After 10 days in the dark

The following is some of what I wrote while, and directly after, spending 10 days in total darkness. The pictures was taken the last day, when seeing the walls for the first time and slowly getting my eyes used to light again.


I know when I wake up the first time in the room that it’s still night. And then, when I wake up the second time that it’s morning. The darkness is the same around me, but my thoughts have a lighter contour, almost like a cloud that the sun is hiding behind. I lay under the duvet and look around me. For a second it surprises me that I can’t see anything, despite still remembering where I am. It’s like I was expecting dawn to come with light, even though I’ve made certain it can’t.

I move in three dimensions. What the movements look like is not important, only how they feel. They expand the room, that could continue forever. They expand my body out into the emptiness. Gravity is apparent here. But the part of my body that is not in connection with the floor sometimes seem to hover. I’m flying, and I’m anchored at the same time. The ground lets me know I exist. It keeps me with it. No matter how I stretch out or land, it is always on the ground. It lets me know that I belong with this specific matter, this collection of atoms that’s lumped together to form a planet. I am part of a living system, and here in the dark, the ground defines the meeting point with that system.


Sometimes the darkness is like the ocean, when I’m sitting on the bottom without my mask. It wants to push inside me, flow in and dissolve the matter I call me. The pressure of all the water in the Atlantic against a tiny bubble of air inside my nose. I have to force myself to breath slowly and calmly through my mouth where the regulator is feeding me oxygen from the cylinder on my back. Such a small action: accidentally breathing through my nose, or just not resisting anymore, and the living cells that make up my body will be turned into dead matter.

The darkness is a foreign element, but it is not threatening like the ocean. It can’t suffocate me, it is outside of me. I can breathe calmly. My cells are not filled with darkness. But they must be, because they are not glowing with light. Underneath my semitransparent skin there must be relative darkness, even when my body finds itself in the light. And it has to become progressively darker the farther in you go. The inner-most core of me should have never seen the light. Except for that time when a surgeon cut some holes to peek in, and some light fell through as well. And then she cut off, and took out, some of my living material. Living material that was killing me. Now that material is dead instead. And it’s no longer part of me, or my darkness. It’s out in the light. It has become visible and harmless. The nurses leaned over me, like knights in blue and silver radiation safe armour. A strong light behind them. The same light that fell through the holes in my body. I was on the table. The centre of everyones attention. A piece of living meat in their hands.

And then darkness.

And it was over. And I was alive, even though every part of my living body was still made of dead atoms.

If I had not survived, I could not ask you: If we don’t radiate light, does that mean we radiate darkness? It is so very quiet, because your can’t answer me. The silence presses against my eardrums and keep them still. Keep them stuck. The darkness is deeper when I open my eyes. It reaches far outside of me and my eyelids. It’s mind-boggling and terrifying to be erased and return to matter.


Sometimes I see myself in the dark with a tiger suit. My striped arms move across the floor or sneak along the walls. I can see my tiger ears listening and my tail unroll. Like an interactive, striped pyjama.

I lean against the radiator and pretend that it is the last rhino in the world that lets me come close. With my ear pressed against its side I can hear a choir of monks sing, in the wheezing and fizzle of the pipes. I have promised to never tell anyone about the rhino. No one will believe me anyway, the last one died too long ago. I remember that I read “The one who sees everything as material will never be free” and I thought “I don’t want that kind of freedom. I don’t need more freedom than I already have.” And I’m so wrong. For later on, when I’m not at all afraid and the floor is the floor of a forest of frog-trees where I’m lying on my back, in my striped tiger pyjamas and look at the stars, I’m all of a sudden much more free. And that is better. That is more. And the black panther-fox leans down over me and picks me up and together we run across the starry sky with our eight legs.

Sometimes the room is dark. Sometimes there is Nothing there. I’m looking at Nothing until my eyes become nothing. The last night in the room I dream that I see myself. My skin is pale and colourless, my hair is dirty and lank and my eyes are black, bottomless glass spheres.


Into the Absence of Light


I’m standing in the doorway of a room I’ve never seen. I have no idea how big it is, what shape it has or what can be found inside. A compact darkness fills the room, as if it was matter. It is as solid as a block of stone, until I take a step into it and it doesn’t hold me back. My feet feel the floor, my skin feels the temperature and dryness of the air, my nose picks up smells and I can hear the faint echoes of my movements bouncing of the invisible walls somewhere in the farther in. I raise my hand and move forward until it hits something. Until this moment, the object I’m now touching has not been part of my perception of the room. It grows and takes shape, as my hands move across its surface. I get to discover it slowly, almost like if I was removing the block of stone piece by piece until I sculpted the room from inside, without having light filling my head with preconceptions. 

How will my thinking and writing be effected by the absence of light? Who am I without everything my eyes let into my brain and the safety of being able to judge my surroundings with sight? What will want to be written? What will come after the boredom, that I’m sure comes first, as a result of the absence of distractions: no computer, no phone, no book, no knitting, nothing to see? Who am I in that situation? With only a pen and a paper in the dark.

Tomorrow I will step into this room to start to find the answers to these questions. I will spend ten days in the absence of light, assisted (with food and other things) by artist Meri Linna who, as a part of her own practice, has created the space I will inhabit in the kind of darkness that your eyes can’t get used to.

Meri Linnas page about the project: