either or both forks was forced out of their metal holes; should neither fork yield, the opposition of their persistent revolutions caused the gradual upending of the motors themselves, and caused them to limp monstrously around the tabletop propelled by the indifferent rotation of their forks.

Despite her continuous interventions, such tussles arose persistently among the machines left momentarily unmarked by the frequently diverted attention of the young woman. To right the misadventures of the machines it sufficed that she collect the dropped utensils and reinsert them at random into the nearest rotating stub made available by their fall, and to return the motors to their upright positions. These hasty resolutions introduced further irregularities into the system of machines which in turn caused additional destructive interference among its moving parts, and so the process continued.

The effect caused by the inevitable clatter of intersecting forks resulted in the irregular clicking sound that had been audible to us on our approach to the chamber and which, from the intimacy of the room’s interior, was augmented by the wax and wane of the humming motors as they rotated under the changeable weights of the utensils. With a gesture of the hand the professor indicated to us three small microphones fixed in place on the table’s wooden surface, each approximately surrounded by four of the clockwork machines and each connected once again by means of black plastic cords to apparatus entirely concealed beneath the tabletop. Surrounding and illuminating the entire system, three low electric desk lamps projected the harmonious movement of utensils and hands onto the surrounding walls and ceiling, with the effect of producing the indeterminate shadows we had initially taken to be the articulate spluttering of flickering candlelight.

Advertisements