August 7, 2013 - Glowworms at the Airport Bar

August 7, 2013 – Glowworms at the Airport Bar


Karina Irvine’s text is a slice of magic realism which weaves through 8 ambient/drone tracks (see the playlist above) as “touch points” and subsequently generates a soundscape show (the podcast below).

All movement, the great horizon, the journey, is a spasm of forgetting, which bends in the bubble of forgetting. — César Aira

She was sitting in an airport bar, and asked me to have a drink with her. I sat down and we chatted. This took place sometime in the early eighties. Her name was Lena, and she was from the Netherlands. This is what she told me.

Before she began her story she told me she often pictures herself as a dung-beetle. Not necessarily in terms of pushing dung but pushing a steady accumulation of clutter from her daily life over the course of many years, both real and imagined. This giant ball, transforming in shape and colour with each cyclical push, is an amalgamation of random things constructing its own narrative between the embedded debris that make up its form. For this reason she told me she has given herself the “dungtitle,” or as she says she has been “dungtitled“; an adjective applied to someone who tends to hoard, but only the things you feel obligated to keep for one reason or another. Though “dungtitled” sounds a lot like “untitled” the two should not be confused, since it would be even worse to refer to yourself as “untitled.”

Her story began with her dreams of going on a subterranean journey to the Waitomo glowworm caves in New Zealand. She would often imagine herself creating cavelike spaces in any environment she was in. Humbly, as it were, with a blanket propped up between two chairs or more abstractly she would picture herself making an incision in the air, splitting it open and finding herself among the long glowing strands of silk: strings of tiny blobs spat out by an immense grouping of glowworms. Cutting, opening, swimming through the underground streams that carved through the limestone that make up these caves. Lena would imagine herself floating on her back and looking up at the hanging architecture formed with predatory purposes by a glowing society.

The first thing she needed was the big ship that would take her there. During her voyage, she survived by fishing and piracy, seaweed gathering and swashbuckling. Sailing her big ship on the high seas. She would rely on the horizon line for her sense of orientation, time and space. She says that she would stare for long hours at the length of the horizon, presenting in itself an illusion of infinity and also of a desire to see beyond it. No matter how much distance she gained on her journey the distance between her and the horizon would remain the same. A distance that remained identical to the distance she noted before. Approximately 30 kilometers signifies the limit of our range of vision. To look at the horizon pretends to offer the possibility not simply of envisaging space and timelessness, but even of physically observing it. 30 kilometers separated Lena from the horizon. 30 kilometers is the distance that manifested this sense of infinity.

When she finally approached the caves of Waitomo she noticed the walls were dripping with stars. Streams were trickling down the walls, the minerals in the stalactites were shimmering and the glowworms stretched across every conceivable surface, illuminating their long strands with the chemical reaction in their tails. Some formed what looked like a corkscrew, twisting in log curly strands.

In 1699 a celestial sphere fountain was made for the country palace of William of Orange and Princess Mary at Het Loo, in the Netherlands. The surface of the sphere is etched with a celestial map and is riddled with many small holes. The punctures all spit water in long streams, showing the placement of the stars; not through light but through spitting water. Surrounding this fountain in the neighbouring garden is a steady supply of rhubarb. Lena thought about these streams of water spitting through the many holes, demonstrating the placement of stars through strings of squirting water. The constellation formed by the glowworms falls in long strands and literally is their spit, though their spit is made of silk.