Mandi Goodier is a writer who has developed her practice through self-publishing, artist books, sound and performance. In 2012 she completed an MFA in Art Writing at Goldsmiths University of London, where she pursued her interest in experimental form and narrative structures, otherness and thingyness.

Her artist books are held in various collections across the UK, including CFPR Artists’ Book Collection: Bristol UWE; Goldsmiths University of London Special Collections; BABL Artists’ Book Library.

At the beginning of 2014 Mandi was Writer in Residence at LUX Artists' Moving Image where she explored the removal of context and print checking as a form of art criticism. She has also participated in a series of group residencies including Whitechapel Art Writing Seminars 2011-12 and the Chisenhale Gallery XXI Century Residency 2010-11.

As a part of self-publishing collective Parlour Press, she has set up a number of reading room performative events across the country as well as participated in various book fairs.

In 2012 Mandi participated, and contributed to the co-edited and co-authored Idioglossia: An Art Writing Glossary, which explores the themes of art writing in a speculative glossary format.

More recent work sees her experimenting with a persona who only exists through online references, manifesting as nothing more than a voice on the other side of a smartphone camera.

Read a story here

You can view examples of commercial things (like music reviews, and op-ed) here. Contact

A Thing Heard

(From Real, a novella)

Years previous she had listened to tape cassettes through the family hi-fi system. Once the audio had ceased it was not uncommon for the listener to forget to turn off the hi-fi. A small indication of difference: the power button was either pressed in or out. The amplifier at the heart of the hi-fi was perhaps the most important part, containing essential controls: the power button, volume control, equaliser, and input selector. All else: record deck, tape deck, radio deck and two speakers served as limbs. Together they constituted the whole of the machine. A small input selector switch could be slid left or right respective to notches under corresponding words: tuner, phono, tape, and aux.

She was stood before the mirror set above the mantel piece in the living room, dragging a brush through her hair. Her eyes would water occasionally as the brush caught at unexpected and stubborn lugs. One refused to be pulled apart so she gave up. Frustrated. Silent and alone she remained before the mirror unable to rest upon her own image, suspecting a reciprocal gaze beyond. She attempted to see through the glass, squinting with rigor; attempting to disfigure her own reflection. She longed to turn the returned image invisible; the solid of the mirror to transparent.


Her fixation was broken by an indeterminable noise entering the room, instantly diverting her attention. A strange noise. One not connected to anything immediately recognisable. Booming and distorted. It came again. Recognising it as a voice she panicked. Heat rushed to her face and pricked her cheeks. Her heart pounded pushing fear to the furthest parts of her limbs. Her eyes watered and darted about the room. Unable to attach The Voice to a source she fled up to her bedroom and under her quilt. Slowly she poked her head out from beneath the safety of the quilt and slid off the the bed to the floor. Very slowly, she crawled to the edge of the stairs. She peaked down through the bannister and then further through the crack in the living room door. She had to see. She was scared but she had to look. Curiosity was a part of her fear and fear would subside with a simple rational explanation. Where is the body? Where is The Voice? It could no longer be heard and slowly she brought her legs forward and slid down the stairs, stroking the banister along the way. The living room was empty. The Voice had gone. She was disappointed and searched for its source with no success.

After this first instance she took every opportunity to sit in the living room, alone, in silence, each time in the same armchair. Disciplined she anticipated the arrival of The Voice. Patient until it penetrated her expectant silence the following week. She wanted to flee but was pinned to the chair, fingers pressed into the worn fabric on each arm. She promised herself she would not move until she heard what it had to say; until its source was revealed. So she remained. Immediately apparent was the maleness of The Voice. The words spoken were too distorted to decipher. She made a small circle with her mouth and mimicing it, widening then closing then widening then closing then widening then closing. The shape of the mouth placed a ‘w’ before each word, hushed harsh consonants and occasionally suffered interruption from a scratching effect: Wyehoo schh wanyeye weeschhhwhah schhhhweyherf, wyoer sch. Its strangeness lay in its machine like tone. Something. Something capable of replicating a human voice but lacking life. A state of living and deadness: The Voice of the living dead. And she then felt it coming through the carpeted surface below. Beyond. Several feet under. Vibrations beneath her feet. She lifted her legs and began to shake. Words rose through her body it almost felt as if The Voice was inside her. Unclear. Must stay put. But instead she leapt from her chair, up the stairs, into her bedroom and under her quilt. She was again safe. Her heart pounded; audible. Her breath heavy. She could still hear The Voice. Behind her eye lids she saw its rounded mouth. Between walls and bedding it became all the more obscure. The Voice was directly below her. She clutched tighter at her quilt feeling slightly safer for it. Out of sight was not necessarily out of mind. The Voice was still heard and felt in the vibrations of her body.

She never sat in silence again. Always noise surrounding her. Always the television on or music playing through the family hi-fi. Always her mother: turn it down or make sure you turn the stereo off properly once you’re finished or put the records back in the right place when you’re done and so on.

The Voice had ceased, noise protected her from the undead frequency to which the living room seemed attuned. Not dead not alive: somewhere in between. But The Voice had not been banished it merely bided its time.

