Archive for the Conceptual Art Category

Gilgamesh

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by javedbabar

The line was crackly but clear enough to hear her CEO, who said, “Gilgamesh is the world’s earliest recorded story. We put ‘The First Story of Mankind’ on promotional materials. The show is a sell out for two weeks straight. We can’t cancel it now.”

Sophie had two jobs at Village Hall. One was Chief Producer and the other was Crisis Manager. She was delighted that QARY, the old quarry now used for multimedia shows, was a commercial success. The Authority had supported her project wholeheartedly and invested $10 million there.

The issue was that she was well informed meteorologically. The danger of flooding was high. There was an Evacuation Alert in place, but no Evacuation Order, meaning that everybody should be prepared, but nobody should go anywhere yet. There was no excuse for sloth, but also no need for panic. What was needed was awareness.

Sophie said, “You can’t have people underground at a time like this. It is highly irresponsible, and if…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” said her CEO. “You’re breaking up.”

“I said that you can’t have…”

Click. Her CEO had hung up.

Sophie had faith in the warning indicators, whose specs she had reviewed before installation. They had failsafe mechanisms built in giving at least three hours warning, so whatever happened there would be no surprise. Maybe she was worrying without reason.

QARY’s hundred digital projectors, its fibre-optic cabling, and dynamic event lighting were worth a lot of money but were replaceable. The people here were not.

Damn it! Even this story concerned the preciousness of human life. It was not something to risk casually.

Her multimedia productions were in constant development. The first show had been an amateur affair featuring the works of local artists, and the next one, slides of Old Masters. In the second season, The Authority’s support had made epics such as Osiris, Beowulf and Gilgamesh possible; each show with a different style.

Alongside the usual paintings, photos and texts, Gilgamesh required live action filming. There was no shortage of bearded men in the Lucerne Valley to play Sumerian extras. No shortage of cattle and horses either.

Gilgamesh was a nasty king. He was proud and boastful, and oppressed his male subjects and pressed himself upon female ones. To distract him from op/pressing people, the gods created wildman Enkidu, who was his equal in strength, and his twin in appearance, though covered by hair.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu symbolized, respectively, culture and nature, and soon became best friends. Together they went to the Cedar Forest to kill the giant Humbaba, and then they slaughtered the Bull of Heaven. The gods decreed that Enkidu must die as punishment for these crimes. Gilagamesh’s distress at his twin’s death set him upon an epic quest for the secret of immortality. A ferryman took him across the river of death, where he met Utanapishtim, survivor of the ancient Great Flood.

Sophie saw dark pools building. Water trickled down rock pillars and from in between cracks. Was the quarry flooding? Had the warning system failed?

She ran to the control room in an upper chamber.

She saw that the system had been manually overridden.

Sophie had a thoughtflash. Her job as Crisis Manager had long term aims, including tackling overpopulation. There were five hundred people in the quarry. Was this what was going on, a deliberate population reduction?

Gilgamesh learnt that there was no such thing as Immortality. Everyone’s time on earth is finite, so you must live your life well.

If this was the end, thought Sophie, what better way to go than to join her small story to mankind’s first one?

Beowulf

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Osiris was a commercial success, though not a romantic one. Things ended badly for Isis, who lost her beloved husband Osiris, and for Sophie, whose love interest Ahmad disappeared. Maybe the shows at QARY were too real, thought Sophie, and affecting material reality. What a crazy thought.

As the next production Sophie selected Beowulf, which also had an underworld theme. To be precise it was an underwater cave, but that was near enough.

“I’ve seen monsters here,” said Albert, the quarry’s last manager before mining operations ceased. “There were days when you couldn’t bear to go in for fear of what lurked in the shadows. You tasted the dust, darkness made you see things, and rocks made you hear things. The quarry seemed alive to us and sometimes when we went too far, she punished us. Many good men were lost over the years, about one every season. They were our sacrifices to the mine. I’m glad you’ve brought the quarry back to life, but you better be careful with her.”

They gathered for a pre-production meeting. Sophie said, “Okay, we’ve pretty much decided on layout. We’ll make the first chamber Heorot, the mead hall, the second chamber Grendel’s mother’s lair, and the third chamber the Dragon’s cave.” Everyone nodded. “Instead of a linear narrative, this time we’re trying something less structured.” They nodded again. “Each chamber has a monster which can move between the stages, so raising the drama.”

