un Projects is based on the unceded sovereign land and waters of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation; we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
un Projects

There is No Fire


Exhibition: There is No Fire

Artist: Sab D'Souza

Verge Gallery 12 - 27 January 2023.


crying on the internet
dramatic behaviour


i can't see u in the reflection

i don't want to leave
i want to run away

there's nothing here but my own reflection??

Documentation from Sab D'Souza's exhibition 'There is No Fire'. Image shows an installation view of a decal wall work. The work contains several elements from various text and social media interfaces, connected by a flow-chart with the words 'ESCAPE' 'NEED' 'TRAPPED' 'GRIEF' 'PROTECT' 'SHAME' 'GUILT'. The words grief and guilt are striked through.
Sab D'Souza, 'There is no fire (replica)' 2023. Vinyl adhesive wall mural, 2110 x 6800mm. Photography: Jessica Maurer, courtesy of Verge Gallery.

as a mirror 
missing mirror story — abandoned let down with no responsibility
in the gallery I’m cold and crying
experiencing a lack
an exhibition couldn’t provide warmth

not think about what wasn’t there

I looked in the mirror and all I could see was other people and 
it didn’t make me feel connected

‘Essentially, the exhibition attempts to make sense of how a work about abandonment could, in fact, abandon me.’1
most of our relationship was through the phone —
when I read that quote I read it in Sab’s voice
they’d sent me a voice message that started with the word ‘essentially’ —
the mirror work had been lost

we sat next to each other
I cried
and they held me

the wooden support which would have held the lost mirror 
is in my bedroom
remade as furniture2 
your voice
only text replies

the twitter group chat does a borderline traits online test 
I still score very high for fear of abandonment
‘no safe place’3
been fantasising about zero harm safe for life

at the exhibition opening I felt mostly like 
a performance of emotions that couldn’t stop 
unable to register the people around me
the text, the mirror, the grief mural, the green paint — outside, my thoughts made me cry 
themself crying 

the only way I could look at the work was 
when Marcus stood next to me
I hadn’t read some of the words before
we stared at the two rectangular mirrors
our eyes were low enough to avoid our own reflections
in silence
it felt more safe —
made light inside my body
I love the person that you are rn
if it’s still inside me I’ll try to find it 

everytime I think of
‘irreparable harm’5 
it’s like fear

stuck every time
run and hide
loss and protection
damage what’s close to me
if I could see you too
I want to be able to do what you did
it is so valuable to me to have got to experience unconditional love 
or being seen
or support no matter what
or truly being understood
I can’t experience it again
have you felt that enough

‘…it's understandable to struggle with finding the words. It's a responsibility…’6
even if you can’t show me you love me 
I know it’s true
even if I can’t show you I love you 
I said it anyway and 
maybe you dont know it’s true
every day I can only try 
to make you feel loved 

I took a photo in the mirror — I didn’t know what needless want meant
Paris was showing me a photo of a sunfish on her phone 
the install meant that I couldn’t look anywhere without 
immediate emotional confrontation
no safe place
but sharing a reflection

I’ll do anything I can to protect you
you're so far away and
I can’t protect you 
started to say ‘I need you’ to my friends 

I didn’t want to think about loss 

hard feelings7
other people 
all that we could do with this emotion8
I try to make it words it’s all I could think
it's a feeling
and what do you feel about—

but there is a mirror
it is seen that 
I have done a google search for ‘healing attachment wounds’

‘a way to not be alone’9

when I thought about it
being scared of the mirror reflections was kind of funny
and I didn’t want to look anyone in the eyes
did other people feel that too
maybe it is connection when you
look into the mirror
and there’s a meeting of eyes 
we couldn’t not look at each other in the reflection

I guess I did feel connection
without speaking or 
any kind of deliberate communication
we were together 

A round mirror against a grey wall. Along the edge of the mirror are three phrases etched: 'queer pleasure', 'irreparable harm', 'intimate hierarchies'
Sab D'Souza, 'Queer Pleasure (replica)(detail)' 2020. Etched glass mirror, 555mmx555mm. Photography: Jessica Maurer.

