Disaster, whether natural or man-made, sweeps through the ordinary moment and changes it completely. Things that were once normal objects, scenery which was previously commonplace, are all instilled with a new narrative; a narrative made up of what was there before, by what is missing, even if there are no visible traces of this happening to speak of. The aftermath is a space, a space ringing loudly of loss.
With this loss comes the end of consensus. The disaster fades from memory as it is replaced by fragments of information. The void is filled in with strange details, odd anecdotes that stick, and it is these pieces that begin to fill in our loss of understanding of the whole. Now all we have are accounts of the event which conflict, contradict and confuse. We can’t remember what happened any more, just that something DID happen.
This piece is a response to this absence, this loss of understanding. It forgets the whole and revels in what’s left. Here, for you, are the stories that survive, the reports rescued from the rubble, the details that float to the surface of a shipwreck. Or are they? Who knows. Because no one knows what happened. Just that something has happened.
An adaptation of the short story ‘The Shipwreck’, by Julian Barnes
Exhibited Royal College of Art, 2014
© Oona Brown 2014
With thanks to Alan Sterenberg at The British Library