This was their fourth production together, and the team had gelled. They had a good understanding of each other’s preferences, relative weaknesses and strengths.

Within four weeks the production was ready to go. The first three nights were sold out in advance. QARY had become a big money spinner for Lucerne.

The first chamber was stunning. Its bare rock walls, floors, ceiling and pillars were filled with projections. They seemed covered by rich tapestries and paintings, and hung with swords, shields and armour. The gems on the weapons glittered like stars.

Feasting Dane warriors were slaughtered by gruesome Grendel. He crushed their skulls and ribs and feasted on their brains and hearts. Brave Geats came from across the waters to help them; their King, Beowulf, killed the monster by ripping off his arm.

The second chamber used mood lighting only. It was the underwater lair of Grendel’s mother, who had continued to slaughter warriors as revenge for her son’s death. The epic battle between her and Beowulf caused splashes of red to multiply till they filled the whole chamber.

The third chamber also used mood lighting. After Beowulf’s victory in Denmark, he had returned to Geatland and ruled for fifty years. One day a dragon guarding a hoard of gold was awoken, and laid waste the land. Beowulf’s final heroic act was to rid his kingdom of this cruel dragon, and whilst doing so he was injured and died.

During the performance, groups of people hid in chambers and moved around. There was indeed no separation between mythic and historical, and real and imagined events. These people were fighting modern monsters – drugs, alcohol, glue, lust, greed, anger and many other addictions. The dark corners of QARY were the perfect place to indulge them all.

Osiris

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the second season of the old quarry’s projection project. The first season’s experiment had gone so well that The Authority had changed its zoning from community use to commercial operation and approved a $10 million investment. Sophie’s business plan stated the operation would break even in Year Five.

She now had one hundred digital projectors, fibre-optic cabling, dynamic event lighting and a ten-man production crew. The project also had a new name, QARY, and an associated logo with the tails of the Q and Y joining. It reminded Sophie of a Viking boat.

They could now stage more ambitious shows, such as the myths and legends she had dreamed of since childhood. Sophie had somehow known this would happen. She had fainted upon first entering the quarry, and from that moment onwards the real and imagined seemed intertwined.

A resident of Lucerne came to see her. Hello handsome, she thought.

“I am Ahmad, I come from Egypt,” he said. “Before the revolution I worked as an archaeologist. I would like to be involved in the QARY project, and as the first show of this season may I suggest Osiris?”

“I was thinking of Percival,” she said. “I have always liked the Grail stories.”

His eyes lit up. “Me too, but Osiris is God of the Underworld. He is a perfect fit for QARY.”

“That’s a good point. Do you want to join the production team?”

They spent the next week fleshing out the story. Many versions of the Osiris myth are scattered through the ages. He is God of the Dead, a merciful judge, an underworld agency granting the power of life, responsible for sprouting vegetation and the Nile’s fertile flood. Better stay on his good side, thought Sophie. We don’t want a repeat of the Lucerne Valley’s 2004 inundation.

Sophie and Ahmad collected texts, made recordings, and conducted negotiations to license images. The rest of the production team worked on structure and flow. It took a month to pull it all together. Sophie held her breath on the first night, and also Ahmad’s hand. They were a team now, both on and off set.

The crowd smiled as the good god Osiris travelled the world spreading maat, righteous order. They tried to warn him that he was about to be tricked by his evil brother Set, and shouted, “Don’t get into the chest!” They cried when the chest was sealed and thrown into the Nile, the watery mood enhanced by blue lighting. There were cheers when Isis found the coffin stuck in a tree in Byblos, and quiet during the corpse’s mummification, enhanced by overwhelming white light.

Osiris’s magical reanimation led to many  “Ah’s” and “Wow’s”. They grinned during Horus’s miraculous conception, and someone shouted, “That stiff is really stiff!”

Isis stored Osiris’s body in a swamp. The audience was horrified when Set found the body and chopped it into fourteen pieces, and red light poured down the walls. There were smiles again when his body parts were gathered and buried, and he became an underworld god.

The production was flawless. Sophie breathed out.

The second week, someone in the crowd became hysterical. His screams drowned out the commentary for a while. The next morning the cleaner found chunks of meat scattered. Bloody kids hunting again, he thought, leaving meat out for the wolves.

Sophie wondered where Ahmad had gone. Maybe he didn’t like the way the show had turned out. Or maybe he didn’t like how she was turning out. She wondered if he had managed to have that profit-share meeting with her CEO. Surely that would be a brutal encounter.

Old Masters

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was relieved that the It’s Mine! show was a success. Her first project at the old quarry could have gone wrong, with people turning their noses up at the local eyesore with a history of accidents, pollution, corruption, industrial action and financial trouble. Instead they welcomed its reopening as the return of an old friend, albeit a very artsy friend.

Rather than praise Sophie, her CEO said, “The show was good, but it didn’t bring any money into the village. My name was attached to the project. It would have been nice to have commercial success.”

“But the site was approved for community use only. It wasn’t meant to make a profit.” God, her CEO was a bitch. Why was she making a fuss for no reason?

“Well, we need to produce another show, this time to make money.”

Sophie began working on it right away. The last one had taken three months to arrange, and this one should be quicker.

The production process proved an uphill struggle though. She couldn’t get anybody interested in a second community event.

The notion of projecting images across the vast, bare spaces of an old quarry should excite people. It was hardly a run of the mill event. But the artists involved argued about the order of the work shown, copyright fees, and signing waivers.

The Director of Lucerne Arts council, Eric Yahoo, said, “We are artists, not used to success. Fame and adoration are difficult issues for people seeing themselves as outsiders. We are now seen as valuable members of the community, and what self-respecting artist wants that?”

Sophie called the art critic of the New City Sun. He said, “The Lucerne Set is now old news. The old quarry has been done before, and the public wants something new.”

Wasn’t an old thing a good thing? thought Sophie. Her grandma always said, “Old is gold”, but then again she did have self-interest.

But good things are timeless, like the world’s great stories that her grandma told her at bedtime. Myths like Osiris, Beowulf, Gilgamesh and Percival, classic novels like Ulysses, and ancient texts like Tao Te Ching and Bhagavad Gita. Yes they have all been “done before”, but you can do them again, and again, and again. What would the art critic say to those?

Such productions take time to arrange, and myths require scale. She would like to get digital projectors, each with an individual server, add high-end fibre-optic technology, and computer-controlled dynamic event lighting. The impressionistic evocations and intriguing relief effects would be enhanced by audio-punch and video-precision. That would all cost money. Right now she must work with what she had.

Eric Yahoo managed to source ten more slide projectors. One came with a carousel full of slides of Old Masters’ paintings.

Sophie sat with Albert, the old quarry’s manager, viewing the slides. They saw Leonardo’s virgins, Michelangelo’s nubile boys, Raphael’s coronations and weddings, Titian’s flaying and mauling, Bosch’s hell on earth, El Greco’s disrobing, Constable’s horses and carts, Turner’s mystical seascapes, and Blake’s heavenly visions.

Sophie and Albert looked at each other. He said, “Old is gold.”

The Old Masters show drew crowds daily, and most productions were sold out. The Old Masters were innovators, trying new colours, perspectives, textures and forms. They would have appreciated the latest technology. Their paintings’ multiple viewpoints, bright colours, sharp details, and superhuman scale made them seem hyper-real.

Local Artists

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was given a month off after fainting in the old quarry. Why this had happened, she couldn’t say. She fainted maybe once a year, usually following a trauma such as a blood test, tooth extraction, or session of heavy drinking. Never just like that though, and her heart stopping was scary to think about.

Maybe the old quarry’s manager, Albert, had overreacted. Maybe her heart’s beating and her breathing were fine, and his old miner’s ears just couldn’t hear. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to make a drama out of a crisis. It must really have happened.

Her dreams of every kind of art continued. Blue and gold paintings, violin solos, white-masked dancers, poetry, stories, dramas, sculptures, celebrations, parties, holy rituals.

Were these inspirations or delusions? She yearned to visit the old quarry, but was scared to. What if she fainted again?

During her month off, an answer came to her. The quarry was a place of pain, where Mother Earth had been butchered. Her body had, piece by piece, been ripped out and removed, and once the demand for rock was exhausted, the quarry was abandoned like an old crone.

Her vision had been one of endless life, pouring forth, unstoppable. What if this place of pain could become a place of healing? She continued working on her status report for the old quarry.

“Sophie, what a nice surprise,” said her CEO, seeing her back in the office.

“I have the report.”

“But you’ve only just got back. Don’t you need more time?”

Sophie said it was complete. She shared her vision of using the vast, bare walls, floors, ceilings, and pillars of the quarry as a projection area. Bringing the stone to life, like a miracle, and using it to show every kind of art.

“That sounds very interesting. Leave it with me. I will take a look.”

Sophie imagined that would be the last she would hear of the project, but a week later her CEO called her in again. “Good news, Sophie. Your plan has been approved, at least on a test basis. I had to put my name on it for the project to acquire traction, but we both know it’s yours really. As recognition of that you can manage the project.”

The quarry project was approved for community use only. Sophie contacted Eric Yahoo, Director of the Lucerne Arts Council, who asked for a week to fathom a plan. He responded with a fund-raising proposal including carefully costed lighting, logistics, security, production charges and vendors’ fees. The concept revolved around ten reconditioned slide projectors showing sixty images each per hour, filling the quarry with pictures.

Local artists offered their works freely, which were loosely fitted together into the It’s Mine! Festival, a humorous critique of materialistic existence. Their paintings, music, dance, poetry, stories, drama, sculpture, celebrations, parties and rituals were combined, creating an overwhelming spectacle.

A critic from the New City Sun christened these artists the Lucerne Set. He loved their clay figurines, urban tapestries, unmade beds, pickled watermelons, moose dung, monkey graffiti, blood heads, and twinned personae.

It was a diluted version of Sophie’s vision, and seeing it manifested made her cry. From this old quarry she had mined rich treasure.

Old Quarry Conversion

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by javedbabar

Her CEO yelled, “Come!”

Why does she always do that? thought Sophie. Is it too much effort to say the word in? Or even to add a please at the end? I guess busy people need to use fewer words. Superiors must save their time and energy – for what though, so inferiors can expend theirs instead?

“Good morning,” said Sophie. “I haven’t seen you for a while. You look well.” Why shouldn’t she look well, she thought, she has a full time servant at home. That’s what she calls him – servant. How can she afford him? Lucerne Village Hall doesn’t pay that well.

“Thank you, Sophie. I feel that you are underworked. Would you agree? You would? Good. Obviously, Crisis Manager is a vital role, but we don’t have a crisis every day – unless you count my management style.”

This was a joke and Sophie was meant to laugh, wasn’t she? She wasn’t sure though. The CEO practiced GBH: Guidance By Hysterics. She was a terrible person to work for.

“We need a status report on the old quarry. I am allocating a month to do it. Can you have it complete by then?”

The bauxite quarry had been in operation for almost a century, providing material for civic buildings and fine homes. It had a history of accidents, pollution, corruption, industrial action and financial trouble. The Authority had kept the quarry open to maintain local jobs, but admitted eventually that it was cheaper and easier to import finished rock, and shut it four years ago.

Sophie went with Albert, the old quarry’s last manager, to take a look. She had only been in the village a year, and never seen the quarry open. Once the rusty locks were oiled, Albert pulled the overgrown iron gates open.

They walked past mounds of broken white rock and rusting machinery, before seeing a tall, rectangular gash in the hillside. As Sophie drew closer, she realized that the gash was a hundred feet high.

Sophie was drawn to this void; her feet led themselves; it was like walking towards the church when she was a child, to her grandma’s for lunch, and to a friend’s birthday party. It was like walking everywhere at once.

The gash had not been cut cleanly. Around it were probings and narrowings, where blasters, pickaxes and drills had worked, homing in on the centre, the cave, the bony canal extending deep into Mother Earth. It seemed a source of hidden power.

