Excerpts from “Exiled in Light” – Νύχτα

 

Νύχτα :|: Night

           Without the bustle of people, you’d think the city would be silent. But in the dead of night, you hear the background noises behind the silence. There is a hum of electricity. It is a low vibration and almost palpable in the air. I imagine how it would feel if I placed my hands on one of the wires hanging above my head. Perhaps I’d feel the prickly rush of electrified molecules coursing beneath the thick insulation. I imagine an electrical aura radiating through the air above me, branching like white hot nerve fibers across the sky.

I’ve been walking for hours. Occasionally, I walk past other Photosens. We rarely speak to each other. I think we’ve become accustomed to our solitary lives. Speaking would interrupt the joy of wandering freely in the dark city. I concentrate on experiencing the world around me: listening, touching, smelling, looking.

There is plenty of time before the sun rises, so I am safe. Stepping off of a crumbling sidewalk, I stop for a rest and lay back onto a patch of cool grass. I reach out my arms to run my hands over the blades. I feel them bend under my fingers and then snap back into place as I pass over. A swishing sound accompanies the movement. I find a rhythm and smile to myself at the music. Above, the wind rustles leaves in the the trees. The thrum of cricket song is all around. It drones on, rising and falling in different sections like a symphony. I imagine a tiny conductor orchestrating this performance and giggle to myself. The sweet, musky odor of decaying leaves wafts through the air, and I turn my face to the soil to breathe it in.

Most of the streetlights along this part of the city have long been shot out. The night sky looms darkly overhead. Stars scattered across the dome of sky twinkle in the darkness. I remember when we couldn’t see the stars. Before the FOSdeaths, the city was bright even in the dead of night. People loved light and feared the dark back then. For Photosens, it is now the opposite. Some houses are lit by flickering candles or dim electric lights at best. Most houses were darkened after the deaths, and dark they remain.

I think of the philosopher, Goethe, and his theories of color. I remember reading that before Goethe, scientists considered darkness an absence of light. How did that affect our philosophical understanding? If light was life, then what was darkness? People fear the dark, using it as metaphor for death. Darkness represents the unknown, the abyss. However, Goethe theorized that darkness was not an absence but an active ingredient in the color spectrum.

This reminds me of the philosophy of the Yin and Yang. Darkness is an active complement to light, creating a counter-balance that must be acknowledged as essential rather than reductive. Artists use darkness to turn flatness into form and mediocrity into high drama. J.M.W. Turner’s paintings are filled with vibrant colors of bright light contrasting with stormy blacks that are both beautiful and terrifying. He used darkness as a powerful contraposition to light to convey light’s sublime power while also revealing the subtle truth and beauty of darkness. Swirling loose brush strokes create atmospheric layers of luminous light and rapturous darks that give form while simultaneously creating movement of dizzying madness. One feels awe because Turner captures a natural power that reminds us of our small place in the universe.

After the FOSdeaths, Turner’s paintings made sense to me in a different context. They were a foreshadowing of our time to come. A time when light is a sublime primal element that we cannot take for granted.

 

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