Vanessa Brown and Francey Russell, Carry me over this threshold, 2020, poetry. Courtesy the artists.

Vanessa Brown / Francey Russell: Carry me over this threshold

Presented as part of The Pandemic is a Portal

Written in early May 2020, Carry me over this threshold is a collaborative poem that explores shared voices, spontaneity and ideas of space. Building — as both an activity and structure — is approached as an anchor in a moment characterized by widespread uncertainty and the suspension of daily life. As a text built over the course of many threads, Carry me over this threshold engages the perfunctory nature of email correspondence as a literary form that can facilitate exchanges that are unexpectedly expansive, curious and dreamlike.

The full poem, as a continuous scroll, can be downloaded here:

Vanessa Brown is an artist who works in sculpture and installation. Her primary medium is steel, and she is interested in challenging its historical associations with industry, war and monument building by focusing its subtler qualities, such as pliability, versatility and slightness. The imagery in her work is drawn from various sources including landscapes, crafts, aspects of recurring dreams, feminized labour, gestures of comfort, and ideas of escape. She has exhibited in Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, the United States, and Mexico.

Francey Russell is a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University. She works on issues in ethics, social philosophy and aesthetics. She works mostly with the ideas of Kant and Freud, but also with those of Nietzsche and Cavell. She is writing a book on the concept of self-opacity and its significance for philosophical accounts of agency and moral psychology, and on a project on the concept of genre in film. She also writes art and film criticism.

[Image descriptions:

[01: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, reading:

Carry me over this threshold
Vanessa Brown + Fancey Russell

Even on a Tuesday morning, while next door a house
with no outside is being raised in heavy weather, it has
not been diminished. The whole thing is there.

If you fold a hole in half with your hands, as if in a
position of prayer, the hole remains just as deep as the
original wish.

A friend could not eat, could not even loot at
Strawberries because of her trypophobia.

[02: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, reading:

But those aren’t holes in the strawberries. What are
Those? A cluster of eyes? If they are not holes, then
what kind of fear is the fear of the body of a strawberry?

There is the other side of a plane of glass,
a piece of paper, a mountain; and maybe:
of grief, of melancholia. Is there another
side of a hole?

[right aligned, in italics]

Perhaps a hole with no limit is a portal?

[right aligned, without italics]

A portal with no end is a hole.

[03: An image in portrait orientation in the center of the document. It is a close-up silhouette of a mostly forward-facing cat in an overexposed photograph filled with warm brown, black and grey tones. The brightness of the sun pouring inside renders the cat brilliant white and nearly featureless but for the shape of fur defining its outline and long, arced whiskers. The cat sits on a polished wood counter, the tip of its tail visible. A blotch of colouration on its side is discernible extending backward. A blurry reflection beneath its front paws gleams on the reddish wood surface.

[04: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, reading:

A hole is a space with a definite edge,
and it is holes all the way in.

I always imagined black holes were shaped like
basketball hoops and you could get sucked in and
caught in the net. But no, a black hole is a spherical
thing. As in, you can travel all the way around it.
did you know that?

And way deep inside (who knows how far) is the
singularity — the original star that died. All sucked in
on itself. Just knocking around in there, in all that

[05: A landscape-oriented image is placed, which is a still taken from David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive (2001). The dim, low-contrast photograph is a close-up of two clasped white female hands. The hands are one on top of the other, resting on a pale blanket. The top hand has chipped, dark polish on the nails. The lower hand, emerging askew from the gentle grip of the top hand, has clear polish on the nails.

[06: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, reading:

Is your grief shaped like a hoop with a net
or a singularity knocking around in its
own emptiness?

[right aligned]

To care for a hole, to give it a limit.

[left aligned]

We live in a house, where everything is moving slowly.
The space is filled with rambunctious energy, the
edges bound to an uncertain course. Sitting here feels
like sitting somewhere else. The room is no different
from that.

[07: White sans-serif typeface on black background, right-aligned, reading:

Limn it.

[left aligned]

I’m not afraid of fruit, but tulips:
once they’ve lost their pursed composure,
once they’ve unravelled and their fat petals are
hanging out like tongues or arms, slack,
already lolling and collapsing at the end of their
bright lives, bending at the stem, falling to earth.

I once ate a part of a painting. I won’t say whose,
but it was an expensive painting. I was ordered to
clean it, to remove the detritus and dust sunken
into the strokes.

[08: An nearly square image in landscape orientation. This photograph, taken on a cloudy, grey day, shows a gable-roofed home with weather-beaten blue-gray shingled siding and peeling white trim from an angle. The house has been raised, and a new floor installed beneath, as well as part of a new floor at the top level. The new, unfinished plywood-covered floors lack glass and framing in their windows and siding. The leafy mass of a nearby tree looms over the house on the left. At the right of the picture, wooden scaffolding reaches up to the original doors. At the center of the image, a simple wooden ladder leans against the exterior wall, and a steep wooden chute descends from the upper, unfinished windows. Strewn about the house on all sides are 2 x 4s and construction detritus. In the foreground, slightly rusted temporary metal fencing has been set up to delineate the construction site.

[09: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, reading:

A piece fell off. A very small piece. The painting
almost looked no different without it.
I ate that piece.

In the East River in March I saw the foundational legs
of a building-to-be, mammoth trunks plunging down
through the surface
through the water
through the bank
and the bed.

[10: White sans-serif typeface on black background, left-aligned, in italics, reading:

We’re still building,

[without italics]

I marveled. That barreling
terrifying wild-eyed certainty that the future
will unfold like the past, that there always will
and should be more, all the way down
and all the way up.

[right aligned]

A portal with no end is a hole.
A present with no future is a pause.
A pause is a possibility, and —]

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