The Hydrocephalus Suite

The Hydrocephalus Suite is composed of three texts, commissioned and recorded by SHELL LIKE, for their audio residency on in November 2018.

The Hydrocephalus Suite was also included in a series of sound baths alongside audio works by Madeleine Stack and Leyla Pillai and sculpture by Hannah Rowan as part of I’m in the bath on all fours, towards blue water (my nose is bleeding) at Well Projects in Margate, UK from April 19-May 5 2019. Full transcripts of the texts were included in the accompanying exhibition publication, available for purchase here.


The revelation arrived as the answer to an unasked question, a remedy to a predicament she had never found the vocabulary to articulate, and she was absolutely convinced of its all-encompassing veracity. She didn’t feel she could call this an epiphany, since it hadn’t so much arrived like a flash of lightning; more it seemed to have finally taken form from phonemes she had been idly circulating around her mouth for her entire life, sifting through sounds until they clicked into language. And here it was: the answer to it all was to take a bath at her grandmother’s house.




And then I started to feel like maybe there was something violent about the stillness itself. The world around us had become so quiet, as if the sound had bled from the scene by a hidden incision in the landscape.  There was something relentless in the way the sky seamlessly passed from blue, violet, pink; and the way the mountains disappeared into unseen but nonetheless unyielding presences in the dark.




Our bodies dry quickly in the wind and sun, leaving me with a confused impression of fever. I walk tentatively, feeling my way across the cool matte surface—soft as wax, yet dry and flaking like brittle fingernails. I had assumed the buildings would be made of marble, but you say that it must be some sort of soapstone. We survey the structure, applying our dilettante knowledge of architectural history and trying to identify features that will assign it to an era.  I say there is something Romanesque about the heft of the piers and columns, but the symmetry is awry. The smooth, irregular lumps above the arches might be the last vestiges of an ornamented lintel, equally it might have been a chemical shift that has caused the walls to pucker and bubble.

You are convinced that these are the remains of a twentieth century Brutalist experiment, but this feels wrong; Brutalism confesses functionality and this edifice is willfully obscure. We search the portico for some allusion to a former purpose, but there is nothing. The steps are positioned in irregular increments, as if they were not made with humans in mind. The material is equally opaque; the entire structure seems devoid of joints or seams. I begin to wonder whether this is organic matter, whether we are standing on a colossal bone from a long-extinct and unimaginably large animal.  We look for traces of recent visitors like ourselves, but there is no graffiti and no garbage. There are no birds and no guano to suggest that they have ever so much as flown overhead. I had assumed that the structures were abandoned, but the longer we explore, the more I sense we are alone and eerily un-haunted. There are no specters of long or newly dead inhabitants—just a mute and pallid void where a past should rest.  We tread this aberration that seems to have flowered out of the sea like a fungus and I am afraid.



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