Listening to The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ on tape cassette, side A was near through. ‘I Am The Walrus’ built up a crescendo of chants and utterances; layered voices each one different, requiring skilled selective hearing to decipher what any one particular voice was saying at any one particular moment: OompahoompahstickitupyerjumpereverybodysgotoneeverybodysgotoneoompahoompahstickitupyourjumpereverybodysgotoneeverybodysgotoneburymybodyhereAAAAAAAGHburymybodyhereIknowtheewellaserviceblevillianasbadnesswoulddesirewhatishedeadsitdownfatherrestyouOhuntimelyDeath. As the voices escalated and multiplied, her head filled with panic in anticipation of the moment’s silence when the stereo would automatically flip to side B. In that moment the mechanism clunked and whirred into action, she covered her ears releasing them only to the the sound of ‘Hello, Goodbye’, more conventional than the previous song. Her panic shifted. This behaviour had become the norm since the second occurrence of The Voice.

If we see something we do not like we shut it out by closing our eyelids; but ears do not have lids. When something is heard detached from a body we demand a source. Once the eye has confirmed the source we then have the option to shut out the sound through the closing of eyelids. If the eye is unable to confirm a physical presence then The Voice is attributed to something else: something other-worldly; something divine; and we are either enlightened or terrified. She is constantly exposed to noise, her hands offer little protection from it.

At two minutes thirty into the final song on side B, ‘All You Need Is Love’, Paul called the words: “All together now”; this coincided with a vision of a rounded mouth spitting out words unclear. All she can see. “Everybody”. She turned up the volume determined not to panic not to flee and most importantly to drown out The Voice. But The Voice too increased its volume. Violins began their ascent and the orchestra split and diverged; some into ‘Greensleeves’ some into Glenn Miller’s ‘I’m In The Mood’, The Beatles too changed melody and began to sing “she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” all simultaneously audible one on top of another, competing for attention. Louder still. The Voice was all she could hear and beneath its volume the tape clicked finished. The Voice was the only sound present at an incredible volume. Felt through her entire body. Her gut shook. The living room too rattled in an attempt to contain it. She covered her ears with her hands and sat cross legged before the stereo rocking slowly back and forth. Whou whan whi, whe whar whe wherth whanyo whanyo whoer and again whou whan whi whe, whar whwrth, whonyer and again the same message. Her eyes tight shut tears escaped from their corners. Hands pressed ever tighter over her ears, barely muffling The Voice: wywho aynd wheye, we ahre herath, whoyver. And somehow through her palms came a sort of clarity. Wyou wyand I, her eyes opened fully, we ware ye eawth. Ower. She heard it and felt its source. It was not coming from the ground beneath.

She crawled closer to the stereo and slowly turned the volume down. The Voice obeyed the command of the stereo and lowed its volume. Then she pressed the power switch shutting it up completely. The Voice was interference. She turned it back on and there it was again wen shweye whar whyke wherth, ohyer. She flicked the input selector over to ‘phono’, The Voice was silenced. To ‘tuner’, the pop smash of the time but no Voice. To ‘tape’ and there it was again. The Voice was amplified by the stereo when in the position of ‘tape’. The stereo was picking up some external source: a voice duplicated then condensed through wave or phase. But who did The Voice belong to?

Out of the System


The last time I saw you I threw up afterwards. Alcohol accountable for loosening inhibitions to a forgotten state. At 2am I woke up. My condition had changed since those forgotten hours, leaving me nothing but a sickness in my stomach. An insecurity. I fell ill. What happened? I left you. You had not left me. I could still feel you. Different now. You were felt as a thick anxiety lining my stomach. You were still inside of me. 2.30am. Wide awake and thinking and anxious and wanting the sickness to stop; wanting you out; wanting just to be left alone; wanting to sleep. I took myself to the bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat as a gesture to (a) force you out and (b) wear me out, physically, so I might stand a chance of sleeping. The vomit was clear with specks of phlegmish brown (coloured so because of the Pepsi I'd drank just before falling asleep). Sticky fluid. There was no trace of the food we ate hours earlier. Hours later, digested. Converted into energy. Energy expended onto something I can no longer remember. The journey had disappeared. In bed I sweat. I toss and turn and the sickness doesn’t let up. No good. Still there. I return to the bathroom where my stomach turns over without the aid of my fingers. All by itself. Vomit. Clear-brown fluid and retch and retch and retch. Next time I must remember to vomit before the food is transformed and has become a part of my body.


There is nothing left to give, but my contracting stomach muscles continue to expel fluids form other orifices. My nose. My eyes. My cunt. Exhausted, I returned to bed. The sickness still there. My body through.


Once upon a time I had assumed lunch to be equivocal. Both of us too shy to mention the the other word; a word so loaded with potential and complexity. Lunch would be able to cover our anxiety and disguise our reciprocal intentions incase such intentions turned out to be non-reciprocal. Lunch was offered to me by way of left overs. There was no meat; the meat had been consumed the previous evening. But there was plenty of sustenance: butternut-squash, rice. Ex-chicken curry. Enough for two. The uncertainty of the term lunch became apparent soon enough. The next time we had lunch I bought it myself - with meat - and then we went back to mine to practice the true meaning of the word before parting ways.

