Which loss is worse? A life’s work or the life of work’s promise? Much of what I have accomplished has been credited to others. Such things happen. But here, when my name has finally found its way to a little brass plaque, I am consumed by nothing but the awareness that the artifact is dying. Suffocating. Drained of psychic vitality to accommodate the preservation of its material form. A Picture Book of Dorian Gray. Devour the spirit. Long may image reign.

Only chance placed the artifact in my hands. Any of the grad students might have found it. Out of habit, I call it my own. My artifact. But it is absolutely not mine. It belongs to no one. Or it belongs to the institution. To the sale of tickets. It belongs to the glass, to the vacuum, to the void.

What could I have done differently? How could I have anticipated, much less prevented this? I followed standard procedure. Years of inquiry and translation depend on funding. Funding requires agreements. Contracts. I signed. I did the work. Only at the end of those years, at the breakthrough moment, did I realize what the book was for and what it needs. Too late.

The inscription might have been enough for a wiser, less scattered student. For spirit to remain, the body must change. I read it as a platitude, but it turned out to be the instructions. I overlooked clues within the images themselves, the iconography…the conflict and compassion of its figures. Above all, the presence of so many blank pages. Inhalations and exhalations. Yes, we found the traces of palimpsest, but it would take months to realize how little it had to do with the salvaging of raw materials. Rather, the stratification of content implicated the book’s central function as a mechanism of living art. Five, perhaps six layers of adaptation. As far as our instruments could perceive… but there must be more. We could probe no further without unleashing violence upon the pages. One night I dreamed we found a technology that would let us peel back every layer. But no foundation could be found. A tower of turtles. An onion. A veritable Book of Sand.

I’m tired. Now, the artifact lives in a vacuum, sheltered behind tempered glass, unable to breathe or be breathed upon or to become anything new. It will never wither or fade. Never change. Never grow. Behold its calcified final form. Unmulchable. An eternal death. I have, along with my resignation, managed one slight and impotent rebellion by tucking a copy of this letter inside the cover’s binding. Unread, effectively unwritten, like the book itself.


We hope for more time. Our translation efforts have yet to yield the secrets of the golden fold. Meanwhile, impatience grows. The artefact bears so staggering a resemblance to the leafs of cQlath on our homeworld that many insist on putting it to this task. It has been too long since we have submersed ourselves in the splines of cQlath. A final decision is coming. Still, we may yet have time to learn more, if only we can crack the meaning of the smaller leaf.

The golden fold was produced by beings of intention, that much is certain. Somehow, it was miraculously preserved, even while most signs of the ancient civilisation from which it came are particulate and obliterated. The markings remain a mystery, though some resemble those upon the smaller fold which came loose when the artefact was first moved. This leaf clearly indicates a form of communication, likely related to the artefact and rich enough to work with. It may provide us with clues as to the original purpose of the ratification, so we have prioritised its translation.


Last night the council voted to submit the artefact to the sessions of cQlath. We have been permitted one more cycle to complete our translations. We can only hope it will be enough.

We are on the verge of a breakthrough.

What we think we know so far:

First, the loose missive is connected with the artefact of the golden fold. We believe the reference word is “book”, a word of unknown meaning. Another more general word appears to translate well into our term, “artefact”.

Second, the author or authors of the message did not create the golden fold, but discovered it much as have we. They, too, studied it and attempted to learn its secrets. Finally, it appears the artefact was taken and preserved (as is evident), but that the writer became opposed to this action for some reason. We are particularly fascinated by this attitude.


It has begun. At dawn, the artefact was submitted to the sessions of cQlath, to the great delight of all, myself included. And yet this mood is tempered with sorrow. What more might we have learned, I wonder...? at least the smaller leaf remains in tact, that we might eventually complete its translation.


It has been two months since the sessions of cQlath began. The artefact in its current state has become unrecognisable from its prior form. And now, at last, mere moments ago, I finished the translation of the leaf. To my delight and contentment, those words fully explain the purpose of the artefact, at least as it was understood by their author, who found and studied the artefact ages ago.

According to the leaf, the artefact was originally intended to be a living document, a work of eternal revision and development. However, it was selected by contemporary authorities for preservation and isolation, all to the author’s dismay. For centuries, the golden fold, this “book”, remained in stasis, unchanged and unchangable, until, upon reaching this world, our people broke the container and extracted it. Now it lives within us. It seems my fears regarding dissolution and dissemination were unfounded, as the artefact's fate, selected by chance, turns out to have been most appropriate after all.

Larch Embroidery


Giotto’s frescoes of St. Francis’ preaching to the sparrows beckon the dawn of humanism in painting and yes, there is the perspectivally correct shadowing, the fullness of the faces and piercing humility in the grey light of spring. The first buds of the Renaissance are burgeoning here, in the eyes of some observers more striking than the fully blossomed manierist roses of later centuries.How could one claim to transcend the human when one never unraveled the secret of humanity, when Giotto's almost dollified depictions of poverty forever remained a dream?

