A masterpiece of luminescent highlighter pen

20 May 2008

Kate wrote me a while ago now:

M. was telling me after that his son is mildly autistic, which to me is also in [his] work somehow, in that really comforting and driven thing about repetition which is beautiful and mad at once. Anyhow he told a story about how someone gave his son an invisible-ink pen with a special torch at the other end which makes the writing visible after. One night his son beckons him into his bedroom and switches out the light – shining his torch, he shows his dad the walls of his room, now covered in lists and lists and lists in invisible ink – lists of his soft-toys birthdays, lists of things to tell his Mum’s boss etc. etc. He said it was frightening, he said like a prison but I thought surely also beautiful, a treasure cave.

Something so strong about this mapping of language and thought onto the physical landscape of the room. Place and state of mind conflated. I mean a bedroom is always a mental space, an index of its inhabitants’ consciousness, a mental map in any case and this act of writing on it just seems to make that more concrete. I could feel the nightmare aspect of it too and I was also thinking about this writing’s status as public secret (something open and closed at the same time), a secret performed/ played privately into in public space. An amazing image in any case.


For some reason Kate’s text also made me think about the story James from my Endland Stories collection, perhaps cos James sometimes writes these kind of lists, defining his world in a cataloguing way. I looked back on the story and found this:

In the morning they set off again going many leagues to the westerly direction and within a day or two they caught sight of their destination – the city of C____ in the province of D______ where men call each other ‘brother’ and where the women are dark haired, long legged and free.

Dad slammed car doors and walked into the Hotel De Ville, demanding room 236 and leading the kids up there in confidence. It was a small room, just like he remembered, closed tight on a double bed, with shit brown curtains and a picture on the wall that caught James’ eye.

Dad broke open the mini-bar and reluctantly shared a vodka bottle with Olivia while James stared at the picture, stood up on the bed in his muddy shoes, but no one really cared.


The picture: one of those allegories popular in former times. Service Stations Of The Cross. Baroque detail. A masterpiece of luminescent highlighter pens. Christ on The Forecourt. Crucified. The gay centurions. Posh Spice at Christ’s feet, wailing and weeping and washing diesel off of him with her long black hair. In the background Peter, Paul & Mary. A pair of winged pump attendants hovering in the air and sporting the fluttering banner in typical period style:


James stared at the picture and an hour passed in an instant and it seemed to him so real he could  smell the sand, and feel the breeze in Peter’s hair.


The German edition of Endland – from Swiss publisher Diaphanes is on its way later this year. The new book will feature the stories from the original Endland collection, as well as a collection of further stories in related territory, many of which were written for other projects, notably Barbara Campbell’s 1001 nights cast and Kate’s own performance Loose Promise.

I just got the cover for the German Endland. It uses a great wrap-around photo from an installation called Pygmalion by Swedish artist, Charlott Markus who’s based in the Netherlands. I love the feel of her work and the scrappy, violent dysfunction of it plays really well to Endland’s landscape. The image from the cover is about number six in the sequence. The cover itself, below, looks lovely.

Endland - Tim Etchells - Diaphanes cover

Related projects