The Unbound



Unbound is an experimental publishing project.

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Unbound is looking for diverse voices and dynamic styles – courting the experimental in writing, moving-image and sound.

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What can you see in the clouds? The relationship between the body, mind and environment is fascinating. It is not possible to separate the mind from its physical environment. We live in a state of embodied cognition with perception constructed and modified in relation to our surroundings. Our ability to imagine to engage with pareidolia creates magical portals allowing us to see a universe that is more sentient and dynamic. So we must not deny the subjective experience of other living and non-living beings/entities and lock ourselves in a sealed chamber of anthropocentric thought. No matter what truth we fix upon, there is always another truth waiting, equally valid, in the chaos of our existence.
The Cloud Architect is the title of Matthew Geden’s most recent book of poems published by Doire Press in September 2022. This is a project that expands the idea of what a poem might be. It was made in response to the poem’s theme and language but explodes the possibilities of poetic interpretation by the use of sound and moving image.



In answer to the question, who benefits from artistic critique? Jennifer Redmond and Aoife Claffey collaborate to evaluate Claffey’s recent solo show Mystical Confessions. Redmond reviews the work and Claffey responds in the recorded dialog below.

On December 8th and 9th of 2021 Aoife Claffey supported by Sample studios, installed a solo show at the Crypt in St Luke’s Church in Cork. Bear in mind that this was the middle of the winter, dark cold, with hardly any other public venues open. The show was under constant threat of cancellation, and Covid-19 was still a menace to public health.

The event was conceived and realised in precarious circumstances, there was the ever present threat of cancellation – a week cut down to two days, then two days cut down to one. Only the most determined soul would persevere under these conditions; respect is due to Aoife Claffey for her forbearance and determination.

We lined up in the dark freezing fog and mist until our Covid passports and masks were checked and slipped cautiously through the portal.

A crypt is the stone chamber beneath a church – not every church, but rooms used as burial chambers for important dignitaries in a religious order or for benefactors and denizens of the town. They are not often occupied by the living. They might be considered as heterotopic spaces, full of shadows and chimeras, and spectral phenomena.

Claffey worked with the incorporeal feel of the space by accentuating the unearthly, the shadowy and the eerie; using smoke machines and candlelight and binaural soundscapes.

It was probably a no brainer given the time of year (just prior to Christmas) and the site (a protestant church and confession is a catholic sacrament) to call the show Mystical Confessions. Claffey says Her work is influenced by her interest in both material culture and the physical exploration of non-spaces. I am not sure what she defines as a ‘non-space’ because I felt very deliberately situated. She says that; ‘…physiological and psychological tensions between chaos and order are encouraged both during the making, and within the work, to evoke immersive uncanny effects or altered cognitive states.’

I asked myself did my physiological and psychological being undergo an altered state while I was in the space with the work? Well, the dark was disorientating, and lots of old religious memories were triggered by the smells and smoke from the machines,  from the dim mirror imagery and from the candles.

Some old oppressive feelings did kick in but I don’t think that my cognitive state was altered and this in part, is probably due to a kind of personal shield that is general in the viewing public. We are so accustomed to exhibitions, films, games, trying to alter our cognitive states with atmospherics that we have come to expect it and have developed strategies to negotiate such events.

Altered cognitive states are hard to manipulate(legally)in others as a general rule. It is more usually achieved by layered meaning than by atmospherics. We can tend to be cynical about attempts to manipulate us, and the uncanny has become more normative than most realise. I think that a more interesting question for Claffey to tackle might be why she wants to alter the normative cognitive mind state common to a majority.

All that said, I rather enjoyed the atmospherics, the chimeras, projections onto flowing drapes and the dark. The theatrics – a stage set for the exhibits many of which were comprised of light in some form. Hardly a material at all. A human will always gravitate towards the light. And yes, it was immersive but I am wondering how much that staging contributed towards the work. I am always worried that staging will somehow trick me into thinking the way the someone wants me to think and it makes me suspicious that some clever sorcery is afoot.

Claffey says that she is interested in exploring human sensory perception within immersive environments. She states that she is questioning how one physically expresses their energy and their vulnerability.

To this end she has solicited one hundred ‘honest’ confessions from an online anonymous survey link.(unspecified) So that it appears she has allowed random participants to avail of a confessional service.

She has used these declarations to make an interactive projected work and has installed shrines to these acts of contrition marked by a candle flame for the congregated viewers to identify with be reflected in and to ponder their own vulnerabilities and flawed demons.