Albert gave her a hard hat and said, “Watch your step and your head. I come here once a year to take a look, but otherwise it is empty and falling apart. So just you…”

Sophie smelled figs and apples. She had a vision of the gash filled with everything in the world. It was overflowing with people pouring out. Life was being celebrated here by every kind of art. There were huge abstract paintings dripping blue and gold. Violin solos soaring. Scores of white-masked dancers. Poets on rock niches lauding the dark. Stories told of dragons and hidden treasures. Dramas of tortured hearts. Giant sculpted women. Bar Mitzvahs. Birthday parties. Holy mass.

The touch of God.

The breath of God.

The kiss of God.

Sacred vibrations.

Albert stared into her eyes. “Are you okay?” he said, looking crazed. Sophie had fainted and her heart stopped. Thank God he was trained in first aid; his skills were rusty but he had administered the Kiss of Life and CPR.

Sophie was used to managing other peoples’ crises. Now she must make sense of her own.

Ticket Lottery

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2012 by javedbabar

Two hundred tickets were available for the global launch of the film HUMANITY, and there had been a huge buzz when they were allocated online. The event was being held in the village of Lucerne, where the director had received his inspiration for the film, rather than in London, Mumbai or New York. His strange choice of location made the tickets doubly desirable, and the international jet set had clamoured for them.

Something didn’t feel right though. Sami, the local project manager, asked a member of the production crew, “Why are all those people queuing?”

“They’re the walk-ins, hoping to pick up tickets at the door.”

Sami was surprised. “But I thought all tickets had been allocated already. Where have the extras come from?”

The crew member said, “Between you are me, they are waiting for nothing. There aren’t any extra tickets.”

“Well, why don’t we tell them? They shouldn’t waste their time.”

“Look, the director said that all tickets should be allocated anonymously. There should be payment by donation, with people giving what they could afford or wanted to. But the producer rigged the allocation process. He priced up one hundred and fifty tickets for VIPs, sold twenty-five to restaurants serving special menus tonight, and fixed the lottery for the remaining twenty-five tickets. They’re all gone.”

Sami knew there would be some VIPs – he had been told up to fifty – but this was a disgrace. There was a huge queue of hopefuls, maybe 200 people, wanting to get in.

He spotted a familiar figure near the back of the line, with long black beard, brown skin and orange robe. It was his boss, Guru Baba! But wasn’t he away on pilgrimage for a month, which was the reason Sami was able to take this freelance position. Why was he back?

Sami walked over immediately and pressed his palms together.

“Yes, yes,” said the sage, returning the greeting. “I heard about the screening. I wanted to see it too so I decided to come back.”

“What about your ascent of Mt Kalash? Did you abandon it?”

“I was never going to climb it anyway. Too cold up there. Brrrr!” His shivering agitated his robe, making him seem like a dancing hairy fruit. “Now when will you let us in?”

“Guru Baba, why didn’t you get a VIP ticket? You only had to ask.” He was one of the world’s leading holy men, and though retired, still very well connected and popular.

“No, no. Why shouldn’t I wait like everybody else? Aren’t we all equal? This film is called HUMANITY.”

Sami didn’t know whether to tell him about the ticket situation in public; it may anger other people waiting. “Guru Baba, please come here, I need to tell you something.”

“No way! I am not losing my place in the line.”

“Guru Baba, you need to know something about the tickets…” Sami tailed off.

“Well, don’t be shy. You can tell us. We are all brothers and sisters here.”

“Okay then, there are no extra tickets. They have all been allocated to VIPs and the producer’s friends. You are waiting for nothing. You may as well go home.”

The crowd began grumbling, but Guru Baba stayed quiet. Then he said, “I have an idea.”

Sami told the VIPs, sipping champagne while awaiting the screening, that Guru Baba was offering a live audience tonight at the Transparent Temple, which they could attend in exchange for their film ticket.

Who wouldn’t want an audience with Guru Baba? Imagine the photos, blessings, mantras, and bragging rights acquired. They would witness his miraculous quality of multilocation, of being with many people at once, yet focussing on each one individually.

A handful of VIPs stood up immediately, and then the rest, not wanting to be left out of this once in a lifetime – maybe once in many lifetimes – opportunity, left their seats and walked to the Transparent Temple.

When the VIPs had gone, the 200 walk-ins walked in and enjoyed the film. Due to his quality of multilocation, Guru Baba enjoyed it too.

Bright Brown Eyes

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by javedbabar

There was half an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Its celebrated auteur had eschewed London, Mumbai and New York in favour of Lucerne, where the idea for the film had first come to him while mountain climbing.

Local project manager Sami had been asked to run through everything with the General Manager prior to doors opening. He hadn’t been able to locate him yet and the screening time was drawing near.

He asked the projectionist, “Have you seen the General Manager around?”

“Ah, The General. He was here this afternoon when I was setting up. I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Why do you call him The General?” asked Sami. “Is he a tough guy?”

“Actually, no. Quite the opposite, but I know he is an ex-military man. He led tough campaigns in Asia, and fought in brutal African wars. You wouldn’t think so though.”

This made Sami think of the ancient Indian king Asoka, who renounced bloodshed and became an advocate of non-violence, truth and tolerance instead. Sumerian king Gilgamesh, said to be one-third human and two-thirds divine, also mended his vicious ways. If only such leaders had been studied in 20th century Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Russia and America, the world would now be a better place.

Sami located The General fifteen minutes before doors opened. He was a tall, well-built man with cropped red hair and eyes that seemed orange at first, but were in fact bright brown. Sami walked him around the site and showed him the screen, which had been stiffened to counter evening winds, projector, cabling, seating, ropes, poles and carpets. He ran through key timings and flows, and showed the required safety certificates.

The General was very friendly and calm. He made some minor comments, said, “Good job”, “Good stuff”, and “Good work”, and said he would be in his office if needed. The run through with him took under five minutes. Now that’s a guy who trusts people, thought Sami. I’ll bet his soldiers felt inspired.

There was an issue concerning wheelchair spaces. Sami had allocated five spaces, but a village official said there should be seven. It was too late to change seating layout now as doors were opening in less than ten minutes, but the village official insisted on the change.

Sami decided to get support from The General. After all, he was in charge here and had approved the plan. He buzzed his office, and the door flew open immediately.

After a dark hallway, Sami came to a steel door which slid open silently. There was The General watching a bank of screens that covered an entire wall. Facial recognition technology identified people and followed them around. Where were these cameras hidden? Sami hadn’t noticed them anywhere in The Place.

On the adjacent wall were pinned scores of faces, a few of whom he recognized. Many had a black strike slashing across their faces. The General looked at Sami and said, “Two strikes and you’re out.”

His bright brown eyes lit up, very fiery, like when he had dropped bombs on restless provinces, and spearheaded “population control” projects. He had acted as consultant to many governments, and oil and water companies, who needed certain people to disappear. The General was interested in the film tonight, HUMANITY, but more so in its rumoured sequel, INHUMANITY. He hoped it would feature some of his special projects.

Redirection

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by javedbabar

There was just an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Sami was pleased that everything was set. The screen and scaffold, projector, VIP and ordinary chairs, ropes and poles and red carpet were all in place.

There had been a light wind whispering all day. In the morning it rose from Mt Alba, the white mountain towering above the village, and then travelled along the valley to Mt Negra, the dark mountain at its far end. In the late afternoon it picked up and returned.

Sami noticed light reflecting around The Place, the communal space at the heart of the village where the screening would occur. Where was it coming from?

He looked around but nothing was moving, except, damn! The 20 x 40 ft screen was rippling, only slightly, but enough to notice.

This was a disaster! The director’s carefully composed shots would be distorted. The screening would be ruined.

The projectionist had noticed the rippling too. He called Sami over and said, “We need to do something about this. The film will look pretty bad otherwise.”

Sami asked, “Can you do something with the projector?” and then realized it was a stupid question. He could hardly project anti-ripples. They would have to adjust the scaffold and screen.

The projectionist discussed options with the crew. They decided they could improve the situation by tightening the screen. This meant men in hard hats, tied to ropes, climbing ladders, so for safety reasons they would have to block all access to The Place. Despite being local project manager, Sami was in practical terms the least useful person on site, and was asked to redirect members of the public.

He blocked the entrance with a road barrier and greeted people approaching with a smile. It was hard to get annoyed when someone had smiled at you already for no reason. This was a conflict resolution technique taught to him by Guru Baba.

A young woman approached and said, “Excuse me please, I am the owner of that sandwich shop,” – she pointed to a cute shop with red and white hanging baskets – “I need to check stock for tomorrow.”