Sab was literally the only person I’ve ever met who could alleviate loneliness for me without being physically present next to me
alone in the gallery 
I didn’t want to make eye contact with myself
or have myself reflected back at me
I wanted to be with you
and I didn’t want loneliness
maybe that’s how it makes sense

giving grace to the present 
by reflections on the past
‘I don't want you to change I want to love you for who you are’ 10
I love you as u exist 
is the most radical idea I’ve encountered

mirrors function to show you things even if they are hard

they see right through me11

a replica is all that was left
and that you are
so much more than that
I don’t care about art
I only care about you

write it on a mirror and send it in the post
even if u go away

i am here
for my friends there were candles or plants lit on fire and extinguished
there is no fire

A detail photo of a mirror against a mint green background. The words 'trans abandonment' are etched into the mirror in an 'S' shaped line.
'Untitled (detail shot)' 2020. Etched glass mirror, 300 x 200mm. Photography: Jessica Maurer, courtesy of Verge Gallery.

it's really difficult for you right now. you have so much value to me. I can sit with you. I can be here whenever you need me…

you can live through this. I know it's the hardest thing you've ever had to face.
words don't come easily to you but that's okay I can sit next to you and then you won't be alone. even if you don't know what to say or you can't talk you are still valuable.

be kind to yourself at this time

everything you're feeling is completely normal

if they were here
what would they say [to comfort you]
they'd say
I'm not Bluey I'm Bingo
they'd say
if ‘I don't get to see you kno im thinking of you and am so near’12
hold my hand while we sit on the floor at and I cry from grief and love
they'd say
I am still here

be kind to yourself13

love through you
song for you
a love letter when I can only write a love song
it’s still missing

Installation view of the exhibition. Against a mint green wall with white trim are, on the left, two plinths with two vertical rectangle mirrors with etching. On the right hand side is a mirror, shaped in a blob-like, amorphous way. The mirror is reflecting the vinyl wall work.
Sab D'Souza, 'There is no fire (installation)' 2023, Verge Gallery. Photography: Jessica Maurer, courtesy of Verge Gallery.

1. Sab D’Souza, There is No Fire exhibition proposal, 2021.

2. Sab writes in their exhibition proposal about replicating the lost mirror… describing a ‘large scale replicated from 77cm to 2-3 metres in diameter … accompanied by wooden installation from bus projects show in replacement of the work’ 

3. Sab D’Souza, There is No Fire exhibition proposal, 2021.

4. Carly Rae Jepsen songs from Dedicated featured in crushing/crushed playlist by Sab D’Souza, 2021 https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6nGd9YpZl3KZ53wJoKRKOX?si=dacccd2938bf4c6e 

5. Sab D’Souza, ‘Queer Pleasure (replica)’, 2022, etched glass mirror, 555 x 555mm, There is No Fire, Verge Gallery, Sydney, January 2023.

6. Hana Pera Aoake, personal correspondence, 26 January 2023.

7. Lorde, ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ in crushing/crushed by Sab D’Souza, 2021 https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6nGd9YpZl3KZ53wJoKRKOX?si=dacccd2938bf4c6e 

8. Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Emotion’ in crushing/crushed by Sab D’Souza, 2021  https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6nGd9YpZl3KZ53wJoKRKOX?si=dacccd2938bf4c6e 

10. jemi gale, personal correspondence with z, 26 February 2023.

11. Taylor Swift, ‘The Archer’ in crushing/crushed by Sab D’Souza, 2021  https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6nGd9YpZl3KZ53wJoKRKOX?si=dacccd2938bf4c6e 

12. Sab D’Souza, personal correspondence, 1 December 2021. 

13. jemi gale, you can't practice self compassion if you're thinking about the love of your life (positive self talk), performed at Bar Flippys for ‘Read the Room’, 7th April 2022.

Thank you to Sophie Cassar, Panda Wong and Autumn Royal for your friendship, conversations and phone calls.

If you or anybody you know need someone to talk to or would like mental health support Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or QLife on 1800 184 527

jemi gale is an artist. She makes paintings and writes songs with, for, and about her friends.

un Projects’ Editor-in-Residence Program is supported by the City of Yarra. 
Editor: Paul Boyé