Claffey seems to be suggesting that this activity might throw us into stasis and make us consider the integrity and privilege of being conscious. Consciousness understood as a rational consciousness, or at least make us question the consensual cultural value system that prevails.

She has created this ‘non-space’ for ‘…the viewer to recall the peripheral’ (or perhaps a third space?) that is in perpetual transformation.

But Aoife, I would argue that the world is in a continual state of flux anyway, is it that you are hoping to trigger disquiet as a portal to something else? Again I think that the question is why is it important to interrupt rationality and the human behaviours that result from it.

 Let’s look at the work?

‘Being around people for too long exhausts me’

‘I absolutely hate being cold’

‘I get angry easily’

‘The last two years have been the hardest mentally for me’

These are some of the statements submitted to the survey. Claffey has broken these sentences down to form a word bank and from this, she has created interesting text animations; some involving mirror imagery and a generative movement sensitive, random scattering of words cast onto a screen on the south wall of the crypt.

This scatter-bombing of words suggests the chaos or brain fog that might accompany admissions of character flaws and vulnerability. As if you can get too near to an admission and can sweep the words away from your consciousness and avoid the whispering lips that fade in and out of the projection leaving a deluge of undigested misery in its wake.

The corbelled ceiling becomes the part of the installation, in case you think that you can get away from the confessions you will find that the words are all around you seeping into your consciousness and perhaps into your subconsciousness too. Why do we feel so much guilt? Is it entirely the fault of an overdeveloped consciousness – or a nurtured condition?

This is an engaging piece, while in the gallery space I watched people play with the installation running up to it and causing the gathered letters to scatter and to be swept to the side of the screen as if creating a space – a space for what? For your own confessions. Even if you just want to play with the exhibit or to cast your
personal physical shape in the glare of the projections, you are interacting with the work. You are not bored. The danger with this is that the entertainment value might be the only thing that the viewer will take away.

Much of the work in this exhibition is nebulous, projected, ephemeral and yet Claffey alludes to the relationship between the human and ‘disposable’ materiality of objects such as false teeth and glasses.  (presumably we could include other prosthetic objects that live in close relation with a human body)

She presents a collection of discarded false teeth and of cast off/withdrawn spectacles ensnared on corrugated plastic sheeting and backlit against a shadowy wall, or false teeth up lit in a window alcove.

Is this an attempt to suggest that the agency of these objects is reduced to aesthetic sensory or hallucinatory apprehension.

She seems to be implying that these are objects haunted by some hidden surplus and perhaps massively distributed globally. Which when considered in the light of social ontology all seems to point towards an entropic society, an accelerating sullied and uncaring state of being.

Claffey asserts that her creative process is to relinquish control and that she likes a certain serendipity to be evident in the making and appreciating of her work.

In this exhibition there is; surround sound, interactive projections, reflective found objects – which is a lot to control. But there is also a sense of fragility, of anxiety towards an unfathomable future and a sense of haunting, a feeling that reality is a game of smoke and mirrors no longer underpinned by spirituality or rationality.

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 Funes Redux
Collaborative Fiction

In March 2021 a group of writers from West Cork, who meet regularly in solidarity to read and to critique each other’s work, embarked on a project that was designed to to explore what collective authorship might look and feel like. The idea of being free from the tyranny of the ‘I’ and of unleashing a different kind of creativity was the purpose of the exercise.
Using the famous text by Borges; Funes The Memorious, they created an alternative story, a rhizomic version, a procedure, riffing off the original. It is an example of a collective imaginary that can be achieved through procedure. A swarm artefact, and experience of a creativity created and understood not by one, but by many.

Contributing editor: Mich Moroney & Jennifer Redmond
Read by: Matthew Geden, Nick Smith, Mich Moroney, & Jennifer Redmond.
Sound: Jennifer Redmond.

I recall him (though I have no right to speak that sacred verb – only one man on earth did, and that man is dead) holding a dark passionflower in his hand, seeing it as it had never been seen, even had it been stared at from the first light of dawn till the last light of evening for an entire lifetime. I recall him-his taciturn face, its Indian features, its extraordinary remoteness - behind the cigarette. I recall (I think) the slender, leather-braider's fingers. I recall near those hands a mate cup, with the coat of arms of the Banda Oriental. I recall, in the window of his house, a yellow straw blind with some vague painted lake .scene. I clearly recall - his voice-the slow, resentful, nasal voice of the toughs of those days, without the Italian sibilants one hears today. I saw him no more than three times, the last time in 1887 ....I applaud the idea that all of us who had dealings with the man should write something about him; my testimony will perhaps be the briefest (and certainly the slightest) account in the volume that you are "to publish, but it can hardly be the least impartial.
……Highbrow, dandy, city slicker - Funes did not utter those insulting - words, but I know with reasonable certainty that to him I represented those misfortunes. Pedro Leandro Ipuche has written that Funes was a· precursor of the race of supermen "a maverick and vernacular Zarathustra"- and I will not argue the point, but one must not forget that he was also a street tough from Fray Bentos, with certain incorrigible limitations.

