Day 6 :: Fee :: the grand scheme

the grand scheme

Anyone who knows me in slob-out mode knows my favourite position is lying down (my sofa will happily confirm this). In here we are not allowed to lie down because we might fall asleep –a few seconds of illicit REM is denied EVEN JUST BEFORE SLEEP. During the last procedure Jessica (the new staffer) came in to find me resting my head on my hand (a common pose for me here in lieu of lying down). “Aww, you OK?” she asked. “Yeah… in the grand scheme of things” I replied. The honest answer is relative. Do I feel my normal self? No, hells no. Will I live? Yes, of course I will.

Over breakfast today we discussed how this experience was a kind of torture, which then made us question the appropriate use of that word. We are not in Guantanamo Bay, we are not in asylums, we are not mentally or physically beaten and this is a voluntary exercise that lasts a meagre seven days. This experience is often freakishly disorientating, infuriatingly disempowering and damned frustrating, but it’s not torture. It’s good to keep that in perspective.

However I am now pretty much over it & would like my delicious life back now, please. I’ve spent years designing my life so that I can be the ‘me’ I want to be, following the bliss that I have learned I need and avoiding all the things I hate or that just don’t suit me. Like repetition, for example; I HATE repetition, it’s why I became a media artist in the first place. So the systemic timetabling, formulaic menu, barrage of tasks, painful skin where the cyborg bits go and “No, because consistency” are really taking their toll. Jen just reminded me that this is a good thing – that we have worlds we relish so much we can appreciate going back to them. She’s right, of course, but for now it seems I’m in need of a whinge – bear with me?

I live in a bus full of natural light – I wake (but don’t have to get up) with the dawn and feel snugly drowsy after sunset. I eat what I want when I want. I might not be a vigorous exerciser, but I cycle or walk (fast) everywhere and breathe fresh clean sunny air every day. And now I’m in a box with no windows in the same low-fluoro light-levels every waking minute with the low hum of aircon permeating my subconscious. And it’s COLD. 21 degrees doesn’t sound cold but when you’re tired, not moving much, and eating the same (and I mean THE SAME) food every day… well, you don’t warm up easily. Thankfully Vicki from ANAT made me borrow her cords and cardigan before I came here. And Thom brought extra sweatshirts one of which I’ve been able to borrow for the last few days; I have been actually shivering. In the height of summer too.

I spent yesterday (which we all thought was Friday again, sigh) daydreaming about booking a hotel room for Sat/Sun nights as soon as I’m ‘out’.  My bus is locked away safely with her past owners and it’s the weekend – I neglected to consider that before I came in here. I’m sure I would be able to find a couch to crash on but after this week all I want to do is hide away in my own well-lit space with food of my choosing, a bottle (or two) of really good red, a screamingly hot bath and crap telly to soothe the #firstworldproblems away. I don’t want to talk to anyone f2f for a few days, I just want to catch up on sleep and immerse back into my social feed – being socially antisocial. Then one of the staff reminded me that it’s Fringe opening weekend – I won’t have a chance in hell of finding a room at this notice. Dammit.

In other news, but continuing my whinge, I mentioned yesterday that I’m missing my network. I’m really sad that I haven’t had questions from them. In part I think that’s because it’s not been very clear on The Subjects blog how to ask questions (comments are switched off on our posts, which would be confusing), or maybe ANAT’s shoutouts are just not reaching my crew. In any case, I would have loved to have heard from them and been challenged by them in this confinement as they often challenge me in my normal life. Still, it’s (hopefully) not long until I get to find out what I’ve been missing.

Our position in spacetime continues to blur. Yesterday one of the staff let slip about the date – only a bit (a comment on Valentine ’s Day, followed by a tense silence, or so the re-telling goes) but enough to make us re-question our calculations. …or I should say Sean & Jen’s calculations, since they’re the numbers guys. We can only gauge from the number of short/long procedures that disrupt our personal time in any waking period plus the sleep periods. But of course we have absolutely no idea how long each of these slots occupies. Perhaps day1 was sixteen hours, perhaps ten, perhaps six… who knows. So we keep feeling we’re coming to the end and then hit another sleep cycle followed by procedures and more lunch… it just keeps on going.