“Can you enter from the back, Miss? I won’t be able to let you through here for half an hour.”

“The cops have closed off the back areas. I have to enter from the front.”

“I am sorry, but you will have to wait. Will you be able to do it later, or in the morning?”

“I guess I could do it in the morning. That’s a good idea. My boyfriend wakes me up anyway. He’s a health nut, and goes running at 5am. I may as well come then.”

A man in his fifties approached, sweating, and said, “I have to get to the hairdressers. It is urgent!”

“Do you have an appointment? No? Why is it urgent? It is only hair.” Sami’s hair was thinning and he didn’t care. “Hair today, gone tomorrow!”

The man thought about this for a moment and said, “You are right. Hair today, gone tomorrow.” He said it again and removed his wig, which had needed adjustment. A little more light reflected around The Place.

A man with Celtic tattoos said, “I need vitamins from the health shop.”

Sami said, “Which ones? Okay, A, C, E and K? Why don’t you eat spinach instead?”

An agitated woman ran up and said, “I need formula for my baby. She is hungry and I’ve run out.”

Sami gave her a hard hat and escorted her to the grocery store. He had learnt many lessons from Guru Baba. One of the most important was to know when to redirect people, and when to help them on their way.

Red Carpet

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Most items were now set for the showing. The screen and scaffold, projector and speakers, VIP and ordinary chairs, and ropes and poles, were all in place. The red carpet however had not arrived.

The CORE – Customer Order Response Expedition – system was stupid, thought Sami. Sending items on individual trucks was a terrible idea, but what could he do? He wasn’t in charge of logistics. He was in charge of set up, and the global launch of the film HUMANITY was good to go, minus only one red carpet.

An hour before the show he called the delivery company again. The despatcher said he would ask the driver to call Sami right away.

The driver called him. “I delivered it an hour ago,” she said. “It’s at the mayor’s office. I was told that’s where to deliver it.”

The mayor’s office was one kilometre from The Place, the communal space at the heart of the village and location for tonight’s screening. Sami said, “Who told you that?”

“Well, I was sent round and round by detours. There were cops everywhere who wouldn’t let me stop. So I called another driver who said that was the usual place, so I dropped it off there.”

“That’s not the right place! Can you please retrieve the carpet and bring it here to The Place? I will direct you to the delivery entrance.”

“Sorry, I’m fifty kilometres away now, heading back to the city.”

Damn! thought Sami. He needed that red carpet for VIPs. He had better go and get it himself. The projectionist had set up early and was now relaxing, sipping a beer. Sami said, “Excuse me, can you please help me with something?”

He didn’t indicate a readiness to move.

“It’s important.”

The projectionist stood up and said, “Sure.”

With all the road closures and diversions, it would be quicker to walk. They reached the mayor’s office in ten minutes. The security guard said, “I was wondering why they brought that here. I thought it was for one of the mayor’s special parties.” He tapped his nose as he said this.

Sami and the projectionist threw opposite ends of the roll over their shoulders. It smelled quite clean, but there was a hint of beer – or was it champagne? – and fish – or was it oysters? They carried the rolled carpet through the village, looking like a pair of toy plumbers. Sami thought, it’s a shame it’s not a magic carpet. We could have ridden it through the valley, over forests, lakes, and rivers, across icecaps…

At The Place, Sami paced out the distance from the street to the VIP area. They rolled out the carpet, cut it at one end, and taped it in place.

Sami noticed specks on the carpet. Upon closer inspection, he saw they were a mixture of dirt, gravel, powder and leaf bits. He found a hoover and cleaned them up. The red carpet looked really good now, like a ribbon across a present. He took installation photos.

As he did that a family of five walked across the far part of the carpet, adjoining the street, before the VIP ropes and poles. Sami recognized them; he had seen them picking through dumpsters behind The Place’s restaurants. They posed and took pictures on their phones. They dreamed of being asked to grace a red carpet, but who ever welcomed trailer park folk?

The security guard was about to move them on; they were leaving dirt and crumbs; but Sami told him to wait. Right now the red carpet was acting as a band-aid, not a ribbon. Let them enjoy their moment of glamour. He could hoover the carpet again.