Day 3 :: Jen :: …”while we ate our nutritious dinner-for-breakfast”

After a short dip in the Mariana Trench of sleep – my greedy brain went straight for the deep stuff – I was woken several hours before the others and had some time to myself to write in the quiet. That was bliss. I worked some more on the vague story I started on the first day here. It’s creepy and impressionistic and I imagine it will become even less coherent as the week progresses. So far I have been pretty upbeat on this adventure, so the writing is doing its job and carrying the dark. If I don’t dream in my sleep, do I dream on the page?
After that brief burst of energy I’ve spent most of this wake period (language is so clunky without time’s signature) not writing. I fade, finding my judgement is too slow and unreliable for something that complex. I’m also struggling with looking at the screen until everything’s fizzy, so have been writing notes by hand, reading, and knitting. And drawing! I find I am much happier shading than typing, so some more objects in the room get their portraits done.

Drew Dawson dropped in and told us stories about horrible science experiments done in German POW camps while we ate our nutritious dinner-for-breakfast and laughed uproariously. It’s these opportunities for conversation I love the most – talking about process, technology, ethics, surveillance, and language with a bunch of artists and scientists is an amazing opportunity in itself and I want to have everyone round for dinner-that-is-really-dinner. I was getting restless so I started pacing and Drew turned to me and said ‘Tigers do that in the zoo’, and I had my next drawing:

My drawing ability tends to come and go in the outside world, so I’m pleased to see it’s working great in here. Lines are hesitant but shading is a joy. I could happily spend the rest of this residency colouring in. As to writing, I’m more tired than inspired. The trajectory of this wake period reminds me of a case I read in Oliver Sacks’ Migraine just recently: treating a lecturer who had terrible migraines every Friday afternoon, Sacks gave him medication which dulled the migraine but also made it last all weekend. The guy gave the pills back, preferring to get the headache over with. Personally I’d rather a day of sustained ability than a short burst of intense creativity followed by an all-day meh.
The cameras are infra-red and Scientist Kelsey tells me that my eyes look really freaky when I lie awake with them open during sleep period. I’m more aware of the cameras now than I was to begin with. I think the lack of privacy is beginning to get to me, as my cell door is always open and I am always being watched. I hardly noticed at first, surveillance is ubiquitous anyway, but the scientists occasionally mention something they’ve observed and remind me Big Brother is watching.

In a way it’s turning us all into performance artists – the tests themselves are becoming performances, modes of communication, and everything is durational. Although there are no time cues allowed in here we are surrounded by time: the routines of the tests are becoming apparent and all our interactions are constrained by an artificial time. I miss the consensus of day and night. It’s occurred to me that one of the functions of art and writing is keeping time with the world. It’s also occurred to me that I might need to photosynthesise.

Jennifer Mills

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