Lunch is still on offer. It may still hold implications. For now lunch is just lunch; good intentions and potential and hope, which I will shit out later.


I have been fantasisng about your girlfriend for some time now. During a social gathering in which I try my best to avoid you and her, she approaches me. Stands before me and says nothing. She looks me dead in the eye and examines their glass thoroughly. There is nothing to be seen beyond them except the fantasy she wishes to project and she does see it: the thing it is she wishes to see. Clearly. Her eyes begin to accuse me; mine unwilling to deny or admit. I remain silent. It's not that words escape me it's just I know they aren't sufficient; they are unable to contain anything meaningful. You and I both know this. It is better to act. She expresses herself only through gesture. She slaps me. And I remain. Silent and calm. She does it again. But still I remain so she hits me again and again. And the people around are as perplexed as she is. They don’t intervene. And again and again and again and again. Still. And again and again and again and again and again. And I’m dizzy but I permit it. I continue to permit it. I can’t see you. I know you are there. I can feel your presence. Soon she stops. No less furious just ever closer to collapsing in the flux of her aggro. And I speak and I say: Is it out of your system now?
But it is not her I address. All present remain, still, unspeaking. This is where the fantasy ends.

After we fucked the first time you justified it to yourself: at least it’s out of the system now.

The climax is missing.


We go on.

In silence.


Dry Patch

The world was viewed through the protrusion of her vulva. Her consciousness was nothing more than what has become known colloquially as a prick or a cock or a dick. Such brutal masculine words for the way she was feeling but she was not attempting to transform her desire into language, [E1] that would merely displace it. She sought to transform her desire into object. Language may not suffice but these phallic signifiers are the closest thing to portraying and satisfying the empty violence erupting inside of her.

It was burning between her legs but no one could touch it. No one would. No one cared to. And so it angered her and in turn she angered it. They entered into a game: ignoring one another whilst interfering with the way the other wished to lead its existence. In between the two extremes her body served as mediator desperately trying to assimilate conflicting messages; desperately trying not to pick sides. Her body adhered to the rules of her mind: keeping up appearances and maintaining social graces, yet was constantly roused by the sensation of her cunt; facilitator of her enjoyment. Fatigued by this act—this to-ing and fro-ing, misunderstanding everything and drawing further away from the intent of either mind or cunt—her body began to sway. One way then the other. Misrepresentation of cunt via mind as mediated by body; misrepresentation of mind via cunt as mediated by body. The situation aggravated. Neither knew what the other wanted and so consequently it came to a point wherein each tried to stifle the other's activity, when in fact it was true that their goals were quite similar, if not the same.

All this started with one person. Then, thanks the the intervention of her body, it was no longer him: it was them.  And them wraps comfortably around both sexes. The more confusion grew, the more the two sexes became alike. Any. Exactly the same. Both capable of arousing and satisfying her. This confused her mind but made it all the more simple for her burning cunt. It made no difference so long as she was touched. Anyone. Lowering herself below the level of the great seducer; the aesthete [E2]. Indiscriminate. Incapable of attachment. No chase. Just touch. Touch alone. Them. Lower. All game.

But no one touched her.

Public transport was a joy. As more people brushed past her, she filled with excitement. Rush hour tube was particularly fulfilling. Crowded carriages. Contorting herself between armpits and breasts and torsos and legs. Her nose pressed up against the scent of stagnant body odour unwashed, soaps and sickly sweet perfumes; dizzying as her head tilted and shook from side to side. Her senses absorbed in her tight surroundings. Abandoning herself completely. Allowing others to share her weight; to carry her as she lifted all four limbs away from the ground in favour of gravity. But they wouldn’t hold her for very long. Momentarily hung. Then an arm a leg a body would shift: This is Oxford Circus. She would drop to the floor as they got off. There her head would rest against leather clad feet and her mouth would salivate and lick and suck until they had gotten off and she was left alone. Alone, her body found pleasure against the floor of the carriage and the vibrations of its shaft.

Them is a term that wraps as comfortably around both sexes as it does around people and objects. It really didn’t matter. Eventually the people were replaced by objects; they, being more willing to serve her pleasures, became totally desirable.

Mornings were always an effort but more so since the collusion of body and mind via the confounded body. Arms chose inappropriate length skirts and refused to participate in the putting on of underwear. This combination permitted intimate contact with the objects upon which the body sat. At work, a chair kept buttocks pressed tight against it. Hips would grind gently against its smutty sponge cushioning and stiff fabric, swiveling together in a slow act of passion, concealed only by the onlooking desk. The backseat of the bus, by the grunting heat of the engine, vibrating heavily under its own weight. Legs crossed. Head thrown back. Mimicking the groans of the bus as it threw the body about its rough interior. Anything with a surface. Anything other to the body.

And the mind became more and more concerned with the body’s devotion to the cunt. There grew a gradient between the two extremes of rational and animal; rising upwards and growing ever darker. Through the chest, burning at the breasts and heart: pounding, up to flushed cheeks, eventually silencing all rational. The mind too submitted. Finally, in a paroxysm of the body, it began to fold inwards on itself. The vulva then reached up and grasped hold of the belly button, pulling itself up into the stomach. The labia stretched itself out and folded  over limbs, liberating its sticky warm interior.

