Museum Hum

Museum. Architecture for people – without people. 

(2000 and November 2004)

White rooms,

doorways leading

to other white rooms.

Pictures, straight-edged,

in the straight-edged

architecture of the rooms.

Muffled voices

in the carpeted room.

Intermittent sounds

detaching from what should have been

the underlying silence.

A hum

persistent

low key

elusory

pervasive

inescapable.

Barely perceptible.

One note

rising and falling.

Words in the becoming.

Shaping

almost

into words.

The pictures on the walls

white walls

doors – endless rows of doors –

fantastic structures

architecture

for people, without people.

Denying personality

denying individuality

submitted

to a precise

mathematical order.

But observed by people

coming and going.

And always

the hum.

A fluorescent fixture hum,

a subtle sound

pervasive,

dying down, returning,

as one moves in search

from room to room

before circling in

to the source,

to a small black man

dressed in black

standing in a doorway.

Black Habakuk.

He stands there

apparently

motionless.

Only his eyes

follow

the comings and goings,

lips barely moving

to let the hum escape.

A dirge,

from somewhere deep within.

Words

but are they words?

surfacing like evanescent

ripples on a deep dark pool.

Words seem to form

but then trail off,

dissolve.

Words you know you know

but that refuse

to let themselves

be captured.

The hum goes on

without beginning

without end

imperceptibly

rising and falling

an all-pervasive sound.

The hum

that tantalizing hum.

What is it

what are the words

where are they going.

I think, for a moment,

he is part of the show,

an installation –

black against the white,

a counterpoint to the rigidity

of straight-line architecture –

and counterpoint he was

standing almost motionless,

his body sometimes arching

with his inner music.

An age-old lament of people in captivity,

captive here of museum walls,

of pictures meaningless perhaps to him

and in the end

perhaps to me.

For what I remembered afterwards

was not the pictures

but this human being

and his hum.

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