Claire Donato



[Instructions: Read essay in eleven parts with or without the specified drone accompaniment. Listen to each drone separately for as long as you’d like, or layer the drones by opening multiple windows at once. In this way, you will create sonic wallpaper.]


I.  Tim Hecker — “The Work of Art in the Age of Cultural Overproduction

You sit in a glass booth, and people come to you.

Me and You and Everyone We Know, they say, handing you plastic.

1:30pm or 3:30pm.

Adult, child, or senior.

One ticket or two.

Do you need anything else?

You wear black pants, black shoes, black socks, a black tie, and a white-collared shirt.

You are gentle and affectionate.

Male superiors know this.

By the concession stand, they say things to you, touch

the fabric of your pants because they can—

—because in principle, a very young girl is always a stage prop.

Paul Valéry: “Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so men shall be supplied with very young girls, who will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.”

And so male superiors pull on your tie with their hands.

You are gentle and affectionate, but you don’t want this—not near the concession stand

where you pour oil into a vat, heat it and watch the kernels swell and burst open with a pop.

After, you add butter and salt, eat it as a snack until you puke.


II.  William Basinski – “dlp 2.2

You are living in a temporary home in a temporary city in a temporary relationship that feels never-ending, because the only way you know how to be in homes and cities and relationships is in a never-ending way, even though you desire the freedom that allows a person to be lost and found on her own.
Your city is [redacted], or it is ████████. (I covered it with ink; now you cannot see.)
Your relationship is a street.
One synonym for never-endingness is stability, an illusory architecture of everyday life.
One way you know how to be is for $5.15/hour…
Sometimes, even for free!
The shocking thing is not the pay.
It is the debasement.
Standing in the center of financial responsibility,
these events are not forgotten.


III. Eliane Radigue – “Kyema

In your temporary home, you decorate a temporary room with temporary album artwork and listen to the song whose lyrics are “what was yours and mine / appears to me a sandcastle / that the gibbering wave takes.” The song is an entrance to a cavity, an expanse of memory that’s tethered to a season (summer) and a feeling (shame). You were unable to be never-ending then, and you are still unable. In the middle of night, alone on the train, you think this: how it’s all just the same, only your life’s lyrics have changed. Your labor has moved from something concrete (working at a movie theater) to something abstract (a study of transitional space between reality and the projection).
Your temporary home is red.
The street upon which it is located is named after a tourist attraction.
Your temporary room is never silent—is it of no use?
You try to go to sleep.
The train passes the sea.
There is a lack of data.
Nothing is clear.
In the midst of this transition, run your fingers over the surface of your life to make sure it’s still there.


IV. Stars of the Lid – “Articulate Silences Part 2

In the foreground of your current temporary home in your current temporary city in your current temporary relationship that feels never-ending, you put away black plants, black shoes, and black socks. You no longer own a black tie, nor do you own a white-collared shirt. At work, you wear black skirts, black dresses, black tights, and black glasses. Your eyes are lined with black. There are ways to bruise yourself using makeup.

In other words, you make yourself up into a fixture or a prop. You objectify you. In this way, you once wore a black tie because someone told you to. Did you know this? 

In memory’s projection room, you pull on the tie’s knot, trying to locate something autoerotic…

At once, you are in the foreground and the background of your life.


V. Growing – “Friendly Confines

Alone in bed, you watch Hiroshima, Mon Amour. In this film, a Japanese architect and a French actress have an affair in Hiroshima. This affair is punctuated by shots of the city’s radioactive landscape. In the film, the architect tells the actress he will never leave her. Yet you know as a fact from the film’s generic description that their relationship lasts only 36 hours.
In the film’s final scene, the architect returns to the actress’s hotel room, where she is in a complicated relationship with solitude.
She stands against a door marked with a sign that says NO SMOKING IN BED.
She reaches her hand up, grips the doorknob, opens the door.
Her back remains facing the door.
She angles her body.
Draws a perpendicular line.
Prior to this, Hiroshima: a skylight; buildings punctuated by overhanging
Smoke; Japanese street signs shaped like arrows; wires. More
The architect enters.
She steps forward.
He watches.
The door closes.
Did he close it?
He is wearing a black tie and a white-collared shirt.
There is a shadow. A light-switch. A full-length mirror.
He moves toward the bed.
White sheets. Two pillows.
One pillow on top of the other.
A nightstand. A sleek Modernist headboard.
She sits on the bed. Places her hand on her head.
Je t’oublierai, je t’oublie déjà, regarde comme je t’oublie, regarde-moi!
Reni Celeste: “She asks the dead to take her as an object, to look at her, and to see on her exterior the signs of betrayal: as if oblivion, forgetfulness could be seen, as if the dead were capable of redeeming. Here she is neither herself nor another.”
A telephone sits on a nightstand.
Two loose fists frame her chin.
Hi-ro-shi-ma, she says.
He touches her cheek. There is a watch around his wrist. He takes her hand.
Hiroshima, she says.
Hiroshima, she says.
C’est ton nom, she says.
It’s your name, she says.
C’est mon nom, he says.
That’s my name, he says.
Oui, he says.
Yes, he says.
Ton nom à toi est Nevers, he says.
Your name is Nevers, he says.
Nevers en France, he says.
Nevers in France.
What bursts through the wallpaper?
Four hearts.
Two related collections.
Zero comments.
Sudden cold.
Alone in bed: do you need anything else?



VI. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Boring Angel

How does it feel to be a prop, to be someone else’s property, to be appropriated?

As an object, do you form habits?