The ending to this story is she literally became a walking cunt; which is perhaps little better than a prick.But language didn't matter and still, no one would touch her.

Wet Patch

“He couldn’t get used to the way things were melting into each other”


8.04: The bus arrives. She boards. Same old. She sits at the front, right hand side.


8.05: Stares out of the window.


8.15: Contemplates buses slow progression. Growing anxiety due to impending tardiness. Male boards amongst others. Sits next to her.


8.16: He pulls out a book and opens it at chapter five. Rests book on lap. Girl recognises book as one she has not read but should have - this irritates her, adds to growing anxiety.


8.17: She reads the poignant opening line.[E3]

He stares out of the window, contemplates work load, spots the E5 bakery bike, gets job envy. Sighs.


8.19: Both stare out of the window. Eyes rest on glass. Thoughts stifle gaze. Nothing beyond glass.


8.23: Somewhere between Hackney Road and Bishopsgate. Her left arm, his right. Warmth emanating from each. She inhales, expanding her chest and raising her head then releasing with a sigh.

He inhales, opens out his chest and exhales simultaneous with her sigh.

Proximity tightens. Ever closer but without moving. Arms broach personal spaces and heat from respective arms burn and spreads across respective chests and breasts and inflame the heart.

Still facing forwards. Fighting any urge. Then pressing one against the other. Contact. A living body against a living body. Arms through fibres; shirt and then jacket. His of tweed, hers of wool. Beneath the surface of their clothes another layer; thinner and then skin with hairs poised and synchrony; the rising and falling and rising and falling. Air in circulation between them. Shoulder to shoulder. Inhale: rise. Exhale: fall. Together. Contact. Eyes forward unsettled and darting but unblinking. Moment stifles gaze. Together. They share.


8.25: He coughs. Synchrony broken; contact lost. Elevates his book. Chapter five. She rereads the first sentence and then looks out of the window to her right. Liverpool Street Station.


8.28: Was that a moment they both shared? She has no way of telling for sure. It was a moment she needed. A moment projected onto him. In the moment it was reciprocal. A moment of contact shared. A moment shifting the monotony of the journey. A moment belonging to the body as separate from her thoughts.


8.32: He closes the book and alights at Bank. Brown wavy hair. Short. Beard.


9.17: Thirty two minutes late for work.


Next Day

8.08: She boards the bus. Late. Sits centre left hand side.


8.26: Him. Brown wavy hair. Short. Beard. Tweed Jacket. He boards. Walks past her. She reacts silently. Embarrassed and repulsed. As if waking the morning after next to someone she physically despised; full of regret. She doesn’t know him. She searches for a sign of recognition. He ignores her glances. Sits elsewhere. Saddened by the rejection of someone she finds so unattractive. She feels dumb to have imagined such a moment anyway.


8.29: Liverpool Street Station. Growing anxiety due to tardiness. Tight throat. Sighs.


8.38: He alights. She doesn’t notice.


9.23: Late.


8.04: She digs deep and buys a travel card.


8.10: She boards the London Overground.


8.47: Arrives at work on time-ish.  She will not take the bus to work again until spring.


E1: None of these words will do. All are set undecided in meaning. Their indecision lies like a metaphorical fork in the road. Which route to take? Whichever you decide, the road will lead you on and on until you reach another fork which, in turn, will lead you on and on and on until you reach another fork which, in turn, will lead you on and on and on and on and then eventually you will arrive at a destination, or a conclusion that may or may not sit right. You can still go back, but by then again it maybe difficult and timely turn around and alter your route. Even then you may reach the same conclusion. Once the page has been laid out, the type set and printed, the words have made it outside of the body and into the physical real. Ink and paper. I can no longer edit-undo, shift-highlight-bckspce. Instead it remains out there. If it is uncertain or incorrect I can put it down to a failure of language, this failure does not belong to me. You as a reader must accept the bulk of the responsibility. I’ll probably return to it at a later date using different words.

Keirkegaard’s three tiers of love: The aesthete as typified by repetition, vanity and the selfishness of pleasure; the ethical, wherein love is genuine and felt and displays its own seriousness; the religious, leads on from the ethical, it is spiritual and able to transcend the human body. “The ego plunges through its own transparency to meet  the power that has created it.” (Keirkegaard himself dumped his one great love at the ethical level; being unable to transcend.) Here we encounter a fourth level, as typified by an indifference of pleasure, forgetting and the body’s  descendence into object/s.

