10 AM: My first hoard has arrived.
Colour: All white.
Quantity: 120 bags of 100. That makes 12,000 in total.
I test the possibilities of this material: soft and cushioning.
A pliable haystack that can be sculpted and reformed,
Cool to the touch.
Using my hands like rakes I spread the strands out in my enclosure, distributing them like straw in a stable.
These 12,000 stretch far.
Having experimented with a few different techniques I am now confident in the efficiency of my system.
I create bundles of 100: sometimes counting, sometimes approximating.
Each strand is extracted from the pile and placed the correct way up - that is with their mouths facing towards me - into my left hand.
I hold them gently like a bunch of flowers.
Using a specially adapted implement I select and place each strand through the holes.
Trying to recall my provisional calculations I attempt to distribute them evenly across the boundary.
One by one.
One every four holes or so,
Their is a tug of doubt in my mind as I try to recall the precision of my planning.
Was there ever a plan?
I settle into the repetitive rhythm of the system and my mind soothes, the fog of doubt lifts.
It is midnight before I know it.
I enjoy the mornings here. The clarity of the light renders the hoarding transparent allowing me to observe the busy coming-and-goings of the street.
I can see out but you can't see in.
And I can hear you too:
Looks like Spaghetti
Is it cheese?
Is it playdough?
It must be shoelaces.
It reminds me of pasta drying.
How's he doing it?
He must be blowing it through
You don't think he's poking it?
No he's definitely blowing it - with air.
Oh look! I think it's art.
I enjoy these comments, I smile with delight that so far no one has guessed correctly, that my hoard - my material- remains a mystery.
So yes, as I said - the morning started well.
It was mid-afternoon before I could no longer ignore the wall of boxes that had appeared within my enclosure - the elephant in the room.
These boxes had been pressing on my mind all morning. I acknowledged them on my arrival with a sideways glance (though I did not let them know it.)
These boxes bothered me,
Like a face I recognised but whose name I could not place.
Five columns of five.
An uninvited guest...a forgotten engagement.
They cast a threatening shadow.
Like an ostrich burying it's head in the sand I continued with my duties. The repetitive nature of my task absolving me from any kind of responsibility...buying myself some time.
The truth was, I was not ready for this - the second instalment of my hoard. It had caught me off guard.
I had grown fond of my white monochrome pile that was slowly but surely depleting, like an iceberg melting.
All colours in one.
I hear you admiring it's tonal qualities. You complement me on my restrained choice of colour as I present it to you through the screen.
But it was never my intention to start this way - plans go astray when you let chance have its say.
The afternoon proceeded in suppressed turmoil.
I unpacked the boxes without enthusiasm, accompanied by nothing but a raging fury and self depreciating inner monologue.
The colours whose names and hues I had once found so alluring had ceased to induce any appeal.
Out of the blue, my first attack of CHROMOPHOBIA.
I had read about this 'condition' but never thought it would happen to me, which made its symptoms all the more unnerving.
I sat for a while in a dark corner, trying to regain my composure, emerging only much later - with a strategy.
Clipboard in hand I stock checked my hoard.
43 colours in all and one I had never laid eyes on before:
I emptied a bag of it onto the floor.
For a moment I am a child again!
The ocean glistening
Splish - splash!
The sound of echoed laughter.
Sandy sandwiches and wiggling happy toes,
The sun shining.
Brown skin on Pink towels,
The aroma of sun cream.
(A bleached out memory returning.)
My composure regained,
It is evening already.
The problem now unpacked and confronted I return to my white pile - to where I was this morning - which started so well.
Eyeing up it's scale I would say I have half a day or so. Half a day or so to determine how to continue with proceedings.
That should give me enough time.
I work in silence and alone.
Some were concerned whether I would manage with this isolation.
I not only manage but thrive!
Uninterrupted my mind makes maps.
Trawling, archiving, editing: this solitude a maintenance, a service.
I have imaginary conversations, I can bring myself to laughter or tears- emptying out surplus emotions.
I must work faster though, this white pile seems never ending.
