Paul has a visitor
Qualifying session full on. No quarter given. Live speeds 10 times what you get on TV. Noise sublime. Paul foraged for a mocha for Mumbles. Nectar. Teensy tribulations forgotten. Paul’s tactical expertise was invaluable, sometimes Mumbles could easily cope with being treated as a chop short of the barbie.
About mid afternoon they returned to tent land. Mumbles felt a zzzzz coming on, Paul suddenly got domesticated…..
Later. Paul was running the Dyson over his shag pile carpet, closely following the printed track of the Monaco street circuit. This was cleverly woven into the fabric.
Was that somebody calling to him? Turned off the Dyson, chucked his Fangio apron behind the Aspidistra and looked outside. This wasn’t any old somebody, this was a Drop Dead Darling and no mistake. ‘Hi’, she trilled, coming from a countenance that would launch a thousand battle cruisers. ‘Sorry to trouble you, my name is Marie Claire.
I came by this morning and heard some fab singing. I mean FAB. Who was this guy who did that old Tassie Classic, you know the one, ‘Banjo Barry, the bastard from the bush.’ … This was a revelation. He must be Tasmanian. Her doe- like eyes widened. ‘Was it you?’ Paul a bit thrown by this. ‘No, no,’ he said, ‘He’s a friend of mine’.
As he said that, he spotted an empty Islay single malt bottle poking out of the bottom of Mumbles tent. What happens if our boy emerged from his boudoir and tripped over the guy ropes yet AGAIN? Little Darling pressed on. ‘Look, I run the Frisco Folk Club down by the Eateries. We are doing our last gig tonight and my top of the bill have got a better offer. Can you friend help us out? What’s his name, by the way. Paul hesitated. He dumped the Mumbles. ‘Mojo Makepiece, Mojo for short. He is doing a bit of choir practice at the moment for tomorrow’s church service. Shall I send him down to you?’
‘PLEASE DO,’ she pleaded, ‘I would so love to meet him.’
The sweet smell of Givenchy wafted through the air as she headed off. ‘We will pay him’, she called back.
Paul finished the dusting, re- arranged the flowers, and settled down to read ‘The Complete Technical Guide to the maintenance of the F 1 gearbox’. Great stuff!
Next: Mumbles meets MC!
When he awoke from a troubled nights sleep, our man did not feel like breakfasting on another dollop of ‘beyond aesthetics’. Instead, he noticed that several shorter pieces had been appended to this magnum opus ….in effect, slighter ruminations of Artspeak.
These pieces were dignified by their brevity, if not their gravitas or syntax.
He started on this little gem. ‘The significance of an ordinary item…. an inventive and unusual exploration of the cultural history of the button with all it’s metaphorical and lexical suggestiveness’….(true!) or… ‘In a process of palimpsest, the work evolved or was reused or altered but potentially still bore visible traces of its earlier form…. the result is a body of work that reflects themes of female identity, diversity and transition. (Gosh!). or ‘What follows is: impossibility to believe in discussion for imagery…..#towards aphasia, towards immobility, for a progressive identification of consciousness and praxis….
Was our man developing a morbid fascination with this tosh? Rather like watching kitsch soap operas when nobody was around? He was armed with acres of this twaddle that would make the winter nights fly by.
Nights! Nights! His dream hurtled back.
He had invented an ABM machine! (An Art Bollocks Machine) and it had made him a fortune. The punter simply keyed in the show he or she was doing. As a demo he chose a show called ‘An anthology of socks full of cold porridge’ (international of course.) This opened more bollocks doors than a French farce. He asked for 3x A4 pages, double spaced, paid his money, and Bingo! The machine chuntered out the result. Terrific stuff!
This market was huge. Think of anything, as is now academic, call it art, and good old
ABM would do the business. It did a fabulous job on ‘German battle cruisers and the suspender belt’. An international touring show, people now speak of little else.
He had a rude awakening. A one- legged seagull had befriended him and was demanding some breakfast. The bird seemed quite keen on snacking on the recently arrived paperwork. He pecked at it. Wanted more. Was it edible?
Let’s find out in the final episode…
Mumbles’ mojo seemed to be working. Weary after a day’s racing he contemplated a good nights sleep in his ‘got you figured out’ cocoon.
And thus it proved. Almost. About seven in the morning, still pretty dark in the tent, he decided to investigate some small object that had been digging into his back. What the hell was it?
Now a tentophile of considerable organisational skills, he reached for his specs that he had hung on a ceiling hook. He grabbed handfuls of air. Strange. So he looked again at the object. A LENS. Terrific. Where was the rest of his eye-wear? Under the air bed! They now looked like mangled costume jewellery or those evil wire sculptures one sees in open studio exhibitions. Couldn’t see a bloody thing without them. A job for Paul.
Paul had three great skills. He was deeply intuitive, did not stand on ceremony and was not patronising …usually.
‘Alright, what have you done now?’ (He could also be long suffering and non- judgmental at the same time.) He studied the evidence.
‘Did you leave these in the pit lane?’ Convulsed at his own wit, his shoulders shook.
He then glided to the boot of his car, snapped it open and produced on of those Mega telescopic tool boxes, about 2 metres high at full stretch. Socket spinners, ring spanners, adjustable….and on and on and on. With this kit he could do anything from changing a gearbox to a hysterectomy. Mumbles hovered. Paul decisive.
‘Look sweetie,’ said Paul, ‘why don’t you go and sit over there, put on your ‘howdy folks, I’m aimin to sing’ hat, get out your guitar and the rest of your microwave stash and stay really loose?’ That came to pass. Mumbles drifted Into his world, Paul stayed four square in his. Later…..
