this is the verse

tim atack intones with harminder singh judge

Harminder Singh Judge, Live Sermon, courtesy of NRLA

Harminder Singh Judge, Live Sermon, courtesy of NRLA

HARMINDER SINGH JUDGE EMERGES FROM THE VOID, BLUE-FACED AND BAREFOOT, CLAD IN A SARONG, A SMALL SPEAKER WEDGED FAST WITHIN HIS MOUTH, TIGHT AGAINST HIS PALATE, FAR BACK ENOUGH TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE, DEEP ENOUGH TO MAKE BREATHING SOMETHING OF AN ISSUE, A SOLE WIRE DROPPING FROM THE CURVE OF HIS LIP AND ACROSS HIS BARE CHEST, WHILST FROM THIS OBTRUSIVE SPEAKER A DEEP VOICED chant is crackling, guttural yet pure, clear of purpose, beautiful but basically forceful, and as Judge flexes the muscles of his throat in order to swallow, the edges of his mouth warp the essential formants of the song, and there is a voice in his throat, and it is not his own, and after a short time there is another voice in his throat, and it is also not his own, higher, quietly ecstatic, and even though we might not be able to decipher the precise tongue, it is undeniably a sermon, delivered with the clarion call of spiritual truth, self-evident, words falling like dominoes, spiralling away in preordained sequences, rising to god, reaching to you, feeling for your collar, wanting to hold your hand, and Judge is its vessel, beneath a single spotlight, head tilted back, in the service of whatever it is you care to imagine, however you picture it, hands clasped at his sides and the knuckles occasionally twitching, eyes full of a half-dead resolution, a general acceptance, like he does this all the time, like he does this all the fucking time, standing in this moonfull of milk, this white roundel, altar, temple, tabernacle, this slight ablution, holy river, petri dish, just enough to contain him, a pool of liquid and light, the rest of the room dark, the rest just void, void but for you and me, we the attendees, the tourists, acolytes, heathens, gawpers and hangers-on, the uninitiated, the unenlightened, wondering at this ceremony, not quite with it, not informed enough to be against it (the words not making sense) every gesture or every lack of gesture meaning something, a million stories falling off this static figure like leaves, memories and images floating to the ground around his feet like an autumn blanket of everything you thought about every church you ever went to, every shrine, pagoda and dagobah, every homily you made, every time you took your hat off and walked backwards from the cross, image upon image, the sing-song monk in the underground temple outside Matara, the amplified distorted call to prayer wafting across Chinatown in Singapore, the candles and offerings bobbing in the water off Copacabana beach as new year strikes, the serene icons regarding you inscrutably, the portals to the places you’ll never see, because you were not of it and you were not in the loop, because instead you were on the phone, or down the pub, or watching TV, or driving down the motorway listening to the radio and whilst you were doing that, he was here, under the light, the speaker in his mouth and the intertwining tones gently distorting upon his prone tongue, whilst you were riding your bike, kissing your boyfriend/ girlfriend or having a laugh or at the bar or queuing to see some other show or whatever the fuck it was you were doing, Judge was here, carrying the sermon, suffering for it, whatever, but not in that self-aggrandising flagellant way, not in that fakir way, not in that forty days in the desert way you keep hearing so much about, no, this is the quiet suffering, this is the downtime when your voices are not your own, when you’re just another cog in the machine, because that’s the ritual, that’s what the ritual does, wheels within wheels, one cog turning another, ritual makes it look easy, makes it look simple, a simple action to keep the sun rising, a simple action to stop your soul from dropping off the edge, because it’s just something that has to be done isn’t it, bricks in the wall, shoring up against death, and you wonder how long he can last up there, you wonder if the breathing is exponentially difficult, phlegm and saliva coagulating around the little magnet where his words should be, oesophagus held open, eyes blinking in the heat of the light above, do the tinny distortions of each word begin to hurt more, does he feel it as the night wears on, feet rooted, a monolith, a blue-faced statue worn by the wind of the stare from every pair of eyes in the room, shaving off his edges, blurring his boundaries, making him something else, then, like a sigh, his head tilts forward, the tones on his face darkening purple and grey, and gobbets of liquid trail the length of that cable like ectoplasm and you know it’s done, you can see the milk-white footprints as he returns to the void, but you also know he’s going to return once you’re gone, because if there’s one thing you’re certain of it’s that he does this all the time, and he does this all the time, and he does this all the time, and he does this all the time.

Harminder Singh Judge, Live Sermon, National Review of Live Art, Glasgow, Feb 8

RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 6

© Tim Atack; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2008