E3: I cannot remember the book he was reading, nor can I remember the sentence. I remember it seeming so relevant to my situation and sighing upon each reading of it - it escapes me but I read it over and over. I can assure you it was most certainly chapter five. As a compromise I decided to search through some favoured books and pull out a chapter five opener from one of those as substitute. I tried Satre’s Nausea, Keirkegaard’s The  Seducer’s Diary - but both of these are epistolary novels. Chapter five occurs as a date; a detail difficult to determine in my position at the time. I tried Batille’s Story of the Eye, and Eroticism - although thematically relevant neither seemed appropriate. I tried Hamilton’s Hangover Square (perhaps my favourite novel), but the book is split into several sections and chapter five appears several times; difficult to choose and only one even remotely relevant to the commute: “The wheels and track clicked out the familiar and unmistakable rhythm - the sly, gentle, suggestive rhythm...”, hardly rousing. Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark was the most fitting: “Their meeting that night was a tempestuous one.” So fitting. Fitting to the point I almost believed that this was the exact line I had read that day. But it couldn’t have been, because although I hadn’t read Laughter in the Dark at that point, I was pretty certain I would have remembered Nabokov as being the author. I also don’t believe that anyone could be so distracted whilst reading this book. Eventually I settled on the opening line from Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun: “He couldn’t get used to the way things were melting into each other.”



The Proteus Cabinet

(From Real, a novella)

Something once was is now not. I feel it. Or maybe it has been substituted. Maybe it is in disguise. This feeling is possessing me, rendering me useless but for a devotion to finding the unknown thing tainting all actions. I search and sometimes I have it in my hands but it changes. A gust of smoke. Puff, there it isn’t. Not quite the same. Not all there. Not right at all. I loosen my grip and allow it to fall to the floor where it shatters. And once again I search. This time I must remember: when the thing seems within reach, when I am able to hold out my hand and grab it, I must not blink. I must hold its gaze very carefully and see how this magic is conducted. Don’t blink. Don’t view it as a performance see it as a scientific experiment with components and a method.


The Magician is the most prominent figure of the act. Charming by nature; charismatic, enigmatic, captivating. All well-balanced qualities emanating simultaneously. Alluring. Desirable. Distracting. A performer. Perhaps most importantly The Magician has a good sense of timing. He is a puppet master; but sometimes the magician is just a showman.

The Assistant is an indispensable disposable. A beautiful distraction. Good physique; nimble, able to contort the body into various shapes; into all sorts of nooks. Above all The Assistant needs to be believable as vulnerable. The key word here is believable. This does not necessarily mean The Assistant is vulnerable. The more believable as vulnerable The Assistant appears the less the other stuff matters. This is why quite often in old fashioned magic the magician’s assistant is slender, a meek but beautiful woman. A woman whose disappearance, whose being sawn in half, whose being poked at from all directions by sharpened poles provokes within us as audience, some profound horror. But sometimes the assistant isn’t a woman; sometimes the assistant isn’t beautiful; sometimes the assistant is a lout chosen at random from the audience. A believable vulnerable who is occasionally in disguise and is in fact a stooge. An actor. This seeming chosen-at-random coupled with a clumpy physique is probably more distracting than tits and teeth. Beautiful. The Assistant will bend over backwards with minimum effort for our entertainment. When The Assistant is on the stage in all her beauty she is other to us, her otherness compels us towards fear. When the lout is chosen from the crowd he is still one of us, chosen from a position not too dissimilar from our own. Ignorant and dumb to the maneuvers of the magician and his props. The lout has to be a lout not a stooge.

The Technician is the truth of the act. Truly enigmatic. Builder of mechanisms where magic is not believable as magic but known as engineering. Basic geometry, basic mathematics, basic science. The simplicity of magic is overwhelming because people always prefer the long way round: simplicity is laughable; unbelievable. The builder of the hidden. The true of magic. Always a private individual, unknown. Above all The Technician is invisible but consistently present through the mechanisms of magic: the beat of magic. Residing in a passage between the seen and unseen; the one the audience has chosen to ignore. A shift in perspective is required for The Technician to be seen. Such is the anamorphic nature of the magic trick.


Inaccessible and concealed, the mechanism is out of reach and sight. The hidden is essential to the trick. Currently the mechanism is out of sight because both Magician and Assistant dance around it luring my gaze towards them distracting me from the real of the trick. The magic itself isn’t hidden because magic is an addition to the mechanism. Magic is what occurs between Magician and audience; it is always seen. Further than that, magic is what happens between body and mind. Desire plays a heavy role and this desire is to be deceived. A willing suspension of disbelief. A battle of wits which invites deception to the peripheries and teases it. To be fooled or dazzled, one dares. Maybe floodlights will be switched on immersing everything in light allowing the possibility for all to be seen: but all can only be revealed if you are able to refocus your gaze effectively. Prodding and poking and attempting to outsmart The Magician but only ever in silence from the edge of your seat. Never rushing the stage. Never spoiling it for yourself or anyone else. Ultimately surrendering oneself into being tricked by something out of sight.

At present all that stands between myself and deception are two performers and a magnificently decorated empty box. The Magician sets it spinning. Painted onto the upper third of the box is a most striking feature, an eye which appears to blink as the box rotates. Blue and black and white diagonals embrace the perimeter of the case giving the impression that the box is screwing into the ground. Turning on four small wheels elevating it a couple of inches from the ground. The elevation itself is a deception provoking a question as to their purpose. Mobility for one: such a hefty box must be difficult to move around. But it is also an invitation to examine the hidden or at least to put a strike through a potential mechanism. No one is getting into or out of this box through a trap door situated directly beneath, at least not without being spotted by the audience. An old theatre trick. But this too is an old theatre trick. I have seen it performed many times before and everybody knows exactly how it works. The mechanism is so arrogant it stares directly at its audience. Mirrors. All magic tricks are smoke and mirrors: concealment and deception.