I am Eduardo del Prominantes. A name you will recognise in conjunction with Funes. In the 1860's we ran several businesses in Fray, meat-processing, tanning, the like. We were young, impetuous. Everybody wanted Argentinian beef so we ran livestock, import-export across the river. Upstream. No, we were not a racket but back then people were not overly zealous and gave us the leeway we didn't merit. Too many scruples these days. We were together for over ten years. I knew him too well.
Funes! What a paradox. He was sensitive to the point of embarrassment. Fascinated and yet repulsed by butchery. I suppose this accounts for his incursion into the meat trade. I would see him weeping in the slaughterhouse. A mad exuberance always glittered in his eyes. I once saw him beat a ranchero almost unconscious for some misdemeanour then cry for forgiveness. There were many other similar episodes – I often wondered about his childhood. Had he always been like this?
In 1836 his father had fought in the bloody battle of Quebracho. Funes was born in 1837, the result of war-time passion. At the end of the conflict the old soldier returned home with child and mother; she a vagabond whom everyone said was trifling with him. It lasted three years. One day she went for a walk and never returned. Nobody looked for her and the child was consumed with rage and grief. He recounted this to me in a rare and unexpected moment of intimacy. It was clear he was still torn between extremes of feeling; if not given vent a depressive state of yearning would ensue, sometimes lasting for days. I often had to dig him out of some bordello – sober him up. It was in one such establishment that he met Alejandra.
Alejandra. Try to say her name without a rueful smile. She did not belong to Funes. She did not belong to anyone. She arrived with him out of the blue. The rest of us were soon in love with her. Something about the way she looked at you for longer than was comfortable. In turn she confided to me her obsession with Funes. In our business dealings we corresponded through intermediaries, or the occasional urgent telegram which always began “A pressing matter my dear Eduardo…”, and it was Alejandra who told me about the journal.

“When he visits me, afterwards, he sits on the little porch outside my house while I cook. I see him through the window, writing and gazing down to the river. Once I saw him weeping as he wrote.”

One day when I too sat where Funes would sit, looking through the trees at the river scything its way through the land, Alejandra surprised me. She dropped a heavy ledger onto the table beside me. “Here,” she said, “He left it last night.” At first it looked no more than a double entry accounts book. Incomings and outgoings.
I opened it. On the first page, as though it were a novel, I read the words Funes, His Memory. My interest piqued, I could not resist and I flicked through the pages. I stopped at random. The writing was strange. Hesitant. Not at all like memories, more like fiction.

“What does it say?” Alejandra was impatient.

I sipped at my maté and began to read aloud.

“La lumière méfiante de l'aube …”. I stopped. Scanning the rest I realised that the random page I had opened was written in French and my language skills were insufficient. There were tiny sketches around the page. The writing was heavily inked in some areas and light in others as if a snake or a number five slithered through the text. I turned the pages to see that although most of the journal was written in English there was French, Spanish, Portuguese and a few other languages unknown to me. There were sketches on each page. They varied — some were architectural, others diagrammatic and mechanical, with a few anatomical drawings — but every page contained a series of cloud formations.
I knew from my studies in mathematics that the number five hundred and fifty-five had just one repeated digit but that each time the digit meant something different. Depending on their placement on the page each cloud seemed to manifest a different symbol. Minute differences to each image resulted in a symbolic cycle that changed synchronously according to its position. Was it a record of a place, a time, a date? Maybe all three, or perhaps something more mysterious. It seemed naïve now to think that anything Funes would do could be random or comply with conventional wisdom or reason.
I decided to immerse myself in what was most accessible and found a page written in Spanish. I scanned through it briefly to a heavily marked section and noticed a loose sheet wedged into the spine of the ledger. I prised it out like a mother taking an eyelash from her baby's eye. A yellowed page with an ink diagram of pumps and pipes. "Alejandra" I called, "can you bring the magnifying glass?" I heard her heavy men’s boots on the flagstones behind me and she handed me the ivory-handled glass. I bent my head close to the drawing. A machine of some sort. Two little clouds in the top right corner. A bead of sweat hit the lens.
"Have you seen this before?"
she replied, turning the heavy paper towards her. Her next exhalation was long, like the soft tail of an Andean mountain cat brushing past my neck.

