“We do not know what things look like . . . We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing,” says Aunt Beast to young Meg Murray, the protagonist of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time.
I return to this passage now, after wondering what it is in Yon Sim’s images that makes me so aware of the frailties in my own ways of knowing and seeing, seeing and knowing.
Making little headway in that direction, I let the question go and instead just ponder the craft. I’ve never done it myself, so I can’t account for the actual experience of lifting emulsion off a Polaroid. It must be a trembling procedure. I can only say that I’ve seen a lot of these transfers, but I keep coming back to Yon Sim’s.
Sim never fails to remind me that in every snapshot—however picturesque the shore, however joyful the ferris wheel, however melancholy the bird—the whole romantic transaction leaves only the slightest crease in the fabric of time. Nothing gold can stay, so true.
But let’s not dismiss the affair. It’s actually quite momentous, quite profound, that crease. In Yon Sim’s work, nothing’s more evident. Time goes about its business, tra la la. The human outline appears, disappears. The information of us collapses into the event horizon. Nevertheless, the story retains its essential shape. What I mean is, the wrinkle is the ferris wheel, the seagull’s wing, the lipstick-red smudge at some vague memory’s edge. A smallness, perhaps, when measured against the months and years of one’s life—but a smallness indivisible by zero.
“It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.” Maybe. But to have seen at all, to have wrinkled time’s seamless sheet. I can think of one or two worse things.—CB