The Proteus Cabinet: a place where one enters and is able to mimic the changing form associated with the Greek God of its namesake. Myth is also at play here. In its time it was spectacularly executed by many good showmen but the trick itself relies not only on a showman but simple geometry and the laws of reflection. Two slabs of mirrored glass about the height of the cabinet and half its width are positioned at two corresponding corners meeting in the exact centre, at angles of exactly forty five degrees forming a prism. They are positioned just so. Just so the box appears fully as whole and empty from the perspective of the audience. But behind those mirrors a person is hidden waiting for the moment of the big reveal. The Magician walks past the mirrors avoiding any angles of incidence: positioned just so and thus revealing that the mirrors are very well concealed indeed. The mechanism is so arrogant in its blatancy. We have seen it all before. Why do we need to, would we want to see it again?

He spots me. Our eyes meet and panic strikes down to my core. Did I say something out loud? He theatrically raises his finger making circular motions pivoting from the wrist then the knuckle of his ringed index finger. I immediately redden feeling the eyes of the room fall upon me. I am mistaken. It isn’t me. He points towards someone else; sat next to me or to my left or right or behind me maybe. I shift slightly and his finger moves with similar slightness as if there is a strong pulled thread connecting the two of us. Despite the ringed finger which follows my every movement I am certain it is not me he seeks and so I laugh a little nervously. I turn to my right: no one. Then to my left: no one. Then I glance over each of my shoulders: no one. And before me: no one. Just rows and rows of empty seats. Then all around the theatre: the same. There is nobody. Anywhere. The theatre is empty but for myself, The Magician, The Assistant and a supposedly empty box. He once again raises his ringed finger in a circular motion settling patiently in my direction

May I have a volunteer?

A voice bellows detached from anyone in the room and seemingly unreal. What motive could I possibly have for standing in such a claustrophobic space. About as wide as my shoulders and as tall as my bad postured self. I would fit almost perfectly but this box wasn’t made for me. What motive could anyone possibly have to enter into it and have oneself disappear: become elsewhere; in between visible and invisible. And if not disappeared then physically altered in some way. To be manipulated and made an example of. Maybe the skeptic looking to outsmart, humiliate and expose the showman. You hear of that. In the early days of seance; the beginnings of magic, people would rush the stage through fear and an unwillingness to believe that any of these otherly happenings are true. All of this is a denial of order. We live in a structure familiar and accepted by us all, we will not allow anything to exist outside of this structure and if it does we will destroy its strangeness. And so with a great ferocity they would tear the stage apart and expose the showman: take off the skin of magic and expose its innards; the truth; the mechanism. End it. Hide its remains in flames or beat it until it is no longer recognisable then sigh as order is restored. The mechanism revealed through panic, fear, and the machismo of terrified audience members: you cannot trick me, I know what is real. Post revelation, the act would invariably remain despite their altered reputation. Anxiously continuing their tour expecting it all to fall apart on the back of an audience member’s cocksuredness. Yet there was always an audience. There is still an audience of people longing to be deceived. The difference between now and then is that we now know it is absolute deception and does not threaten any symbolic order even though we deeply desire it to do so. It merely threatens my intelligence. I suspend my disbelief and permit the act to continue. As long as I am secure within the symbolic order, it remains untouched; the world and my position in it remains unthreatened by any deviant. I know it is not real. I am allowing myself to be fooled. I can laugh and applaud rather than flee in penetrating fear. I am being lied to, that is how I know all is alright.

Only I do fear. Maybe I am not a skeptic after all; maybe I am a believer. A true believer fears the consequence of this trick. He wants to involve me in this trick and I fear being annihilated. I fear being made out of sight; shattering my sense of self in the cocksure hands of this overly theatrical and extremely out-of-date magician. I fear realising that my material self is reducible matter able to be manipulated for the entertainment of others

He once again raises his finger and theatrically spirals it in my direction. So patient, so certain that I am the one. But he has got it wrong. He thinks I am a stooge. A stooge would approach the stage, walk up there with the inner confidence of someone in the know but with outward appearance of a skeptic or a believer. Fearful and anxious but excited by the randomness of their selection. Knowing exactly what they are supposed to do: conduct an examination taking care not to reveal any of the ins-and-outs of the mechanism. It ain’t me. He’s got it wrong. I may profess to know. But I don’t know. I reassure myself: it isn’t real. But I don’t know. I just don’t. I mean we’ve never met before. Have we?

My legs carry me towards him against my inner will. I am approaching the stage hypnotised in motion. Kicking out one foot in front of the other as if they aren’t mine but someone else’s. The Magician mimics me throwing his hands one in front of the other and then pulling me towards him as if in control of my unwilling motion. His magic is working. Am I the stooge? The way my legs move is so unfamiliar; I am walking a treadmill and the scenery is moving about me, the stage towards me. A loud applause strikes up from somewhere above the empty theatre and stops abruptly as I approach the centre of the stage.

