Searching for Stowaways, ink on newsprint, 1850, Anonymous.
Four men are combing the ship's hold. They are identically hunched, identically
impassive. Their torsos are thick with salt-pork and swill, their legs truncated
and merging with the floor. They could be four versions of the same man: the same
man at different moments in time. They are concentrating. The man to the right
is holding a flame into a hollow. The man to his left, has stopped at cracks
in the wall. The furthest, stares into his hands over something he has found:
a giveaway skincell, a stray hair. And the last man – or last version of the one man –
is walking towards the stairwell. He is looking towards the light descending
from the deck, past the chain coming down from the ceiling, the bundle of random
necessities on the floor. He is leaving the recess wanting; pots scattered, barrels
spilling, stowaways deficient and bored.
Stowaway Peers Out at the Speed of Light, oil on canvas, 2000, James Rosenquist.
'A stationary spectator sees an event or fixed point differently from a spectator
travelling at the speed of light.'
Let's say: that the viewer is the stowaway. That the Stowaway is the event.
That we have crammed ourselves into a tight box. Like fish. That we can only look
through gaps in the planks. That we are missing the point. That we have missed it.