Blog Post: Kate Fahey
23 February 2021
Kate Fahey reflects solitude, leaks and dry eyes in her on-going research and making during her New Contemporaries studio bursary with SPACE.
Damp is an unruly word. Damp implying moisture in the atmosphere; a room smelled damp; the walls stained with mould, mildew and 'damp'. It is both an adjective and a noun, both the material moisture itself and the condition of it being. Dampen, to dampen, to make something slightly wet, to control one's feelings. In the verb form there appears a contradiction. To dampen: to add moisture; a breath on a mirror, condensation on a bathroom window. To dampen: to constrain one's emotional responses. It is the leaking, seeping and the sealing up, the covering over.
Kate Fahey, Spill, resin, 2021
Damp is both the thing (condensation growing with other living things), and the condition. It seeps and creeps, growing not only behind skirting boards, bookshelves, framed photographs but into its lexicon. Dampness roams privately eroding the structure of a building between walls, below windows, emerging as a slow moving stain. It hits you immediately when you enter a room, its particles creeping through your nostrils in a very public outburst. Drawing on Harold Fromm, Stacey Alaimo's account of trans-corporality is one in which 'the "environment," [...] runs right through us in endless waves, and if we were to watch ourselves via some ideal microscopic time-lapse video, we would see water, air, food, microbes, toxins entering our bodies as we shed, excrete, and exhale our processed materials back out'. We have all arguably become more sensitive to the smell of other bodies in this past year. Sweaty odours sound the silent alarm that we are inhaling unknown intimate damp particles through our surgical masks.
During lockdown there are days that often my first utterances are late in the evening. It’s as if those initial few words leak out of me, damp, hoarse and deep. Unmasked and unmuffled, I clear my throat and swallow in anticipation of hitting record. 'Every sound we make is a bit of autobiography. [...] A piece of inside projected to the outside', writes Anne Carson, questioning the idea of (self) control in relation to human sounds. I've started leaving voice notes rather than typing notes so that I can use my voice.
In Ireland Turloughs (tur meaning dry and lough meaning lake) are geographical phenomena occurring in Karst areas. Lakes appear and disappear depending on the water table. Gurgling and gargling they drain via swallow holes in the permeable bed rock. They are difficult to map and measure, sometimes filling and draining in a matter of hours.
Kate Fahey, Tear, resin, aluminium, silicon, 2020
I have chronically dry eyes. Turns out my body isn't quite damp enough. So I spray an emulsion of synthetic tears to moisturise them while I research rising damp, bogs, lakes, marshes, mildew, and mould on my laptop. When we look at screens we blink less. I imagined the studio was crying those single tears that sometimes roll down your cheek. It's that crucial moment between regaining control and breaking down. Our eyes are closed for 10% of the time that we are awake but less when we look at screens. If I could blink more, that would help.
The studio at Deborah House is not damp. I can't smell or see it. But I can hear water in the pipes running through the building. Moira Gatens writes that the human body is made up of a number of bodies, 'radically open to its surroundings and can be composed, recomposed and decomposed by other bodies'. In this strange extended moment of dampening, quiet time reveals the life of the building, its moans, breaths, vessels gurgling and gargling in the morning and evening. Enforced solitude due to the restrictions have made me hyper conscious of my surroundings and the presence of other, unseen yet sensed bodies, not only outside but also within the building; (un)muffled sounds of kettles filling, pipes groaning, doors unlocking, dogs barking, coffee brewing, birds singing, taps dripping.
 Stacey Alaimo, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), p. 11.
 Ann Carson, Glass, Irony, and God (New York: New Directions Books, 2005), p. 130.
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