the plan

Installation view, Ziggurat: Claire Hooper and Paul Simon Richards, Edel Assanti, London.

What concrete earth is this? A grey floor provides a cold platform. An empty container long ago held water. Fish bones litter the place, brittle and small as if dead merely a month past spawning.

The fish reveal a common story: a temple no longer exists, it was outgrown, a feast was had and much intoxicating liquor was consumed.

Later, when the place was found, looking at it again we might be forgiven for wanting to leave it behind. Like a bad trip, or a time under hypnosis, we are consumed by the smell and presence of fish.

I’m very sick and also sorrowful.

We could hang things here in ode to our patron gods. A skeleton is not just a representation of a now-dead body but a symbol for a thing most of us will become. I’m interested in how my body, notwithstanding the tug and torment of age, might reveal itself to me as I pass.

My bones and flesh covered with fish. I breathe in, eventually letting out what I cannot keep in my stomach.

The room fills with the sweet smell of fresh vomit, of carp decay, and of life lived after the hallucination.

The city outside was built by the eventual settling of nomadic pastoralists. I set the scene for a story; one where I am forcibly removed from the temple in the evening when the liquor runs out; one where the time spent inside is only to offer contrast to the misery of leaving and crossing the river again at dark.

Back outside the air is warm and greets us falsely, providing a form of comfort that is not sustainable — a tease to the senses.

The sounds of chatter echo around. As voices mix they are blurred, bouncing off the buildings, asking and failing to be heard.

Gender is abhorrently divided here and everywhere else. The male and female aspects of society are represented by symbolic means that actualise only in the selfish living of daily life; the stupid and inane force of habit.

A so-called masterful mix is created and we are born from the combined myth of religion and history – each and every one of us directly from a rhetorical god.

Our bind to water is an ironic punishment for our disgust at the division we find in our anatomical form. If we can convince everyone else of the constant and retrogressive reproductive cycle of life, we will be freed.

That is our challenge as people ejected from the temple, any temple.

A man stands before us. He has a beard. From his shoulders emerge two streams of water, his way of giving life.

This poem was written to accompany the exhibition Zigurrat: Claire Hooper, Paul Simon Richards curated by Chandelier and hosted in collaboration with Edel Assanti, London, in 2015.