Dwelling: in this dark behind the eyes.
I am tracing your face from memory now; line drawing on the back of drawn eyes. Kept your cans for melting, but they aren’t these, underexposed in silver nitrate. I read it treats nosebleeds. An antiseptic, for removing the dead or dying tissues on wounds. This is the place we pool to now, touching and tapping obsidian screens till the reflections fix. For maximum sensitivity the plate must be exposed while still wet and developed immediately.
Dwelling: in this space we breathe.
I never met Kahdija Saye, we worked for the same artist at different times, but I was given her old desk space in the studio and admired her work from afar. Sunlight caught in silver on black coated aluminium sheets. We’re undone by each other. I look at these and think of her. Her tintypes and that June: the tower burning, her darkroom inside.
Collodion is the binder in this process, a diluted nitrocellulose also called guncotton; after pouring it on the aluminium plate you lower into a silver bath to sensitise, she had described this part as a kind of baptism.
The ‘cassette’ cladding failed; the design of its aluminium composite panels favoured boxed air gaps over rivets and consistently failed fire tests for twelve years. The ‘cleaner’ aesthetic of these gaps formed flaming pools of plastic that were warned to burn like paper, burn with the fuel power of a 19,000 litre truck of oil.
I look at my hands coloured with silver nitrate and reckon again; this messy desire, those flames that claimed the horizon that summer after midnight, that June I sat in her chair.
STEPH HARTOP artist
Steph Hartop is an artist based in London. She received her BA in Fine Art & History of Art from Goldsmiths. Her work has appeared in exhibitions at Kunsthal Charlottenberg, Copenhagen; Bodega, New York; and screened at Göteborg Film Festival, Sweden.
Other images from the series DWELLING were previously published alongside Derek Owusu’s short fiction piece Grey Area, in Issue 007: DESIRE.
The writing and additional photographs presented here complete the series.
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