My method adapted to this new need for speed:
I no longer make bunches of 100 for they are dissipated too quickly. I need stock piles, vast quantities.
Stacks of 1000, pre-prepared:
All Mouths facing forwards.
Regimented piles, ready for action.
I have reached the final side of the hoarding - that is the side to my left or your right as you look in through the window.
I hear children watching out for my movements. They notice me more readily than grown-ups do. I perform for them - eager to please.
I think of the hoarding as a painting:
With this white I prime my canvas, setting the ground,
ensuring that the colours to come will bounce off it brightly.
This place is a mess!
A cacophony of colour.
Tangled piles and knots:
with cardboard coffee cups and midnight feast crumbs.
Downside-up and outside-in
I can't see the floor.
Up to my waist in quicksand,
I feel myself slipping under.
I am always alarmed at the rate in which such disorder creeps in - though it is not uncommon to me. In my own home a similar situation occurs in parallel: my wardrobe appears to have regurgitated itself all over my armchair and is (as I speak) overflowing onto the floor all around it, swamping books and shoes and half empty tea cups in its wake.
When creativity sets in domesticity jumps out of the window - despite even the very best of intentions.
With unchecked leaks a gentle trickle will inevitably become a heavy deluge in time... at which stage all preventative measures are useless!
The tipping point
Once exceeded all that is left is to hold on tight,
to weather the storm that seems intent both to dislodge and submerge you.
I find the ebb and flow of disorder quite normal. Maintaining a constant level of orderliness generally translates as having too much time on my hands.
Too much time on my hands is not the problem du jour, in fact it is the inverse of this that is true:
It appears I underestimated the time embedded in the white pile, it's diminishing mass was deceptive - a delusion. I hoped I might get through it last night but each time I got close to its end It somehow moved the finish line.
It is bottomless,
Its strands self replicate.
An infinite egg timer.
I wouldn't mind only I fear I am missing targets!
This 12,000 only a small proportion,
70,000 still wait in the wings
and only nine days remain.
I am, however, confident that TODAY WILL BE THE LAST DAY OF WHITE.
It has to be - though it saddens me to say it.
I want to savour these final hours, minutes, seconds with this, my pristine monochrome.
I need quietude, clarity, emptiness.
The flow of disorder must now ebb - it is only natural.
Despite the ever pressing pressure of time, I take time out to attend to the chaos.
I banish all piles of colour that have infiltrated and infected the chamber, I wasn't ready for them when they came and i'm still not sure i'm ready for them now. I want them out of my sight.
I remove all accumulated detritus;
All the infuriating miscellaneous 'bits' and 'stuff': vagabonds - they have no place here, or anywhere. I relegate them to a designated miscellaneous box which I place nonchalantly close to the rubbish bin.
With a fine tooth comb I go over and over the terrain, plucking resilient lone tentacles one by one as they cling fast with their suckers.
Having rediscovered the floor I sweep it until it gleams: not a grain of dust dulls its surface.
With this reduction the hoarding seems to gain in scale, gaining in status simultaneously.
Stripping back, I pair down to the bare minimal:
Block of white + ladder + tool.
I find myself inside a white cube, a disciplined machine.
Slicing off slabs with the side of my hand, I work quickly and efficiently.
No exaggerated movements.
I make an inaudible whirr: my mind shifting gear.
No longer drifting and dreaming I attune myself only to targets, objectives and the task at hand.
So focused had I become on the task at hand that the finishing of the white was a nonevent.
I neither celebrated its end nor commiserated its passing.
My mountain now floats in suspension: an emulsion.
A weft in the warp.
Without pausing to admire the white monolith in it's new formation, I continue on - into the unknown.
Curtains up : Act 2 - the second instalment.
The confidence and precision of my movements from this point belies the chasm of uncertainty that still wavers deep within me.
Despite the ever increasing opacity of the hoarding I feel exposed:
A performer unrehearsed
with a script as yet unwritten.
This is improvisation in real time.
A hoarding incites an action.
Subservient to that hoarding, I act upon it's silent prompts.
It's problem is writ loud and clear: it is a simple matter really - PERFORATION.
