Borders

Recording the dimensions of a print on paper there is usually an, ‘image size’ and a ‘sheet size’. The larger sheet contains both the printed image and the surrounding area – the border. This area, though empty, has a significant effect on how the image appears; it frames and defines it. An intermediary between the image and the world, the border is also a reducer, defining the image as separate from the world around it. In the ambient world we live in demarcations are rarely so precise.

In Jean Cocteau’s film ‘Orpheus’ a mirror marks the passage between two worlds. Jean Marais (playing Orpheus) steps through the mirror (it becomes liquid as he passes through) and enters a passage to the underworld. I have no sense of an underworld, or the afterlife it necessitates (How can there be anything after life?). Beside us though, and I sense it running along beside us on a parallel track, is darkness – nothingness – its only definition given by what it is not. The line between existence and oblivion is thin. Lying awake at night I imagine this border as a pervious membrane (the liquid mirror). I am feeling blindly along its surface, leaning lightly against the tenuous sheet to better feel the pulse of life, and then, irresistibly, I am percolating through.

There is a photograph by Jacques-Henri Lartigue of his friend Guitty playing on the tideline. The photograph is old (1905) but depicts a search for a moment that never wears out. Guitty is trying to estimate the turning point (in French, the point mort), the moment when the incoming water will come to a stop and begin to recede. She runs across the line of water, lifting her skirts, fooled again by the unpredictable waves.

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