"This is my machine. It was the dream of Funes to produce it, to keep the meat cold and expand the business. The pastor in my father’s missionary school was an inventor and he taught my father the theories of refrigeration. They made a prototype before the endless humidity and malaria forced the cleric to return to America. In turn, my father taught me the wonders of vapour compression. The nuns instructed me in embroidery while my father tutored me in wiring. Unfortunately, neither embroidery nor electric circuits paid for food when Papa died. So Funes encountered me in the whiskeria. He loved first my body and then my soul. I trusted him. We built castles in the clouds. Uruguay would chill the beef that would feed the world.”

Funes was indeed correct when he described Alejandra as ever-changing. Before me stood no muse, no puta, but a mechanic in jodhpurs and waistcoat. She strode cross the thick grass, to the wooden shed under the cebio tree. Its waxy red flowers brushed her dusty brown skin.
“Funes never struck me as the mechanical type,” I said, stepping into the cool darkness. Alejandra pulled back a sheet to reveal an extravaganza of shining pipes, cogs, wheels, and springs.
“Funes wouldn’t know one end of a mercury switch from the other,” Alejandra replied, one eyebrow ironically raised, “even if the wires poked him in the eye. He was a magician. Our skills complemented each other. But even his emotion and passion could not convince the manager of the Banco de Republicà in his European top hat and velvet tails to loan money to a brown-skinned butcher. Funes was Indian, beneath them. It did not matter on which side his father had fought or how many Argentinian steaks he exported. Funes fought for our vision of a prosperous Uruguay, and in the end, it killed him.” I itched to return to the ledger.

A noise nearby caught our attention and we saw a horse nosing its way up the laneway through the trees towards the house. Slowly coming into view we saw Superintendent Santiago, the new civilian policeman. Alejandra turned to me in alarm. She grasped my arm, with strength in her fingers that I did not know she possessed. She motioned me to be silent and began to cover the machine with the sheet.
Santiago performed his policing role with vigour. He would call unannounced to houses at suppertime entering kitchens with his hands clasped behind his back. People fawned about him, knocking over cups on tables as he crossed the threshold.

Santiago despised Funes’ intellectual prowess and did whatever he could to undermine it. He would tease him by asking him to subtract two hours and seventeen minutes from the current time. Funes would happily oblige, intentionally blind to Santiago’s derision.
I looked to the house. Our half-empty maté cups sat on the table companionably. We had finished our slivers of corned beef but crusts of bread remained on the plates. Pages from the open ledger on the table fluttered in the breeze.

“Buenos Noches”, Santiago called out, his sing-song voice cutting through the whistle of the evening breeze. He swung his leg and gracefully dismounted, then tied the reins to the wooden rail. Nuzzling his horse he said, “I wonder where everybody is, Vito?”, gloved fingers running along the animal’s neck.
He walked to the door and pushed it open with his whip and, turning to the table, took a sip from one of the cups. He opened the ledger and read the name on the first page: Funes, His Memory, his face inscrutable. Alejandra’s silhouette appeared in the doorway behind him.
“Funes  waiting for you at the jail.” He spat ”You must return there immediately with me.”
They left, two figures astride the same horse, galloping into the twilight. The pages of the journal flickered restlessly in the evening breeze.

There were only a few lighted windows to be seen when they reached the town. Stray dogs skulked through the vacant streets inspecting empty tins being kicked about by the evening wind. The jail was in complete darkness. Santiago descended from the saddle and assisted Alejandra, marshalling her adroitly towards the door. The room was quiet but in the gloom a small ring of flame indicated another presence.

There was no answer. She could just make out the bulk of a man outlined by the dusking window. Santiago lit a match and set it to the wick in the lantern – then she saw his face. Aged, thinner, vulpine – the old scar livid in the lamplight. She started to rush to his side but Santiago held her shoulders and pressed her into a chair. Slowly she understood that this was not the reunion of lovers but an interrogation and she was the accused. As they emerged from the shadows Funes was revealed, hunched in a rickety wheelchair. He met her gaze with eyes narrowed into mean slits; intense, accusatory, bent on retribution.

