Stephanie Mann On Permiability and Companionship small
Photo: Stephanie Mann, The Venus Fan (Gorgonia flabellum), a filter feeding coral which catches plankton drifting past with the current. Courtesy of The Cockburn Geological Museum.

I open the window and let in the air. And all with it comes in too. The majority unseen, particles amidst the mist. Small pollens and light dust, land aroused by a gust as an unnoticed bird comes to rest. It mingles with the balmy oil rising from cedarwood wax, liquidising, encased in the glass container. I’ve been lighting a candle as a ritual. Without the sensual triggers of my studio it’s an attempt to send a signal to my mind via coded molecules in my eyes and lungs.

‘What is good for human equality is good, overall, for nonhuman equality, for the survival of beings who cannot speak for themselves; but who are also living, and therefore have a right to live.’

Rebecca Tamás. ‘On Watermelon’. Strangers, Makina Books, 2020

And with that I drift.

‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you’

Matthew 7:12, Holy Bible. NLT

A closeness, meandering hopes in a quantum froth.* Does doing good to others require an intimacy, an awareness of their needs? Does the ‘external’ sing the same song?

To know you is to love you.’

Madonna, 'Beautiful Stranger', 1999.

This is outside thinking. The world becomes within. My skin, the covering that separates the other from the self is porous. I am the mouth of a whale, sieving and absorbing. My echolocation: programmed by the submarine geology that surrounds me. The barrier I once considered solid at macro opens at micro. I distribute my cognition—balancing a collection of treasures and mud clumps on the surfaces around me. A red seed rests on a weaver’s loom. I feel my baby move.

Seed: ‘I’ve heard of things unseen.’

Loom: ‘I am making time.’

Harald Bluetooth, a tenth century Norse king, was known for his bringing together of dissonant tribes. At the time of his reign, the potential for his twentieth century namesake technology was as ripe in nature as it is now. Laid out, and undiscovered.

I stirred the origins of crystals in a pan over the hob—they sang their pattern and formed.

I flood the flame with oxygen, untethering it from its source of fuel and ushering in another transformation. Tiny, translucent spheres of unburned wax particles rise, from the wick to fill the corners of my breath.


* Or the Apeiron—a Greek word meaning ’(that which is) unlimited,’ ’boundless’, ’infinite’, or ’indefinite’. In pre-Socratic philosophy, the Apeiron is the ultimate reality, eternal and infinite, subject to neither old age nor decay, which perpetually yields fresh materials from which everything we can perceive is derived.


Stephanie Mann is an artist and writer based in Edinburgh.

Rebecca Tamás is a poet based in York, where she works as a lecturer at York St John University. Her first collection, WITCH, focusing on feminist language and occult practice, was published by Penned in the Margins in March 2019. Strangers is available to pre-order through Makina books: