“I thought it would be a shortcut, but there was no pass through there. Nobody had gone through there before. At one point, I could have turned around and gone back, but I chose to just go on and it took me about three hours to pick my way. All during that time, I never stopped for a rest and just kept going. I knew if I just kept going, I’d get out, but I was also aware I could get hopelessly stuck in there. I was a block or so from any houses and if I screamed…well I could have died in there, my screams would have gone unheard. So I just kept going. It was kind of a personal thing. I finally got home about three hours late and my mum said, well, you’re late, and I said, yeah, I took a shortcut.”
The text is taken from Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979), and narrates an experience of getting lost, and finding a way out by pushing on through – in effect, a similar experience to walking a labyrinth. In this way, this piece functions as a calligram, where the meaning of the text is laid out in its visual structure, and the layout of the letters echoes their linguistic meaning. The design here follows the Medieval unicursal format of the labyrinth, which served primarily as a mediation device or as an architectural site for a ritual pilgrimage to be traced on the floor of a church or cathedral. A further layer to this work was the physical process of its construction, where the highly labour-intensive, repetitive and time-consuming task of production and assembly of the letters became an end in itself and took on a ritualistic quality which reflected the ideas behind the piece. The letters were cut out from card, by hand, individually, then were laid out on the ground and applied to the wall, one-by-one– only to be painted over and rendered almost invisible. The aim was for the work to function as an ambush – initially a whisper, which on closer inspection becomes a cacophony, demanding of the audience to be both viewer and reader. The challenge laid out is to find a way both in and out of the labyrinth of letters, in attempt to assemble the elusive meaning which can only be arrived at once one has picked one’s way through.