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It starts with a photograph of a room. A room—abandoned, derelict, vacant. All the words that do not capture the potential to imagine a life. Nothing then, but for the space itself and the remnants of that life imagined. Traces: a mattress, a pillow, some blankets, a lighter, an ashtray. They remain. The forensics of an unforgiving existence.

I remember the table, which is to say I am putting it together. Because someone opened their mouth and built a structure with words and now I am doing the same each time I see my hands and think table, think beginnings. I remember running my fingers along the edges, studying the bolts and washers I created in my mind. I remember crawling underneath, checking for chewed gum, the names of lovers, but finding only bits of dried blood, splinters. I remember this beast with four legs hammered out of a language not yet my own.1


The life imagined does not mirror the life lived—perhaps. Nothing but an outline, creases on the mattress where once a body lay. Can this body be remade? This body is calling me in the photograph that made it disappear.

The enactment of invocation and disappearance […] is precisely the drama of corporeality itself. At once a consolidated fleshy form and an eroding, decomposing formlessness, the body beckons us and resists our attempts to remake it. This resistant beckoning was the lure for this writing, a writing toward and against bodies who die.2


Ansuya runs downstairs to grab a book. I am sitting alone in her studio for a few moments, amidst the drawings Hatch Open – the merely schematic (2021) that form the centerpiece of her exhibition at Club Solo. My eyes wander. Her computer, on which I just saw the photograph of the empty room. Now, a dictionary screensaver kills the time. It lingers on coup de foudre. The sudden event, love at first sight, a stroke of lightning.

Nothing happened. But in the pause, in nothingness, everything is suspended and alive at the same time. 

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.3


It starts with a photograph of a room. And letters written by people seeking to lock up their so-called deviant family members in 18th-century France. Letters of arrest. Lettres de cachet. Letters that made people disappear into cells.

[T]he lettre de cachet was the simplest tool for discreetly and secretly imprisoning a headstrong laborer, one who demanded more from his master every payday or was quick to rebel.4


In the exhibition, Ansuya creates a space within a space. A rectangular room with white walls on which her drawings are installed. I look at the model of the gallery in her studio and imagine walking into this other room. I stop at the threshold. Is this where I leave the real world behind? Enter the cell, into the phantasmagoria of the interior where only echoes from the outside can be heard. Or am I echoing from the inside out?

The threshold is trembling.

Outside and inside are both intimate—they are always ready to be reversed, to exchange their hostility. If there exists a border-line surface between such an inside and outside, this surface is painful on both sides.5


As the drawings shift towards and away from the center of the four walls, the gaps between the drawings reveal themselves. Everything becomes visible, audible, tangible. The walls pronounce, the corners appear, the floor absorbs. Claustrophobia as contraction and then ... release. What life can be imagined here? In this interior, the heart of hearts, the artist projects.

The smallest detail, the most insignificant object assume a meaning and a life which pertain to them alone, independently of the value of the meaning of the images themselves, the idea which they interpret and the symbol which they constitute. By being isolated, the objects obtain a life of their own which becomes increasingly independent and detaches them from their usual meaning. A leaf, a bottle, a hand, etc., live with an almost animal life which is crying out to be used.6 


I approach the drawings. A dense arrangement of lines, drawn in red, thicker lines on top of tender ones. The composition is reminiscent of skin under a microscope, erupting into human cells erupting into wood cells. From afar you are already closer, the surface of the paper adopting the texture of a body, with skin turned to scales as the lines grow denser.

I draw ever nearer. Dimensions and contours emerge, while fragments of the photograph disrupt the flow of lines—fragments of the room that holds the pillow, lighter, chair, window.

I draw ever nearer. Forms appear and dissolve, leaving nothing but their outline, like the creases on the mattress. The corners elude me. 

The line is Ansuya’s most elementary instrument. Her marks create and distinguish one shape from another, but they also embrace an utter formlessness, an insistence to disintegrate. These lines are veins, both cut and continuous, a body that is fully exposed, a cell created as the smallest possible space to be in. I see the shape of an organ, the heart. It’s pumping the red ink in all directions.

I see an eye. It sees me too.


At times, the lines intersect with the collaged fragments of the photograph, red flowing into the black-and-white. In the studio, Ansuya talks about the materiality of being, of the possibility and impossibility of measuring and quantifying existence. The photograph evokes the drama of absence, while the finely reticulated lines are shimmers that feed life into the stillness of the image. They lead to the specks of things.

Ephemera, as I am using it here, is linked to alternate modes of textuality and narrativity like memory and performance: it is all of those things that remain after a performance, a kind of evidence of what has transpired but certainly not the thing itself. It does not rest on epistemological foundations but is instead interested in following traces, glimmers, residues, and specks of things.7


Text appears on the wall, adjacent to one of the drawings. A patient report from a 19th-century asylum. Dr. Meyer writes:

Size: 1.82
Weight: 150 pounds. Fat pads: Moderately developed.
Muscles: Rather low. Skin: Fairly slack.
Iris: blue. Skull circumference: 54, no significant asymmetry, hair black-brown, rather gray.
Palata: normal
Teeth: Very defective.
Ears: Spina helix on both sides.

And so on.

Convergence reaction: Prompt, extensively.
Eye Movements: Free, with abrupt movements, nystag [mixed] tremors.
Form: Symmetrical.

And so on.

Sometimes slightly irregular gait.
Vary; somewhat small steps, with stiff joints.
Anconaeus phenomena: rather increased on both sides.
Knee phenomena: Rather increased. Plantar reflect: normal.
Cremaster reflex: left [inks] preserved, right not clear.
Handshake: right [right] left [inks].

I can hear the German doctor narrating his observations. A body, quantified. A mind, reduced to statistic. The categories of abnormality, and of incarceration. The place where you would become utterly small.

The bareness of bones and beams.
What it is to be when nothing holds you and nothing is solid.
Ansuya writes.

Find the outline, follow the glimmer, exist in suspension.

Nothing is the realm of uncounted experience.
If yes, if we do–
do revel in the uncounted,
do wave, do transition,
do trespass, do make due.
If we do, then we live in the experience of uncounted
A commitment to the unseen in time.
Beyond the will to measure.8


My eyes settle in the corner of her studio. I see dust. Dust that refuses to settle. As a child, dust unsettled me. Skin cells gathering on surfaces. Human remains floating, waiting to be inhaled. I exhale dust all over my body. My body breathes and nothing is everywhere, covering the room.

Nothingness. It consumes and creates. Follow me into nothingness.

1. Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A novel, New York: Penguin Press, 2019, p. 222.
2. Peggy Phelan, Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories, New York: Routledge, 1997, p. 4.
3. W.H. Auden, ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’, in: Selected Poems, New York: Vintage Books, 1979, p. 81.
4. Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault, Disorderly Families: Infamous Letters from the Bastille Archives, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017, p. 21.
5. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, pp. 217-218.
6. Antonin Artaud, ‘Witchcraft and the Cinema’, in: Collected Works vol. 3, p. 65.
7. José Esteban Muñoz, ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, in: Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 8, no. 2 (1996), p. 10.
8. Excerpt from Every Ocean Hughes’s Uncounted (2013-2017).

Ansuya Blom ©2022