About Face

To zero in on something: to draw an edge around it. And to get back to the beginning, square one, null and void, which is why I am back again here, now: zero.


A line around. Nothing (null, zero) in the middle: nothing, which, after all, is the thing meant, so around oneself, beside itself, offset from itself. And then in the center the thing stares in the face, stark and unexpected. The thing (no-thing, itself, myself, zeroself). Stares in the face, stares me in the face. My face. Stares in my face. If the stare is in my face then I am the one staring. A staring: is the staring a thing?

Recently I accidentally made a painting of a small Northern European city. By accidentally I mean that I had been planning to stain the entire panel orange and I stopped.. This was a step I had planned so I could then move on to other things that did not happen. Unhappened projected layering I imagine was pink. When I swiped the side of my hand across the surface of the panel I saw the orange had made a city and I stopped. Because on the panel there was a small city. A quiet street scene. Small peaked roofs. I am imagining we are a few hundred years ago. I think I am thinking of some Dutch genre issue I have. I think this is why I am thinking about Northern Europe. After this I carefully tried to put in a sky and other little things.

To split the staring off from the face and the face off from the staring. For the staring and the face to stare at each other.

Does this say too much, or too little? The painting of the city. Over and under I think both. Looking through a window. To be clear I imagine this painting like I am looking through a window at it and what I imagine about it is that it is like looking through a window. Both. There are windows in the city. Do cities have windows?

But the painting is also a fire. I had this idea that I could say it was a city and it’s a fire. This is why once the sky is done, or once I have done with it, I paint glaze over some of the orange, very slightly red, so it will be a fire. I set my city on fire. I am trying to not feel guilty about this. I am afraid I tried to make the painting a painting of a fire so that the fire would burn itself out of the painting, leaving a small city. Charred or intact? Or rising from ashes, which is something else.

To walk down the street. Cobblestones. Looking through windows. These are things about cities. I am something about a city.

About. To walk about. I haven’t been outside yet today. When I woke up I photoshopped some pictures, including the picture of the painting of the small city or the fire. I wasn’t sure what to title my file, let alone the painting. Small city. Small city, fire. Small northern European city, fire. Like a small city. Like a small city seen in a fire. When I was small I spent most of my time in the city but sometimes we would go away for the weekend. In the country you sit around fires. We see things in it.

Around. About. Roundabout. If the fragment is roundabout or very direct I’m not sure. I think maybe the issue is it’s both. It makes a circle but the circle has ceased to do to do what we think circles do. When we look at the middle this start-end-start again sort of time doesn’t operate. You can’t go around anymore. I’m not sure if going is even at issue.

To zero in on something: to draw an edge around it. And to get back to the beginning, square one, null and void, which is why I am back again here, now: zero.

about (adv.) Old English abutan, earlier onbutan "on the outside of," from on (see on; also see a- (1)) + be "by" (see by) + utan "outside," from ut (see out (adv.)). By 13c. it had forced out Old English ymbe, ymbutan for meaning "in the neighborhood of." Abouts, with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., probably is a northern dialectal form. About face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, American English.

Why did I think it was a painting of a city? Things in cities: cobblestones. Dirt. Crowds, certainly, and pigeons, too many we say.

Around oneself. If around and about were the same thing then to be around oneself would be in some sense to be about oneself, subject of oneself, subject and object of oneself can be defended by this around-about moment, this is a way to talk about this way of thinking. About staring at oneself. The problem of being oneself and staring at oneself.

Walking in a circle and ending up in the middle. Not at the beginning. Not where you started. Or also where you started and somewhere else. I have to go around the corner to buy tea and also I am out of lemons I should remember. The men who own the corner shop are very kind. They keep the lemons outside and I am always embarrassed when I forget to get them on the way in; I have to bring everything up to the front and then let the man know I’ve forgotten the lemons, must go back out, turn around again, about, about face.