I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found him. Honestly, I didn’t even think I would find him, and I didn’t really care. It was just a job. The company wanted me to bring him in, so I’d go bring him in.
Kahn had gone rogue long ago. He was lost somewhere up river doing God knows what. The company had been patient, but enough was enough.
For years Kahn had sent profitable, elegant design solutions downstream. He produced clean, rectilinear forms with open floor plans; And later, circular and evocative forms, which were popular but expensive. His designs were stripped of detail, and full of emotion. The company couldn’t sell them fast enough.
But, Kahn moved deeper and deeper into the heart of design; simplifying, reducing, aligning. He developed a dedicated following who surrounded him and indulged his whims. He took a mistress. He became more and more isolated from society, moving deeper up river, seeking more and more rarified materials. Exotic hardwoods. Cork. Silk. Iron ore, Pumic. Diamonds. Zinc. Rain water. Perfection.
Kahn had moved away from what the public wanted and sales had dropped off. So, I went upstream to find him and bring him back.
For days, I drifted in the humidity, and the reeds, and the angst, and moved deeper towards into the heart of Saigon. The river turned back on itself, it meandered, it started, and stopped, became shallow, or suddenly cloaked in reeds. I found myself lost, and delirious, and forgetful, and parched, and feverish.
I painted wide red lines under my eyes with the blood of an eel.
Eventually, the river widened into a vast, calm pool. Fluted stone columns rose out of the water near the shore. I drifted to a stop and pulled myself ashore. The silence was…sublime.
I used to believe in perfection. I used to strive towards order like it was something elegant and prestine. I used to imagine the spaces between, and sought a balance of positive and negative space. I placed forms carefully and precisely, as if it mattered. But, now I wasn’t so sure.
As Kahn’s children carried me through the rain towards his tent, I found myself wavering. I faltered as they placed me at the threshold. And, my eyes wouldn’t focus.
Kahn’s shadow fell over me. Circular with a triangular shaft of light.
He spoke to me of balance, not of order. And, he said he was wrong to believe in perfection. He said his was a perfection like a snail sliding along a straight razor, and that was his nightmare, and his fear was surviving it.
He talked of bricks and arches and what the building wants to be. He talked of light, and reveals.
“You’ve come to take me back?” he asked eventually.
“Are you here to kill me, or are you here to continue my work?”
“It’s your choice” he said, rubbing his hands along his bald head.
It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Kahn’s memory. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And, I guess his story really is a confession,
And, I guess… so is mine.
photos from JoeDuck’s photostream on Flickr (used under creative commons license)