It is riddled with holes!
82,000 holes to be precise.
82,000 holes require filling
(this much is obvious.)
Although 12,000 of these are now sealed with white
70,000 still remain
A permeable membrane,
this hoarding leaves me vulnerable.
Now that the white has all gone I have a problem, for the hoarding may incite an action - but it gives no indication of design!
How am I to arrange the 47 colours that now confront me?
Seeking further instruction I address the hoarding directly - challenging it's intentions.
But the hoarding does not answer, pretending not to hear me.
Again I try: this time dropping the subject into conversation more casually - as though mentioning it in passing.
But the hoarding shuts down -
Gauging the sensitivity of this matter I skirt around it:
like a virtuoso
in an attempt to glean an inkling of the hoarding's secret persuasion.
But the hoarding responds not,
neither to my sympathetic whisper
nor my demanding command.
Even my DESPERATE PLEA
- the last tool in my arsenal-
falls on deaf ears.
Patient as I am, I can wait no longer!
Time is fading fast and I sense your awaited breath:
This awkward pause as I await my cue.
(I feel your discomfort as well as mine.)
Oh - if only I had a single colour to contend with!
Doubting the existence of a rational solution, I ponder the alternatives:
I could impose my own design upon the hoarding - am I not an artist after all?
Surely I could conjure a picture or a pattern:
zig- zags or
Or all of these at once - in glorious technicolour.
Would that suffice?
A mural would not be outside the remit of my ability.
Or I could fashion a symbol, a logo, a slogan -
or any other TRIVIA devoid of purpose!
No, no, no! It won't do.
These phoney surfaces - VENEERS.
All hot air and no substance.
I must find a more logical solution.
Changing tact I wonder if the answer resides in my hoard rather than the hoarding - perhaps I have been looking in the wrong place.
(I locate my clipboard.)
Looking over the inventory of the second instalment I note:
47 colours: two sizes.
Most colours in equal quantities: 6 bags in each size, 100 in a bag.
That's 1200 of most shades.
Some colours in dramatically larger quantities:
Robin's Egg Blue: 2800
Purple Violet: 2600
Pale Blue: 4400
These colours in excess: abundant.
In surplus supply.
Plenty enough for some samples - some tests.
Not the solution perhaps... but a starting point at least!
to tether my free-fall
and give form to my improv.
Retaining 6 bags of each colour in both sizes, so that an equal number of every colour remains, I prepare a palette - emptying my 'surplus' pigments directly onto the floor.
Testing the compatibility of the numerous hues I make tentative swatches at the periphery of the hoarding, using the colours as they come - direct from the tube - without mixing.
Starting at my bottom right (your left) I work my way left - along it's x axis.
My brushstrokes are square and even:
Red: 25 x 25 = 625
Pale Blue: 60 x 12 = 600
Pink: 15 x 12 = 180
Mocha Brown: 40 x 30 = 1200
Caribbean Blue 70 x 30 = 2100
I continue these swatches vertically, along the y axis:
Orange: 15 x 20 = 300
Robin's Egg Blue: 15 x 60 = 900
Yellow: 30 x 40 = 1200
Grey: 60 x 70 = 4200
My actions no longer feel subject to my emotions,
I run on auto pilot.
I no longer see the comings-and-goings of the street - opacity increasing with every strand that I input into the structure.
Behind this hoarding I feel outside of time -
I maintain only a distant sense of it.
Blocking out the outside world I withdraw deeper and deeper into my own.
It maybe that three days have passed.
My monochrome is dead.
It's Higher Power past - t'was but a fleeting state.
Surpassed? I think not
For it is survived only by a vague relation:
An eccentric uncle
- a bumbling fool!
Yet l I do not mourn, for this morning I am greeted as if by a family pet:
It clamoured for the door as my key turned in the lock,
Slobbering and jumping up, its tail waggling.
Panting and eyes bright
Slightly alarming in scale!
A friendly monster, hungry for affection.
It's shaggy pile demands stroking:
I drop to my knees obliging, and give it a good ol' tummy tickle.