Will Hallett is an artist-scholar working between psychoanalytic, computational, and Black studies lenses. He holds certificates from the New Centre for Research and Practice and the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies as well as degrees from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (MPS, ’19) and in English from Bates College (BA, ’16). Engaging with multiple frameworks that balance research with practice, Will’s work contributes to ongoing understandings of technology, clinical practice, politics, rural development and their interrelated facets. He has performed, showed work, and shared research at Baby Castles, Space Gallery, Tisch School of the Arts, The Shed, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, LiJiang Studios in Yunnan, the Estonian Academy of Art, the Processing Foundation and at the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, Movement and Computing, New Centre Alien Processes, and NYU Un/Sounding the Relational conferences. Will’s published writings and arts-research can be found in the &&& Journal, the Association of Computing Machinery Digital Library, and in the Journal of Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society. He is also an independent affiliate of the Post Human Network (PHuN) and the Gulf of Maine ECOARTS Initiative and is an active educator and creative laborer.
A Letter to Ian Alan Paul (2020), New Centre Graduate Student Symposium, The New School, NYC
Post-Land (2019), Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn Estonia
Essay: Rhizome as Depth-Model
An Affect Fetishist’s Field Guide To Electromagnetic Radiation (2018)
pdf: Slide Deck
An Object Sensing Blackness (2016)
If the Whiskey was Sullen (2015)
Grass has grown out of the water and through the many cracks of the dock. Moss has grown onto the pilings. The families on the island died a long time ago, but their ruins are still there. Shattered stone walls. A shed – its shingles are nearly black from the rain. A tower. Thin paths swath the island from end to end. The dock – barely clinging to the thin surface of the water. Broken fences and an overgrown pasture. A cellar of moonshine. A little graveyard. Dead grass. The island is shaped somewhat like a tooth. It is infested with red ants. There are no trees, just acres and acres of misshapen brush. They used to call the island Damariscove. Now, it is better to consider it nameless.
It is a ruin humming with smaller creatures. The wind whips up the grass and the grass echoes in contrition. Its thin roots protrude from ashes of houses. So burned up now they are just a discoloration in the ground, sun-bleached squares of a less fertile soil. Insects probably engage in war over the spare nail or cupboard hatch. There, the schoolhouse. There, the church. There, the houses – fishermen’s dwellings.
What is truly godlike about the island is that it is almost unprecedentedly removed from the coast. Not literally, but almost literally – it is in the middle of nowhere, the very far reaches. Some waves swell up off the ocean floor and rise up against the cresting wind and topple over and crash back down into themselves millions of times without ever even glimpsing the shore. Very few stars ever arrive. The wind of course is more or less constant and it rains occasionally. In the winter it snows. Lightning and thunder reign across the place every now and again.
Once arrived at, it’s a fairly unremarkable island. Certainly, it is beautiful, but not unbelievably so. It’s just that it is so far away. It’s almost so far away as to make any arrival upon its shores virtually miraculous – statistically, almost impossible. And yet, all these signs of some previous inhabitance. Paths and raised dwellings and a flattened house of Sunday worship, ghosts of fences and walls. There were once sheep in the pastures, nets in the ocean, trawlers carving through the swell. And men. Men who cut paths in the brush and built up homes, who filled their sails with the remote wind and who, from the scraps of a treeless island, pulled together a house of God! And Women! Women who darned and knit and took the hammer into their own hands too and skinned the fish and mended the sails and in the face of it all bled out children. And then, when they had to, buried them – marked the graves with big, round stones that they went out to the beach to search and cry hysterically for until they found one suitable – one that reminded them of the child somehow, in the way only a mother can be reminded.
None of the men knew anything about funerals. They would turn to the ocean. They all supposed it was full of their tears, anyways. In a way, the gazes those fathers threw out over the sea were just as hysterical as the women and their rocks.
