No man is an island, writes John Donne. But during the pandemic, we have felt more like islands than at any other time. Separated from loved ones, unable to travel, sporadically locked down, we have dreamt of reconnection as our wanderlust has only grown.
Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will is an odd travelogue, culled from history and geography. Some islands are familiar: Easter Island, St. Kilda. Others are more obscure: Lonely Island, Christmas Island. Each is linked to a horrible story: indentured servants, cannibals, scurvy. Schalansky visits them from home, inviting readers to do so as well. This unclassifiable work of art has become the inspiration for Corey Fuller and Richard Skelton‘s Isolarii. The title looks like isolation, but means island books. The artists, separated by continents, traded files while imagining each other’s islands, while spiritually reversing the effects of continental drift.
The music sounds lonely and yearning, emerging to a higher tone only in the closer, “Insula.” Again, one might assume that insula is a geographic term, a short version of peninsula; but the word refers to a part of the cerebral cortex also known as the island of Reil. The EP is a thought exercise; while files are shared across the world with the press of a button, it’s more romantic to imagine these tendrils of accordion, cello and piano traveling the seas, cradled in envelopes on cross-continental journeys. While listening, one might think, is my loved one really that far away? or Where might I travel in my mind?
As Fuller and Skelton turn the pages of their island book, they set the imagination turning. We start to dream of distant shores that may be as close as the next town. The drones at the end of “Iland” sound like waves on the shore, a buried vocal like a siren. We are all, in some manner, lashed to the rocks. If not for the piano, we might lose our sense of time, our solid ground, our inner geography. The ivory notes keep us connected long enough for the electronic currents to carry us to shore ~ but what shore? And what island? And are we still lost? (Richard Allen)