“It also declares itself, in the form of a secretary, to be the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end.” ~ Jorge Borges on The Baldanders
The Baldanders are supposed to be creatures who transform into anything at all, not having any form of their own. In The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Borges describes them as follows:
Baldanders is a successive monster, a monster in time; the title page of the first edition of Grimmelshausen’s novel bears an engraving that portrays a being with the head of a satyr, the torso of a man, the outspread wings of a bird, and the tail of a fish; with one goat’s foot and one vulture’s claw it stands atop a mound of masks, which might be the individuals of the species. On its belt there hangs a sword; its hands hold an open book with the figures of a crown, a ship, a chalice, a tower, a baby, a pair of dice, a fool’s-cap with bells, and a cannon.
There is something delirious about a being that has no form of its own. There seems to be a simultaneous freedom and prison involved in constantly sporting a non-native form. Thinking of a being that lacks form, always taking on that of another, reminds me of a prior post on this blog in which I discussed Kest Schwartzman’s Project dedicated to making masks depicting each of the imaginary beings discussed in Borges’ book. When I read about the Baldanders, I wondered if that being had been one of the main inspirations for her project, what with each form taken on being like a mask to the essential, unformed nature of the Baldanders.
However, the aspect of the Baldanders that I find most inspiring is that the creature apparently possesses the ability to “speak with things which by their nature are mute, such as chairs and benches, pots and kettles”. The stories these items might hold! I can sit with that thought for some time, imagining myself the Baldanders, conversing with my husband’s favorite, egg-shell white and dotted-brown teacup about what it feels like to be so delicate and small, and how his warm fingers feel against its cold, fragile handle. I could spend upwards of thirty minutes in that exercise alone.
And it is endless! What could the ‘sign here’ stickers placed so perfunctorily onto contracts I fill out for clients in the course of my work day tell me about their journey to other cities and countries? What might they be able to share with me about the fingers that pull them off and toss them in the trash and the filth-laden end of their existence at the landfill? Or what of those fingers who pull them off, smooth them out, and then reuse them and send them to some other foreign place? What is it like, little sign here stickers, to be folded up so neatly into a package and then tossed about recklessly with some paper-friends before seeing the light of day? I think I’ve spent too much time already thinking about the secret life of sign here stickers.
Perhaps I should start to speculate on the intimacies of my deodorant stick now? Or perhaps signing off is a better idea.
What beautiful but mute items would you like to sit and talk with?
[I drafted this awhile back for a Monday or Thursday when I hadn't had time to write up a post. I guess that day is here. It is time to get some more posts completed and ready to go!]