The box is a battery.


At the top of Spákonufell mountain is a box. The box contains a book to sign, a stone to touch, a kite, a fading letter, pens and a slot for coins. If you make it to the top of the mountain this box, which looks like a treasure from the outside, is more like a set of instructions: unwrap the book from its plastic, sign it, rub the stone, fly the kite, leave something behind. I signed the book (date, name, “NYC”) but Liz and Paris didn’t, and on the way down we talked about it. Why sign the book?


My first thought was: I leave a trace and I’m reassured that my recorded presence is known to a future audience.

It’s publishing, no? A collaborative book. Add to the book. Any kind of publishing is temporal—this particular information was put down, posted, broadcast at a specific time, for the future audience. It’s a difference between publishing and performance. An audience is usually present for a performance, or witnessing in some kind of synchronous way. In publishing the audience is asynchronous. I post for the future. Make a post, posted to the mountain. When it’s site-specific, add the idea of place. Geo-temporal. Geography, physical presence, x marks the spot, “I was here,” at this moment.

Later, someone else will be here.

I saw where Ellen and Phil signed the book five days earlier. And there’s a photo of a dog on the mountain, taped to the book in the box on the mountain, 2 August 2009.

Time and place set a story in motion, but the book doesn’t move. It’s understood that the objects in the box don’t leave. People come and go at the top of the mountain but this is like one of those flight recorder boxes, traveling with the plane, holding some of the information, traces, parts of stories.

There’s a kite in the box. Bound up in the kite is the choreography of each flight, the wind pulling on one end, a human on the other, the energy wound up in the chord and returned to its sleeve, returned to the box. The energy of an entire mountain below. The box is a battery.



And this fading letter that someone left behind. Another story there but not there, bound up in paper. Potentiality.

I’m okay not knowing what the author intended. But I’m curious about the conditions that brought the letter to the box. Was it written on the spot? Something spontaneous. Or did the note travel up the mountain with its author, purposefully. I can see only a few lines more clearly than the rest, “To be a part of it / To be a part of it / I am a part of it.”


Something about that box connects to this photo album I photographed last week. The librarian walked over and said, “Oh you’re photographing the blank pages too.” The book is the whole container, storage for the parts. Book as box, box as battery, stored energy.

One Comment

  1. Beautifully thought out and written. Well, you can guess I have so many thoughts about this. Even going beyond the book (which is a huge topic), I think of people leaving their names places. A YouTube video went viral. I knew that decades ago, the man who created the video was a kid who wrote his name on some sheetrock in our basement. A neighbor showed us that as a teenager, he’d climbed up into a section of our porch ceiling and written his name and the amount he though our house would sell for in (some far off date at the time). On the studs in the bathroom are written the names of the two men, one with leukemia and one with lymphoma, who slowly renovated the bathroom. Oh, and lines indicating the heights of children as they grew! You’ve made me stop to think that this house, built in 1914, could be filled with hidden names—in the attic, behind the walls, inside a built-in cabinet, under the paint. Endless possibilities. All those people leaving the mark that signified, “I am me and I was here.”

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