In memory, you are not only a prop, but a form of literature.

Your avatar stirs your mind’s viewer, and a landscape passes in review.

It could be mistaken for the surface of a movie whose images help you comprehend your life’s decay, where if you look closely, you cannot see yourself.


VII. Sunn O))) – “CandleGoat

You are in control, managing a projector from a podium where switches and other devices are located. You load your control—your audio-visual installation—onto a laptop computer connected to a projector that shines light against a wall. Through this light, an image is emitted. This image takes place in lieu of what is not.

You lean your back against another wall to which a sculpture is affixed. It is made of mesh and wire and is covered in black paint. Ten nails, also black, bloom from it. Be careful, you say to no one. The nails are made of molten glass cast into an object.

Alternatively, you press your back against a white-painted surface. It is hard and cold, terrifying and strange. What’s the difference? This is how you remember it: as an impact rupturing your blood vessels.
In this fragment, you occupy the transitional space between reality and the projection.
There are ways to bruise yourself on stage.
There are ways to bruise yourself with makeup.
There are ways to bruise the surface of the page.
There are ways to bruise memory, wherein particular street names become replaced by opal.
There are ways to bruise space, wherein topographic coordinates become conflated with another person’s body.
There are ways to bruise time, e.g. by falling in love.
There are ways to bruise yourself, having fallen in love.
There are ways to bruise a person without touching them—e.g., by loving them.
And there are ways to bruise place, e.g. by impressing upon it a particular sensation wherein blood bends, becoming a wave.
In this fragment, you have been making contact, the state or condition of touching another with your skin. It is a means of communication, a projection of yourself into and away from the light.


VIII. Fennesz – “Liminality

For weeks, you have been mixing your interior landscape into the color grey, a liminal hue you describe as an instance of avoiding commitment or responsibility. Grey: the hue in which black-and-white movies are shot. Neutral or achromatic, it invokes a cloud-covered sky that floats and rotates in on itself. It has no personality of its own, a website says. It is the color of evasion. Some days, you wear grey tights. They make your legs look long.
(What year is it? What street is it? What source of light makes soft explosive sounds across this fragment’s channels…?)
Some days, you can’t get out of bed. You are alone.
lol, friends type.
I want to braid together despair, glee, irony, joy, love, subterfuge, and my utmost sincerity, you type.
You are going home for Christmas, and I am going into the projector silently,you type.
For total dissolution of suffering, trace the surface of these words with the skin of your finger, you type.
These are irresponsible sentences to which no one responds.


IX. Belong – “The Door Opens the Other Way

In Campus Sex, Campus Security, Jennifer Doyle writes that the militarization of contemporary universities is inherently sexist—that when a university regulates its community’s bodies or says that a particular person or group of persons must stay outside its gates, it does so in the name of protecting very young girls, lest they get raped or robbed. In fact, the university wants to protect itself, and in protecting itself, it becomes a locus of anxiety.

Thank you for reaching out, you type in an email. I write to confirm that I did have multiple uncomfortable interactions with [redacted]. However, I want to be clear that a third party passed along this information without my consent or consultation. I am appending a written statement below that I am able to render in a more official format if need be. I would be most comfortable if my involvement could end at this point and would strongly prefer to not partake in an adjudication process.  I should also add that I have complicated feelings about Title IX and its relation to intersectional oppressions. I do not want to report this situation to the police, and the only protection I request is anonymity. I am uncomfortable with the idea that this person knows my name, and I do not know theirs.

What would an open campus look like?


X. The Haxan Cloak – “An Archaic Device

You are a college freshman, a very young girl. It is summer. You rent a room in a red house where a lofted bed floats atop the space where you listen to the song whose lyrics are “what was yours and mine / appears to me a sandcastle / that the gibbering wave takes.” You do not sleep, nor do you leave the room, save to wear black pants, black shoes, black socks, a black tie, and a white-collared shirt.
1:30pm or 3:30pm.
Adult, child, or senior.
One ticket or two.
Do you need anything else?

At night, apparitions pass through the house, shining their lights. Dust moves through them in the way a person moves through a space: as an imaginary astronaut whose feet hover several inches above the ground.

Or: in the theater, illuminated by the projector’s light, you feel like a movie, which is how you want to see yourself—in the dark, in the night, as a set of images capturing space. The light scalds your desire. Be careful, it hums.


XI. Giusto Pio – “Motore Immobile

At the end of this message, you walk from the sculpture garden where you teach to a garden-level brownstone café located four blocks away from the college’s gated campus. The afternoon has been ████████. (I covered it with ink; now you cannot see.) First, your community grappled with the impossibility of discussing an experimental novel narrated by the anonymous letter P. The novel’s generic description asks: Where do we draw the line between fiction and autobiography? With your community, you attempted to discuss the failure of shopping malls “designed to combat retail monotony,” orange dresses, and the non-profit organization formerly known as the Children’s Television Workshop. In the midst of conversation, a cat murdered a bird. You recorded it. Then hundreds of flies descended upon the sculpture where you were holding class. This scene was also captured and made into a five-second movie.
“Claire, step back,”a voice in the five-second movie says.
As you walk through campus’s gates toward the garden-level brownstone café, you try to interpret these fragments as signs.
You look into the sidewalk, then into the screen of your palm.
lol, friends type.
Please answer your challenge question so we can help verify your identity, a website says.
You will not have to be a part of any further investigation, the university replies.
Look up, lest you get robbed or raped, a stranger hums.
A woman is alive / you do not take her for a sign, you hear but fail to respond.
It is a dark fall day.
The montage goes on.