Can any human retrieve the holy madness of St. Francis? And at the bottom of which fairytale well could one find the treasure of a madness which doesn't even consist in preaching to sparrows, but instead in listening to them preaching...?

We asked ourself whether there wasn’t, after all, a way of keeping one’s eyes wide open and clenching one’s eyelids, before the same vision of sanctitude and at the same time.

Pairs of eyes or ears not disconnected from each other, but empathising with each other, ever unmooring each others' perception in a zigzag-movement of sorrow and awe:

What we had…. and

What will be left…

are two drops of tears crossing each other's pathways.

First, we thought of this crystallisation of pity as a river. More precisely, thought of it as the water dying on a riverbed in Souther India. And...



was also, and to the same extent, the blinding of our eyes. Our slowly overwhelmed eyes took turns at being

The skin shed by a river,

the relics left through the passing of time.


Because the book-like object we chose to consider doubly had the structure of a concertina, before we knew it it our crossed gazes had built a...



Her transparent folds resonated across continents. She was an origami-lung, breathing in and out, clasping and letting go.

From Ireland, where a wrecked car was sinking in a mire, to Holland, where a golden mushroom grew in a humid apartment, to England, where an accordion had been given away by someone who took his own life, to Sweden, where charcoal frescoes quickly disintegrated, and back to India, where the death of the river had first been noticed.

Since we had adopted double vision, we saw that the dying of the river was connected to another rippling piece of fabric: the sari. The sari is a piece of cloth, 5.5 meters long, in which one dances and sleeps. It can be tied to a windowsill and serve as a rope for self-liberation from a room one wishes to leave. And when one wishes to leave one’s body, it can serve as a rope for hanging oneself. The dimensions of the ideal sari struck us with awe.

The moment we wished to depict must not exceed the length of a sari. For we had conceived...



And as we contemplated the guilded pages of the book losing their foldedness in the sink, we at times arrived at a fleeting sense of equilibrium. As if we had created a


A harmoniously poised statue (built by the unique moments in time where the gold flakes fall off the pages) exalted on the Meandering River Bed. Such is the plot of the


The covers of the book were green and made in a silken fabric. The pages were guilded (but I believe I already told you this, since I since childhood tend to linger on metallic shimmers). And once we had travelled through all the folds, we had to start over. For...



Environmental breakdown, mass-extinction of species, rampant loss of natural beauty can and, perhaps, should, result in an aesthetic crisis on a par with the cosmological crisis beaconed by the astronomical science. The loss of wildlife will soon be “compensated” by virtual simulacra running simulations of organisms: as if the “meaning” of natural surroundings could be reduced to the calming effects of listening to recordings of bird-song at the airport… The devaluation of all non-human life opens up to view the mortal defects of all-too-human human imagination and the narrow compass of all-too-human human compassion.

Sometimes we felt an all-subduing distress as we witnessed the perfectly wrought simulation of a recently extinct bird in a virtual reality, a bird whose exteriority mirrors us on the inside: the richness of its feathered coat represents our inability to sympathise with, be with and be for, the larch or the sparrow for their own sake.



The first object of vision - the Past - is the present now unfolding: innumerable connections happening in ways that cannot be tracked down, articulated, or fixed. The teeming chaos of human activity. We tried to slow down, we knew we were heading for disaster. And nonetheless we continued swarming. The second object of vision - the Future - might be all that will be left. The icons which in the past represented the Good are now seen from an exhausted perspective. These two visions are folded, for


Folds and Fishes

A double vision from the future – a zig / zag movement – encompasses into its fold the view of material that are decomposing, and matters which may be saved.

We reflect, we wonder, how do we keep beings and things without placing them in a box and pasting a label onto it? How do life and death unfold – naturally? How do objects persist and subsist as memory, fragments and remnants? What are the residual traces of our evolving worlds?

As voices resonate across continents, links are broken and revived, a ‘golden paper concertina inhabited by charcoal icons’ travels, it sinks, and surfaces again on a sari, as a film, as fishes. We can touch it; we can sense the radiance of a new light. A frayed a sari and stitches slowly emerge on the hands that hold the golden folds, and then dissolves into the water that meanders on the skin of the film.

By embracing interior and exterior worlds into its folds, this thing called film magnifies and amplifies the inevitability of death, loss, and decay, as well as continued regeneration of life.

The fishes flying over the skies and merging into carcasses embody the meaning of life, natural worlds, fertility, degeneration, and remembering; they tell the tales of the Grandmothers who lent their chronicles to us, and of the Mothers who narrate stories to their unborn children.

The Covers are the Eyelids, a work of art created by Anouk Hoogendoorn, Dani Landau, Madhuja Mukherjee, Sanja Särman and Josh Wagner, was conceived and executed for the collective artistic research project, "Fabulations for Future", launched by Christine Reeh-Peters and Fee Altman.

The Covers Are The Eyelids
Dani Landau, Anouk Hoogendoorn, Madhuja Mukherjee, Sanja Särman, Joshua Wagner
© 2022