The people flourished there for a time. There were bluefish and mackerel to eat. Land for the sheep to graze. There was a small lake with clean water. It was in its own way a picturesque, if treeless Eden. They could see the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening, trace the transparent moon by midday – watch it sink up over the sky like an alter and preach to the black waves. Winter would come and it would be hard, but they survived – burrowed in their houses. Yet, as the seasons climbed up over one another and the fish came and went and the sun rose and set and the moon waxed and waned and the cycling pitches of life went on with one another, the waves never ceased – not ever, not for an instant. They threw themselves against the island like ropes at the pillar of a dead regime, like an endless and insatiable hunger, pulled towards the island by some unimaginable force and before long – the people came to hear the sound of an immutable voice. At first they caught only the murmur, faint curses on the passing winds. Some heard it better than others. For a few of the children it grew louder by the day, for others it took a few months, but the murmur twisted into a deafening anthem. They could barely hear one another over the sound of it.
On a summer morning, some generations after they had first pulled ashore, they stood trembling in one another’s grasps at the alter of their lord and savior Christ’s church, praying and clasping their palms over their raw ears – as the waves crashed and crashed and crashed, again. The children cried and the women prayed and the men locked their jaws and the waves grew up out of the ocean like beasts and splintered onto the shore like the cloud-splitting vengeance of some ancient pagan god and deafened the very light from the sun and blood streamed out of the people’s ears as they looked into each other’s eyes in excruciation and terror as the waves made known the Word of their own Christ and tore the sound asunder – chanting death, death, death
But the islanders did not die. The dark subsided and the sun showed down through the Church’s stained glass. The light sunk back up into the rafters and the bits of dust moved about in it, aimlessly. In place of the waves, there was a very dull and static drone, as aimless as the dust. It sounded as if silence itself was just coming apart, had lost its constitution as a whole and was crumbling slowly, glacially – atomizing, up in the rafters and at the feet of the crucifix and all along the paths.
The people had all run out from the church during the cataclysm. They were assembled in a bit of a circle out in the pasture, waving frantically to each other that they were all deaf. None of them knew sign language, but they adapted. They found the benefits of being unable to speak to one another. They found the disadvantages. They still watched the sun rise and fall and give way to the various stages of the moon, but they would not go near the ocean. There was a fear struck so deep within their hearts that they would in fact rather die than hear those waves again. So, rather than the fish, they turned to the sheep.
They were economical in the way they went about it. They gathered the flock in a corner of the pasture and sheered them and organized them amongst the men and lined them up for their throats to be slit. One by one the sheep bled out of their necks and died. They opened their mouths to scream and bahh but only a soft, disintegrating static came out.
The women and children collected the blood in bowls. When the men had killed all the sheep they skinned them and sorted all the good organs and meats for eating and gave the rest to the women and children to mix in with the blood. They put out the skin to dry and collected all the wool and wrapped it up in old sails.
When the slaughter was done, the women and men joined hands and the children all carried their bowls out in front of them, proudly – with their chests out and their heads held up high. And together they walked up to the church and they poured the blood all over its white walls and put the sheep heads on sticks in front of the doors and threw the hoofs through the windows and danced around it on one foot then the other, moaning and screeching in the deaf silence.
They had a feast. They gathered around in the center of the pasture and lit a bonfire and piled up the meat and everyone had their own liver to eat and plenty of fats and various pieces of obscure anatomies and hilarious little phallic morsels and at the end, they joined together and stood and looked all around at one another gratefully and intimately. The men came forward to the center and clasped hands and closed eyes for an instant and then knelt down to gather up all the remaining bits of sheep. They returned to their wives and children and knelt down with them and clasped hands and closed their eyes for an instant. And from the hands of their fathers all the children got to take their own raw, sheep’s heart. And from the hands of their husbands all the women took their own raw, sheep’s heart. And forming a whole circle again, they raised their hearts up to the sky and bit down and devoured them like savages; their faces painted red with blood and preparation.