Thursday, February 8, 2024


Look, this made me think of you. Beneath a few oak trees, N and I watched a whole lifecycle, worms crawling along bark, moths midair, empty cocoons etched and opened to the flutter. Watching a moth halfway out, we wondered whether they awoke to a sense of discomfort, the need to break out, to find the opening. It struck me that they had no language to describe their experience. I mean, I should know that, but still, that means it would not be like that. Then a worm spinning midair, carried by the wind.

(I didn’t understand what that was about, but there was something exciting about that: see—what you don’t understand is also something beautiful.)

In a conversation over lunch, the concept of off-screen space came up. The term is from film studies and is used to describe the space that is not seen in a film but is still suggested to exist. Someone moves out of frame. Someone places the camera. Someone titles their article: “The Terrifying, Humorous, and Thematic Potential of Off-Screen Space.” Someone sits down to catalogue what cannot be seen but must be there. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies, there are six areas of off-screen space. These being the four sides of the frame as well as behind the set and behind the camera. These being a way of imagining space as a cube and the outside unseen. These being a small number of possibilities to describe what is gestured to but does not appear.

There are so many official accounts and so many photographs. There is enough on screen to never need to see again. There is so much on screen and out there, so many worms. Every image suggests an absence. Every word needs a certain fragility to pass through. There appear so many less moths in the video I took of them, even though there were so many. Next to that, the thought: we decompose. We forget the right thing and put a picture as a stand in. The frame: another enclosure made by an outside.

(I want to work on a project about description’s outside. I am talking about the edge of my mouth, the top of my finger on the keyboard. Imagine six areas.)

Two years ago, you’d place your hands together like you were taking a photograph and speak the click. I have a picture of you doing it, and then another of you doing it in the mirror, framing me framing you. What is off-screen space in the context of your hands. What are the six areas of the space when talking about your hands. The passage from off screen to out of mind. The passage from terrifying to humorous to thematic. What themes do you think about when you think about being terrified? What themes describe the contours of your thinking? What is humorous about the six-sided cube? Now place the camera. Now turn it on. Now open your eyes.

I want to speak in the off-screen space of my writing, outside the assignment to bring one photograph. You have to start somewhere, and we are already so far along. Who will write “The Terrifying, Humorous, and Thematic Potential of The Worm Dangling in the Wind?” Who will write the history of the six sides of your hands? Wouldn’t it be a relief to disappear, to retreat to the space beyond your hands? Isn’t there something else, begging to be brought into being? Look away from these words. There are six areas of space that cannot be seen. Look, I am trying to tell you that they made me think of you.

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Look, this made me think of you. Beneath a few oak trees, N and I watched a whole lifecycle, worms crawling along bark, moths midair, empty ...