text-base segment of three monitor video installation
part of group exhibition POSTcode
(Linda Wallace, Dennis Wilcox, Brad Miller and Stephen Jones)
The Performance Space, 1994
|I was certain I'd already written
about mr Amaretta and joanna -- the ghosts from next door -- but the text
seems to have disappeared from the hardrive.
Perhaps I just imagined writing something (be calm - even if you think that things are moving in the room which shouldn't be).
Tonight I lit the candles for mr Amaretta and joanna.
It must be that I'd thought about their story, spoken with other people about them and the strange circumstance of their coming into my life, that a text was written in vitro.
(the candles are dripping wax - their ears are burning)
Mr Amaretta lived in the flat next door to me. For a whole year I never saw him, and then he was gone.
Well that isn't entirely true. One hot day I saw him standing at the window. I pulled down the blind, snapped shut the window and froze him out.
Then the men were there to take away his stuff. One saturday morning. To the tip.
I wandered into the gloomy apartment. The door was open. The air stale. "Rent assisted. Protected tenant" said the removalist. throwing everything into garbage bags. Questionable protection. Nothing had been done to the apartment in years. Peeling paint turned the hallway into a skin disease -- a strange narrow wombway to a dusty dark lounge room.
This was the home for 45 years of mr Amaretta, maitre de, and his lovely wife Joanna. ("She was lovely" said Charlie, the caretaker). Italian migrants, with no known family. joanna had died some years before. There were remnants of her everywhere. The bloke said to me "take what you like - it's only going to the tip". mr Amaretta himself had been taken away somewhere, and according to the removalist, was not coming back.
There was a slight discomfort in the air as the removalist tried to make everything seems ok - the fact that mr Amaretta was being cleared out. It made him no doubt feel better when I took an interest in the elegant glassware he was about to smash into a thousand fragments(plateaus). Coloured glasses, crystal desert bowls, champagne flutes, long stemmed red-rose wine glasses, brandy balloons, and tiny glasses to sip from the lips the most delicate liqueurs.
I salvaged a lamp or two, a golliwog, and joanna's sewing basket.
That her name was joanna I can only guess. There was a boxfull of cards and letters destined for the dump. I read one of them, a birthday card, dated 1955 to my sweetheart ( + lots of soft words in italian) love Joanna.
There were photographs as well, in half a dozen albums. It was disturbing to open them and look there, with the removalist trying to remove, him wanting to not hang around in this hexed and desolate air.
(Later, someone in the apartment block told me that mr Amaretta's eyes were fading, and what use are photographs to the blind?).
In the forgotten albums lived groups of people in the forties, fifties and sixties. Smart looking. Bohemians. Living in Kings Cross, being maitre de's in continental restaurants, leading interesting lives, having parties, dinners, dreaming up schemes, going for drives in cars.
I imagine that it was joanna, poised on the stone steps in tight fifties checked pants, sweater, scarf, sunglasses framed by stylish hair, smiling for the eyes of the photographer. In another, the image of mr Amaretta, standing by the automobile, in a beret, slight beard, smoking a cigarrette. Handsome. And she, someone gay, and precious. Much loved. There was much love.
Her sewing basket was in perfect order. She had kept buttons of startling richness in tin boxes. The basket's straw was all torn at the front. A few days later a friend told me that this was exactly what a cat would do.
The removalist said, while I was looking at the books he was planning to flog, though he'd said they were to be given to a school...with titles like harnessing the power of the mind, that the old bloke had tons of books on cats. "He was obsessed with cats", which makes sense of the sewing basket, but not much else.
I took the glasses, basket, lamps and golliwog into my apartment and sat with them for a long time that afternoon. Strong presence. They changed the apartment -their new home. New life. There would be friends, parties and dinners and conversation. The choices made by mr Amaretta and joanna would be appreciated again.
I asked the estate agent where mr Amaretta was and what was happening, and why no family, and he was nonchalent, though, in answer to my question, he said the albums were the only things mr Amaretta wanted. Or so he said.
It didn't take long for the removalist to turn into handyman, and there he was, renovating the apartment with old Charlie. New paint, new carpets, and, no doubt, new unprotected tenants.
Then a friend who also lives in this big special house told me that mr Amaretta shot himself two days ago.
I've lit the candles.
You write the story.
the cloistered self
must move eternally
s p i r i t s a w a y