Mumbles hit the final chord on his Tassie Troubadour set and felt good. He then glanced down and saw his re-built specs. ‘No problem’, said Paul ‘thank God I had some 5 amp fuse wire.’ While I was about it, he went on, I changed the brake pads and a wheel bearing on our limo. A CVJ looked dodgy but will get us home. My welding kit is giving me grief’ Mumbles had no grasp of this language whatsoever.
‘Qualifying starts soon, let’s go.’ Said Paul. ‘Don’t forget your specs.’
Episode 8: Paul has a visitor.
Life in the theatre took a new turn. I was approached by the stage manager who sounded me out about working the follow spotlights during the next series of evening productions.
Why not? the dosh would come in handy.
These lights were based on a simple principle. They consisted of two carbon rods (about 2cm diameter) which were aligned at an angle of about 45 degrees. The high voltage electrical current flowing between them produced a crater in the lower carbon,
which in turn was the source of a brilliant light. This light could go from a ‘pin spot’ to a full flood, depending on the lens control. The carbons had to be ‘fed’ as the burning continued , one praying all the while that the top carbon did not come loose and land in the bottom of the lamp holder. All of this was conducted under ferocious temperatures, you could fry an egg on the lamp case, or roast a finger or two.
The whole caboodle was mounted on gimbals, so the beam could be directed wherever one wished, at whatever size. So far, so good . Two ‘operators’ were needed to cover the whole stage. This background info. makes sense of the following proceedings.
The opening evening of Swan Lake was upon us. I already had
several shows under my belt, so to speak, so I was ready for this. My colleague for the evening was Roland. This dear fellow was a ‘chocoholic’ an addiction to this confection going back for years. At any point during the day his Mae West boiler suit contained up to 10kg of assorted chocolates. This soporific substance, I discovered, has no equal.
He was an electrician and his colleagues feared for his life when he seemed to be drifting off atop a 10 metre ladder re-wiring the spot bars.
Finally, we we both had headphones to get our orders.
Swan lake proceedings got underway with a total blackout. The orchestra concluded the overture and I got my first instruction from the director.
‘With the smallest of pin-spots, pick up the male dancer emerging from the wings on the prompt side of the stage’ Fine. Done. Ditto to Roland to pick up the female lead on the other side. NOT SO FINE. At this precise point Roland fell asleep. In so doing, he relaxed his grip on the lamp. The pin-spot, getting bigger, then drifted up to the proscenium arch, up and up until it came to rest on the theatre ceiling.
By now the stage director was apoplectic. His screams could be heard in the back rows of the gods. Roland came to. Desperately, he tried to put things right. The band played on…..Until the conductors desk and those of the first violins were illuminated by a thousand watt spotlight as Roland valiantly tried to find the stage.
As is (or was) the case in music based theatre, the actors or dancers will sometimes follow the music to gauge their arrival. In this case the entrance of the corps de ballet took place in total darkness, as they spilled, literally, on to the stage. One wonders what the collective noun is for a tangled heap of swans. I still had the male lead in a pin-spot, his facial incredulity was the only thing to be seen in the whole theatre.
The stage managers voice rose equally in volume and pitch. Then, a top C and a deafening silence.
I got home early that night.
Another scene. A desert island. The lone inhabitant (he had tried to sail across the Pacific in a very large yoghurt pot) was surviving, but only just. He had found enough to eat locally, but had saved up the tastiest bits of his sandals for a kind of culinary ‘Michelin Moment’. However, after some instinctive premonition he decided on a more modest seafood meal instead.
Was there some kind of celebration in prospect, perhaps not unconnected with the world he had left behind? This was an immense loss, as powerful as life itself.
He gazed out to sea, this gap would never be closed….. nostalgia flooded in.
But wait. He sat bolt upright.
Ah…tricks, a mirage, a cliche even… Was that the light bouncing off the neck of a bottle?
A bottle that bobbled toward him? Did this bottle contain a tightly rolled scroll of documents? His sun- stroked neurones had led to a wandering mind more than once.
Our man was a fine string player in an earlier life. Could this vessel contain an autographed score of Beethoven’s Op. 132 string quartet? Music that the Gods could listen to but could never hope to write. Ever. His spirits rose.
He waded out to get the very real object. Yes, a scroll of papers was contained within.
As he gently extracted them, our man wept.
A moment to be savoured! The text was in English!
He settled down under his favourite palm tree and began to read. It was a review of a conceptual art show. It was headed ‘Beyond Aesthetics, Readings in cultural intervention’. There was pages of this stuff… deep, deep, joy!
Agog with anticipation, he read the following:
‘During the past two decades the breakdown in humanist metaphysics has radically transformed theories of the production and reception of art. Humanist fallacies of the individual as an essential self have been deconstructed by post- structural explanations of the formation of subjectivity through language and its representations.
The art object is no longer conceived as an autonomous, transparent device reflecting the unmediated intentions of its maker, but read as a visual text ‘read’ through the lens of the cultural fabric which furnishes the meanings encoded in art.
Roland Barthes’s famous dictum that ‘the birth of the reader must be at the cost of of the death of the author’ has suffered an overly reductive interpretation as simply entailing the impossibility of originality, which has been used to justify the supposed futility of attempts to generate new imagery. Abandoning the modernist pursuit of
‘Making It new’, reactionary artists now gratuitously ‘quote’ existing images. But as Jean Baudrillard commented, quotation is never a goal in itself… the play on second and third degree quotes…. is a pathological form of the end of art, a sentimental form’.
If, as Barthes wrote, ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origin but…….’
At this point, (about 10% of ‘beyond aesthetics’), our man drifted off…. perchance to dream… about what I wonder?
See ‘cast your bread’ episode 2