I believe that there are physical places in this world that are able to mine the ghosts that exist deep inside ourselves. That are able to pull back the layers and reveal an undiscovered country. A place which exists in our bones. In our marrow. In our soul.
There is a lonely bar on the edge of this country, with a spherical red light casting its shadow on the green felt of a pool table, and an old jukebox in the corner plays all of our favorite songs, a couple, in love, eternally slow dancing next to it, and that’s when it gets real bad. Or maybe real good.
Like a mirror, these places reflect the raw ingredients of emotion and draw out an artifact of a memory. Play it like a movie projected onto the three-dimensional space in front of us. A mythology built, like a fire, from the combustible mix of history (the remembered) and forgetting (the forgotten).
The characters in these myths, the specters in these memories, emerge from physical relationships between objects which together weave something like a dream. And on the edge of this dream exists a perfectly good nightmare, ready to be picked like a ripe fruit.
Observing and cataloging examples of these places, a time-tested method, allows a natural understanding to develop. This process lets us build the scaffolding, a precision tool, for the work, an artistic product.
Through the heavy lifting of memory, a thoroughly difficult task, we come to see that they, these places, don’t necessarily have to be objectively horrible to have ghosts. They don’t have to be war zones or crises rooms in hospitals or encampments of the forgotten and the dejected on the fringes of cities. The far away and the unknown and the unknowable.
Neighborhoods which fight to resist the avalanche of time and change are the first examples which come to mind, but even they can be tinted with anxieties which alter an organic emergence. Anxieties which doom a natural curiosity.
More examples follow: late afternoon walks down tree lined streets, fingers crossed behind backs; early morning commutes, full of small battles for quick moving ground; reading the Obituaries in the California section of the Sunday Times, a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.
But these images fail under careful scrutiny. Why? They are static and sidestep a more granular reflection and analysis.
They lack a narrative development, a sort of patient nothingness, required in order to create real ghosts, and that takes time. So, like in a bad film, craft is used in our memories as a substitute for feeling.
This keeps the horror at a distance, and we are protected once again. Standing at the line demarcating bullshit and the truth. An infinite firewall that we can never see through.
But if they are not these places, then what are? Where do they exist? Where do we find them?
I don’t know, and I’m not sure, but I can tell you that searching for evidence and presenting it as truth is bad logic, because truth can be a slippery thing.
What I find interesting, and what is unexpected – what we’re less prepared to deal with if prepared at all – is when horror isn’t actually seen as horror at all, but at first as something beautiful.
When the birth of chaos comes from order. When the ghosts are found sitting right in front of us in the garden, bathed in the warm happy glow of daylight.
We rarely expect to see horror and ghosts in beautiful things, in beautiful places, so we are ill prepared for their presence when they rear their ugly head.