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Hot Desk Extract: Impossible Figures

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Christy Tan worked on a hybrid collection of poetry and creative non-fiction. The excerpt below is a triptych of ekphrastic poems exploring perception in relation to perspective and positionality.

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Impossible Figures

three bodies identical except in size painted in descending order oblique faces slightly turning away from me carefully fixed on the emptiness

of an empty cave

looking back into darkness growing darker the longer I stare at them staring into its dark

forgetting, so that I may retrieve what has been disappeared

condensing     accumulating experience being extended beyond their immediate selves      spilling in and

out of one         another three bodies                       more than the sum of their                   drifting parts disappearing from

their surroundings       disappearing into their surroundings flesh and landscape constructed using     same brush neither taking precedence part

of the same irreducible whole I take a step

back, as if

proximity between me

and the bodies has caused contents of its outline to collapse          I step forward from specific angle alignment of attentiveness

offering itself to me coinciding

in sudden pulse     previously reticent shapes and lines coalesce slowly emerging                   re-organising themselves into                discrete           stretched

dispersed across multiplying bodies resurrecting something different each time





crumpled face, relegated to corner upon which rest of the image rests her gaze

locking two women into centre frame

I glimpse their tired blurry expressions, offset by crumpled face relegated to corner watching intently, waiting to be watched in return

I watch the face watching the women and am waiting too




To draw the line, you expand with your destination. The line is not two dimensional.


The line serves a double function, creating a kind of liminal space where you are recruited to embody the bordering line between adjacent shapes. On either side, a recognition oscillates between boundaries. The human mind and its eyes are not capable of comprehending both at the same time. You fabricate a flickering between them, an optical

illusion to imagine a common relationality. You are what hold the shapes together. They are held together by what separates them. When piecing together the fragments that evade your grasp, you inspect each angle at its outermost edge. Each angle unfolding in relation to the next, gliding in and out of a slippery geometry, destabilising any permanent structure from calcifying. Your desire for simultaneity sustains their ceaseless movement, iridescent in its undulating,


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