Singled Out: Frances Livings' Eating the Darkness
One day I was scouring the internet for art photography. Following my instincts and mood, I downloaded quite a few pictures which touched me on a very visceral level. Sometimes I use these images to illustrate my poetry on my website. They can also act like "dream catchers", by directing me towards a topic probably already slumbering in my sub-conscience. In this particular situation it must have all run together and I was both deeply touched and inspired by a photograph which not only helped me to get unstuck but ended up delivering a line for a song.
I had been playing around on the piano and working on a piece called "Eating the Darkness". I wanted to convey feelings of loneliness and despair, captured and staged in the isolation of an apartment or room. Alas, in the chorus I felt there was a strong image missing. So I kept getting stuck. Even playing the melody over and over again wasn't helping this time. "Eating the Darkness" felt strong and authentic because it had emerged very spontaneously out of the depth of me like from a dark turquoise deep sea cavern. But I wanted to delve into, explore and express a feeling of complete hopelessness, set in that room. How could I translate that sometimes painful emotion of not being relevant, of feeling invisible without using lengthy descriptions?
Suddenly this photograph entered my mind. It just presented itself. So I opened up my laptop and fished it out of my pictures folder. It is a black and white photograph in a square vintage style format, reminding me of one of my favourite iphone applications, Instagram with which I frequently experiment. It shows a desolate, abandoned and decaying room – very similar to the atmosphere of space I wanted to create in my song. Diametrically opposed to the rough textural quality of the setting, a way in which Woodman often stages her photographs, is the smoothness of her young and flawless, naked body. She stands there, faceless and naked, fading into the wallpaper. "Fading into the wallpaper", I thought. And suddenly the chorus was complete.
After finally having completed the song, I started wondered who the artist, Francesca Woodman, was. Where and in which stage of her life would find her? I wanted to share my work and also thank her for the inspiration. It only took a few seconds on Google and I was starring at the ugly word suicide. Questions started rolling in. Why had the photograph had such a deep impact on me? Was it because she was able to express these very feelings so well, many people fighting depression are plagued by, only in a different medium? Was it the visualization of her experience which had enabled me to tap into mine? At the same time I felt strangely protective. I didn't want anyone else to have experienced the agonizing and tormenting state of depression. Feeling so eerily close to the topic and to her, almost intrusive, like a voyeur, I distanced myself from the temptation to speculate about what had happened and I began to reclaim my song, take it for what it was, and record it for my new album.
Another sensation that has stayed with me however, is gratitude: I feel fortunate that I had connected with both this picture and my own story without seeing it though a biographical prism (learning about her death first). Especially in an era of information overload and constant accessibility, it is sometimes difficult to push past these layers of fragmented knowledge and prejudice and retrieve what lies beneath – our authentic thoughts and feelings. I am grateful that a fellow artist had given me something to connect with, almost like a piece of her soul. Because isn't that what every person who creates seeks to achieve, to touch or inspire someone and almost live on in their work? She hasn't faded into the wallpaper and I hope I won't either.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!
Story submission (c) Frances Livings. All rights reserved.