“You thought that I was gone — you were sure that the horse you had doctored would trample me to death and that you could sell the plans to for more money— you left me for dead Alejandra!”
“No Funes! It’s not like that!”
Santiago silenced her with his hand.

“I see things more clearly now — I can see you for the witch that you are — I wish you damned!”

Funes lurched out of the wheelchair towards her, only to fall in a frustrated, undignified and crumpled heap on the floor. Santiago moved to help him and Alejandra bolted for the door. She hurtled across the street and into the long grass like a hunted capybara. She was fast. There was only one place to go. Maria Abella would have everything ready. The shouts from the jail echoed across the quiet night and Funes’ scream was the last thing that Alejandra heard.

“Alejandra, estas robando concha.”

The gates to the old school were open and she ran the last half mile, barely taking time to draw breath. The password - five, five, five. She smiled and tapped a rapid tattoo.
Thank you Funes, an easy code for a distressed puta to remember.
The door opened and Maria Abella appeared, worried but resolute.

“Let us not cry, we knew this day would come. Quickly, you don’t have much time.”

A little later Alejandra left with her few belongings in a small bag and the papers from the pastor strapped to her body.
Funes, you fool, I have played mouse to your cat for too many years now. All those times you offered to calm my spirit: “Mi amor, relax, have a little drink with me.” I knew then what I had to do. You didn’t realise the full extent of my prowess.
Now my dear, dear Funes, I will reveal the real Alejandra.

The following week, as the fingers of dawn tickled the Fraybentinos to life, Funes recounted the showdown with the intense clarity befitting a savant. His gentle rocking on the back veranda echoed the rhythm of each movement — Alejandra in flight…policia in pursuit…Santiago…Maria Abella de Ramirez…Alejandra’s disappearance…

I listened with a mixture of respect, pity and credence. He missed her, of that I am sure. He hoped to see her again, it was clear. Not from what he said but from what he did not say. Funes had endured a lifetime of betrayals. The greatest of them all… Alejandra?... his body … or his ‘corpse’ as he had begun to refer to it? … his maimed body that generated an over-reliance on intellect.
We sipped our matés. His mind ever active, devouring and regurgitating minutiae, animated and consumed by detail. I listened to his plans enraptured, a previously unimagined life opening before me. I imbibed his vision and wisdom with the thirst of a desert mule.
“Eduardo, our union could generate a productive and profitable formula for refrigeration - are you with me?”
I could deny him nothing.

And so our days took on a new framework. Funes directed with precision and alacrity. We worked for long hours and were inseparable, the days slipping into the nights. The results of our passionate industry could surely have become an international phenomenon.
Then …. that day …. when I rounded the corner of his fenced property to where Funes’ wheelchair habitually sat – and found it empty – nothing, no one, not even tracks in the sand. I climbed the five creaky steps to the wood-chipped veranda. There was nobody. I was deafened by the silence and gripped with a fear as sharp as the humidity that soaked me. Then I saw, in a corner, wedged between the wooden rails. A letter to me in his great handwriting. It began:
My dear Eduardo, please forgive me…
I reached for the balustrade to steady myself amidst the gut-wrenching silence.
The realisation hit me like a punch to the solar plexus.
“…I can no longer continue like this. The pain is far too great. Please know that you did good, Eduardo. Un cariñoso saludo. Funes.”
A drop of sweat stained the letter. I searched helplessly around the property for further clues, scanning for any signs of life – or death. No weapon. No sight of a ledger. No bottle of maté. A cloudless, purple sky glowed overhead. From the lane outside, breaking the silence, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves reverberated against the wooden house.
I left soon after for New York.
Many years later I heard that a body had washed up from the river. Nothing was ever heard of Alejandra. The river and the village and those days are mostly lost to me though I still remember the two of them, ghostly now and mercurial as clouds. I recall him. Seeing her as she had never been seen. His dark passionflower. I recall her and I wonder …

The Collaborators in this work are: Matthew Geden, Nick Smith, Donal Hayes, Assumpta Gaffney, Janet Heeran, Mich Maroney, Jordan Mc Carthy, and Jennifer Redmond.

Readers: Nick Smith (Narrator1) Matthew Geden (Narrator2) Mich Moroney (Maria Abella) Jennifer Redmond (Alejandra)
Editors: Mich Maroney, and Jennifer Redmond.
Sound editing: Jennifer Redmond.
Moving Imagery: Jennifer Redmond.
Music: Baisers de Sonora, by Monplaisir.

  © The Unbound 2021.
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