Then there’s the fact I know something Sean & Jen don’t which has b0rk3d my perception of how much longer we have here. I can say it here because none of us reads each other’s posts (unless we expressly have something we want to share) and they’ll find out before we leave anyway. Earlier in the week one of the staff let slip that Thom has to leave early. Thom is an astonishingly prolific creator – he hasn’t stopped since he got here. His portfolio is immense and he is (understandably) in high demand. This residency was originally scheduled to happen in December when we’d all got much clearer calendars. It’s a testament to our commitment to this experiment that we all managed to clear the decks right now. We’re all due to get out at 11.30am on Saturday and Thom is under the craziest schedule which includes two live-painting sessions for the Fringe … TONIGHT. If all I want to do is hide under a pillow I can’t IMAGINE how Thom will feel having to perform in a high-pressure context like that. But he’s the consummate professional and I know he’ll do wonderfully, bless him.

The issue, though, is around him having to leave early. He wasn’t going to say anything to us about it so it wouldn’t affect our experience or perception of time (and also coz ANAT asked him not to), but it having been accidentally slipped means I know too now. I don’t know what time it will be when he leaves (tho he does), but I do know that when he does leave we won’t be too far behind. When your concept of time can be out by several days not hours, any connection to real-world time is extremely discombobulating. Yesterday I noticed during one of the tasks that the clock on my computer was visible (they were normally disabled). I am pretty sure the time was wrong anyway (they reset the time on my camera every few hours and because I’m a geek I checked the timestamp on new documents as soon as I arrived, just in case – only once) but it threw me for ages. Being this isolated and this tired really heightens your focus on details like that. I really don’t want to know any kind of reference to time at all until I’m FREE, so seeing it so clearly was familiarity out of context. Ugh.

Finally (sorry this is a very rambly post), in terms of creating: I posted a story, “The Box”, yesterday (without any context) and I’ve been trying to get my first knitted bus finished. The story was my way of diffusing hatred for the test we all hate the most, the PVT. You have to sit there for ten minutes hitting a black button every time red numbers randomly start streaming, the objective being to catch as low a number as possible. It’s amazing how much energy a mundane task like that can absorb – and it’s amazing what a drain like that can do to you when you’re already running on empty. By (what I thought was) day three I just wanted to throw it at a wall, so decided to vent my aggression in literature instead. The story is a bit crap and basically full of in-jokes; it’ll be a rubbish read for anyone on the outside, but it helped me channel the absurdity creatively, so: tick.

The bus is less constructive at the moment. I was very happy to have finished two sides, the base and the front/back/roof section before sleep yesterday. On waking today I started sewing them all together and found the last side section was knitted too tightly and is much smaller than the other one. Kinda disappointing because I wanted to finish it to photograph and show you today, but instead I’m knitting a new side. Here’s some photos of the work-in-progress, at least. Hopefully I’ll get it done before I leave here, if not I’ll work on it later – I have seven of these to make for my crowdfunding rewards anyway so lessons are always useful. (Instructions to make your own knitted bus are at http://reallybigroadtrip.com/knit-along-with-fee-n-me by @sayraphim)


the base, sides & front/back/roofsection ready to sew together


on side sewn in to the front/back/roofsection


second side too small :(

OK, time to prep for another procedure. Sigh. I will NOT miss these a bit. But I WILL miss Thom, Jen & Sean. They’re true beams of light in what feels like a very dim world, I’ve made new friends as well as new things in my time here. So in the grand scheme of things a week of curious discomfort that reminds me how lucky I am every other day of my life is something I can totally live with.

Fee Plumley

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