Through gesture The Magician insists I look into, through, and around the box.

Examine it.

Here I can see the patterned box close up and follow its stripes from top to bottom. The eye grabs my attention, repeated on each side glazed and flat against the matt blue, black, and white of the diagonal stripes. The Magician halts my motion and sets the box spinning. Four separate but identical eyes meet with mine four separate but identical times, and again and again and again and again. The Magician then stops the box from spinning and gestures for me to open it. The boundary of the box is seen as a continuous enveloping pattern deceiving me into thinking this is one continuous border which contains the boxness of the box. All four sides are doors able to be opened simultaneously, when they are all open they reveal nothing but the framework. No mirrors positioned just so. No extras. No person in waiting: hiding. The insides of the doors have been painted black and then varnished over. I allow the scent of varnish to travel through my body recalling something which I lose the instant it is broached. It is nostalgic. I caress the surface with an urge to press my mouth against its blackness, stick out my tongue and lick at it. I resist the temptation and bite my trembling bottom lip. The surface holds a distorted image of a person I think is myself. This distortion implies a deeply flawed surface perhaps because it is hiding something: a mechanism. Black is a very clever colour: stubborn to nuance; flat and concealing.

It is concealing something. It has to be.

And running my hand along its surface I feel its truth. Not smooth but rugged; uneven with marks and scores and the occasional pointed lump where something has been caught beneath the paint. Strokes of the paint brush felt under my hand; traces of a hand which once sanded down and painted. Wait. When fully dry a coat of varnish can be applied. This drying period attracting all kind of small objects: particles of dust, fruit flies, fragments of skin and hair all becoming stuck upon its stickiness then varnished over and trapped there. The trace of hidden process: the hand of The Technician. I desire to tongue its flaws.

The Magician thanks me with a nod of his head and both hands pressed together as if in prayer then gestures with his ringed hand through the centre of the box towards my seat. He does not wish to disappear me. I am free; relieved from his magic. I can sit and submit myself to the show unable to fully expose him. I step through the centre of the box stroking the surface of one of the doors, which pulls away as my finger tips brush against. I move more freely and eagerly this time to my seat. I am light; I fly there. From down here the eye of the box seems more convincing, setting itself away from the diagonally-lined back-drop, floating before the box casting a shadow behind itself. The shadow mimics the shape of the floating eye but refuses to be the same as it; remaining in the dark it grants the thing the ability to float. Is it? I know the box and the eye to be together, fixed onto each other a part of the same trick. I could have missed it but maybe a faint shadow has been painted beneath the eye; painted just so; just so as it can only be seen from the perspective of the audience. Here, where I now sit. And this suggests I did not examine the box thoroughly enough. I raise my hand over my mouth, a gesture of disappointment.

The Magician makes another overly dramatic gesture and The Assistant takes centre stage. Somewhere between the vulnerable flexible female and the loutish supposedly unassuming audience member. She sucks air in through her nose then out through her mouth. Her chest rises and falls in synchrony. In and out and in and out and in and out and in and


























And keeping this rhythm she steps into the box guided by The Magician’s hand. I am fixed. Relaxed. Seduced.




My fixation disturbed as the cabinet doors are closed and a mighty click penetrates the engulfing silence of the room. The silence I hadn’t previously noticed. The type of silence that amplifies the natural hum of a large space; that carries the breath of the now out-of-sight assistant; in which any other sound is an unwelcome addition. Shock speeds to my heart. I am panicked but I can still hear her. Then she is still there.




The Magician begins to turn the box clockwise; plastic wheels scratching against the splintered wooden floor adding to the strange silence. The wheels graceful against the uneasy coarse grain beneath. The hum: constant in pitch and tempo. A heavy breath. In and out. The Magician begins a peculiar dance in an anti-clockwise direction about the cabinet. The floating eye disappears then reappears as each of the four faces turns into a position of looking towards, and then away from me. Slowly at first, then a little more quickly, and more, and more, until giving the impression that the eye is blinking. Occasionally The Magician encourages the velocity of the box by shoving it. The eyes start to blur into one horizontal line cutting through the diagonals which screw into the ground. As the box further accelerates so too does the ferocity and strangeness of The Magician’s dance. He moves to the melody of the scratching wheels; the consistent humming drone; the beat of the breath. He skips gracefully, arms floating either side, slowly bending his back and tipping his head towards the ground, slowly windmilling his arms followed by the draping fabric of his sleeves. Whilst the diagonals confirm the box is still turning the eye further separates itself and floats alone outside of the constraints of the box. It is still; unblinking. It stares at me returning my gaze. I cannot remove myself from the eye. I am still. Unmoving. I do not blink, I promised myself this much. I cannot blink. But I cannot look elsewhere. The eye has me. Not even the bizarre motion of The Magician interrupts the thread of our reciprocal gaze. Then the eye begins to blur again, then blink and I blink too. Again and again. The Magician stops it all, embracing the cabinet as he might a lover, his head resting upon it at shoulder height. Both cabinet and Magician are still. I am still. The room is unmoving and silent but for the hum and the sound of heavy breathing

And there is nothing else. My heart slows and I turn a little numb. The Magician hangs his head. All doors of the cabinet remain closed. The Assistant both there and not there. Already vanished. But the sound of respiration reassures me. I am on the edge of my seat ready to fall; I am at the edge of my own consciousness and I wait. I have seen this trick performed before and I am expectant. I am also dazed and unsteady. My head starts to spin and I dig my fingers into the arms of my chair for support.

