September 23, 2013

Well Nourished and Well Protected
Tisa Bryant

So accustomed are we to our three-dimensional world that our eyes are instinctive depth finders. Ann Clark, just arrived at Manhattan State Hospital, has been helped into pajamas and a robe by nurses. First day. In a landscape, in the countryside, the pressured relationships between form and space are quite complicated. Inwardly she is far more agitated than she looks. Shortly before, she had been weeping at being brought here; now she has withdrawn. To a final isolation. Beginning with a gland. Out of reach.


What is the form of a wife? Midwifery is not what it sounds, the center of scenting, but the intermediary between caring and need. Limbic. Cerebral. Sense integration. The twisted world of gendered, affective labor. The great knot inside the skull.


The space we call "the sky" envelops the moving growing forms of nature (and where there is a growing movement, there is an intensification of pressure) and hovers over the pressure swell of the earth, the skyward thrust of mountains and the gravity pulled rocks. The artist has long been sensitive to these complex pressure patterns. Ann perceives strangeness. Hostility. Every leaf, every blade of grass is growing against the opposition of space. Circuitous routing. Establish. Decide. Adjust. Subtract. Add. Finish. Homogenizing the tissue. Do not divide.


Ann had spent some of her childhood in a foster home. She was first hospitalized in her twenties. Two years later she was hospitalized again, believing people were trying to kill her. The pianist strikes a chord with his left hand. A sheltering bubble rises, an 'airhouse' looming like a translucent mushroom, all synthetic creation. She had left high school after two years, worked in a factory, married in her early twenties.


If someone whispers in the pianist's ear, "After separating from her husband she had a son, whom she put in a foster home," vibrations created by symptoms enter the middle ear and eventually reach the climate of controversy: a pulpy suspension. When anchored by one another, these provide effective shelter and storage. The pianist's hands hover and grasp the percussive myth of mothers. Nerve impulses originated by musical notes travel to the cortex by more than one route. It is swaddled, swimming in a surrounding fluid that absorbs shocks. Ann burst out crying. Straining out the debris.


Dr. Mavrovic led her to an office. "Do you feel depressed now? How is your child?" A twisted world of one-sided surfaces. There she gave short, almost inaudible replies to his questions. The diversity of interpretation: a crumbled mixture. But again delusions threatened her. Not everybody possesses a capacity for the type of vision we are talking about here; yet many people, when faced with unusual objects or interesting drawings, will make some kind of imaginative jump. But soon she hid her face with her hand and only shrugged her shoulders. The nylon rope trick. Become surface, become helix. Magic occurs at the junction of two layers of the thalamus and the cortex. Thick, convoluted, she stepped towards and into a nucleus. The topology of a face Where did hers go?


Dear Ann. Poor Ann. Spinning down to nuclei. Mixing things up again. Ann drank her first dose of chlorpromazine, a tranquilizer she took four times daily. She told her husband she wanted some ice cream, left him and the boy and ran home. When she reached her apartment, she locked herself in. The mental image thus engendered is then produced in graphic form. One major obstacle: a starchy polymer. It was an unspeakable terror. Soon she was too "nervous" to do household chores. The genus of everyday objects.. Each of these surfaces can be topologically transformed. Vicious. Psychotic. "Run down."


By the third day, Ann, like a leitmotif running through the equilibrium of forces in landscape, is concerned with clarifying particular aspects of our world. She is able to tell Dr. Sparks, with animated gestures, of the wiped places, multi-textured and charged with a possibility for development. At this stage she is still fearful of strangers. By her third week, Ann cared enough about appearances to benefit from a visit to the hospital's beauty shop. Measuring. Tagging. Following. A self-sufficient visual statement: a plastic hair curler, a short length of bamboo, were used to make a sense of depth, distinctive impressions. Together, these treatments helped restore Ann's mastery over her emotions. Because of this, she sees things better in darkness by looking just to one side of them.


The nerve leaves, returns, perceived. A crumpled kerchief was pressed in the black space. Liberally she gave him a three-week period of acclimatization and then dragged him—too awed to protest much—into her fearsome regimen of self-improvement. Input. Memory. Processing. Output. Such a series of interactions indicates a communication system. Feeding data. What is the form of a wife. The scent of the nonconforming mind?


The bottle with no inside, fears of this magnitude which no locked door could shut out. Her trust in Dr. Sparks is an important step forward. The voice produces answers in many forms, activated by a code, developing flowing current. Vision at a considerably lower level is called for, which will start off ideas in the mind, stir the feelings and suggest a new and more eloquent world to face. She is dressed in daytime clothes and calmed by doses of chlorpromazine.


Different types of string will make different kinds of lines and the manner in which the string is used will affect the mark produced. To Ann, every glance had once been hostile. Now she could not only bear them, she was brave enough to invite them. She pauses to sign. Dr. Mavrovic distorted in a funhouse mirror. A man's face and his reflection are, topologically, the same. A point and its neighborhood on one correspond to a single point and its neighborhood on the other. She now tells the nurse with good-natured irony, "It's been awfully nice, but I really must go."


Until society changes, if the string is dropped rather than thrown, the manner in which the string is used creates a vicious circle, treatment consisting of strengthening Ann to live with misunderstanding, community, total lack. Aftercare bolstered by new fantasy, curing delusions. The capacity for vision, even of this elementary order, is a sine qua non for the artist. Without it, Ann ascribed her relapse into the uncontrollable anxieties of this complex patter, and her release to the idea of metamorphosis in art. Her self-confidence will coil and twist and make a distinctive line or mark.


Tisa Bryant is the author of Unexplained Presence, a collection of fiction-essays focused on Black presences in film, literature and visual art. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Animal Shelter, Black Clock, Bombay Gin, Mandorla and Viz. Archival research, film, montage and collage feature prominently in her work. She teaches fiction and hybrid forms in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the California Institute of the Arts, and lives in Los Angeles..

View The Mind in the catalog. Other books consulted and utilized for this piece include Form Space and Vision, The Cell, Mathematics, Matter

Read other Word Processor essays.