hugo max
from duck fugue
Ducks have always been there.
Nice Weather for Ducks              Lemon Jelly
                                          Sitting Ducks         Michael Bedard
                                                                                        Duck                                 Jellycat
Tearing a thick strip from the Persian rug he proceeded to wrap up the limp body of the duck. Sitting down cross-legged on the floor he clumsily consumed the bundle, bloody feathers and sinews of fabric spilling down his chin into his lap. Lying back against the wall he could feel the duck passing through his body, moving from his upper chest to his lower abdomen. In an effort to avoid catching a chill he decided it would be best to swathe himself in the remainder of the Persian rug. Shafts of moonlight cast rhombuses of silver across the larger bundle, the windows’ luminous impressions over his blanketed body like pictures in a darkened gallery.
Around two or three o’clock he heard scuffling from behind the door, a slapping of little feet and chattering of coarse voices entering the room. He could only see a thin sliver of light having enclosed the full length of his body from his forehead to his toes in the rug, however, he soon felt a violent force against his right side. Pushed onto his back and then onto his front again, the effort successfully disrobed him. Now wrapped loosely in the blanket he could see twenty or thirty ducks peering curiously at his exposed body.
One by one the ducks formed two orderly queues on either side of the young man. Each duck in turn would step forward and thrust their beak into his palm or wrist before waddling off to rejoin the back of the opposite procession. The young man did not move from the floor, quietly observing as the little cuts became larger gashes, bright blood staining the rug. The ducks never tired from their religious activity, their yellow beaks nuzzling deep into the flesh of his arms, indulging a mouthful of hot liquid in their act of perpetual severance. When the pulp eventually gave way, the ducks disbanded from their lines to form small clusters to carry off the two limbs. One duck ventured so far as to attempt at plucking out his tongue but deserted this idea after several unsuccessful attempts. Following a short jollification of merry quacking and amorous pecking they vacated the room.
A mallard, a marbled and a canvasback remained, looking inquisitively at the young man. It had been a compromise. He stared back in jest, nodding to them that he understood. Following this gesture they too left the room to catch up with the rest of the ducks, the mallard casting one final glance before disappearing behind the door.
I started writing  in the spirit of Georges Bataille’s novella The Story of the Eye. Formed of episodes that build in intensity without a strict overarching narrative or movement towards climactic resolution, each of Bataille’s chapters operate germinatively like a musical variation on the eye in order to horrifically, sensitively and playfully edge closer to the core of its central characters.
Ducks replace the eye in my writing as a ‘transitional object’. They have existed in a multidisciplinary capacity throughout my life: as a plush Jellycat toy, Lemon Jelly’s hit song Nice Weather for Ducks and Michael Bedard's chilling children's book Sitting Ducks.
I have not written a new chapter of Duck Fugue for nearly two years but have returned to the subject matter in drawings and paintings. It will never make a ‘finished’ work, but instead provides a space in which to explore the ghosts of other ideas and translate memories through surreal recapitulation.
Hugo Max is a filmmaker, painter and violinist/violist based in London. He has shown work in Modern Art Oxford, Holywell Music Room and the Ashmolean Museum and has performed at the Barbican Centre, Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room. Hugo’s first book The Stanley Series, a picaresque fable told over eight mixed media paintings, was published in May 2020.