There are mirrors concealing an empty space; giving the impression of a second empty space but this space is false. It is an optical illusion. A space you cannot trust because if you walk up to it you are met with a parallel world wherein a parallel you has witnessed a parallel trick within a parallel box and now this other you wishes to inspect the mechanism at work. Only as the mechanism is approached the other’s gaze is met with yours: the real you; and the shock on your face is reflected in the face of the other. And her hand reaches out to touch you but she is denied as there is a transparent surface between you both, and she disappears only to reappear with a heavy prop; a part of a separate trick. She raises it high above her head, determination in her eyes and as she brings it down onto the mirror and you cry: No.

I hear my voice penetrating a contained silence. All in sight is replaced with nothing but blackness. A scent fills my nostrils which provokes a desire to stick out my tongue and lick at the nearest shining surface. This must be unconsciousness but I am reassured by the sound of a heavy breath. My eyes feel as if they are open but the encompassing blackness confounds perception. I bring a finger to my eye and touch its wet surface to confirm its openness. I jerk at the suddenness of my salty finger stinging the ball of my eye, hitting the boundaries of the thing which apparently contains me. I am encased. Something. Surrounded. Little space to manoeuver. About as wide as my shoulders and as tall as my slumped posture. My body collides again and again with its boundaries as I panic. With an explosion, light painfully rushes into my eyes which I quickly close. Open slowly. My vision is returned. There is no smoke obscuring my view despite the seeming force of the explosion which liberated me. Then there is a realisation: my gaze is no longer met with blackness nor is it returned by the eye of the box; it is now returned by a couple of hundred or so people. All gobsmacked. I reflect this.

To my right a hand is offered, a ring gleams from the index finger and holds me. Within this feature a character is contained: androgynous and ambiguous. What is it? I take the hand and bring the ring closer to my eyes so that all external to it turns out of focus. The ring is gold. I take it to my mouth and bite at it: solid. With a firm tongue I lick a curved surface. I lick until its metal coldness turns warm under my breath and then remove it from my mouth, polish it against my breast. Not once does the hand resist my grip nor does it encourage my examination it simply permits. Pinching, I attempt to twist the ring off a swollen index finger which denies my efforts. I spit to lubricate the friction. I create a condition so the ring may succumb to my prying hold. As it twists the image within reacts to my manipulation, swaying and flitting between flaws: slight scratches and dents and scuffs. All implying age. An old artifact belonging to a different time finding itself in the now but always nodding back to a separate origin. An ambiguous character within the ring remains still, fixated on the thing attempting to manipulate it. I watch as the flaws alter and redetermine this character again and again and again. The ring imposes its shape onto the objects contained within, these objects are reflections of the external but their distortion belongs to the ring only and I will never see this strange creature which stares back at me again as long as this ring remains the property of The Magician. I contemplate stealing it but before my hand catches up with motivation the ring is snatched away from me; I am pulled back into my situation and away from a collapsed box.

Before me is an audience, surrounding me is silence but for the hum of the room, a faint ringing in my ears and the sound of heavy breathing. All is still. All is slow. All is frozen. The audience, The Magician; their shoulders, their chests do not rise and fall in the act of respiration. They do not breathe. I can still hear it. A heavy breath. There is someone else here with me.

Where am I?

How did I get here?

Did I blink?

The last thing I am able to recall: the shattering of a mirror but there are no mirrors. No mirrors. No smoke. Just four varnished surfaces belonging to collapsed cabinet lying separate and flat against the splintered stage floor. Four MDF slabs painted black then varnished over creating a reflective sheen. The smell lures me to my hands and knees and there, on all fours, I crawl about looking into a varnished surface. I stop and place my head close to a distorted image I think is myself. I watch this image appear and disappear under the condensation of breath.


Not there.


Not there.

My mouth pressed against the mouth of the reflection, I begin to tongue its rugged, occasionally sharp surface. A hair flattened against and now inseparable snakes under my tongue. I follow its trace up and down for some time. Still recognisable as a hair but restrained and unable to cause me to gag. Still recognisable as other to, but a definite part of all the same.

It is silent but for the hum of the room and a now quite irregular breath. I am startled and leap back onto my feet into the centre of the collapsed box. Such uncharacteristic gymnastics, I am unable to recognise this gesture as being one of my own; carried by something external. What I am able to recognise: the stifled breath not of The Magician nor The Assistant. Something else. The surface. The image. Silence is annihilated by roars of laughter, a mass of active people and a great round of applause. I sweat. I clench my fists. A light falls into the audience; onto the seat in which I had previously been sitting; now occupied by The Magician and on his lap The Assistant. I am devastated. Under the heavy light The Assistant looks to be familiar: too much so. I can’t place it. They do not laugh. They do not clap. They merely return my gaze.