An ABC of Relativity - B
In the second of a three-part series for the Journal of Wild Culture, artist and writer Hestia Peppe delves deeper into pile upon pile of things, each with their own place in the story.
(B) is sitting in an office chair that was reclaimed from the street by (D). It tips with every shift of his centre of gravity, listing backwards on its rocking axis or coasting along the floorboards. His hands roll cigarettes or reach for a can of cider periodically, keeping the chair in unsteady motion, his long legs just about anchoring his neither still nor quick frame.
The light in the room is the tired yellow of energy-saving lightbulbs, one of which hangs from the ceiling shielded by an immense cylindrical shade hung off-centre. Suspended from this is a bizarre florescence of maybe twenty champagne glasses; some broken, and all coated with dust and cigarette smoke. The second light source is a cheap chandelier-style fitting, not intended for energy-saving bulbs but fitted with several anyway – propped at the foot of three-deep vertiginous stacks of VHS on top of what must be some kind of coffee table but which is almost completely obscured. It has acquired a hexagonal shade, originally magnolia but now painted in an approximation of Tibetan colours; yellow, turquoise and red sunbursts glowing from its six faces. Everything is set at a precarious angle.
Normally, the unstable office chair is shunned and tucked away in a corner between the dining table by the front window, the cat’s travelling box and yet more improbable piles of VHS near the fireplace. Today however, the office chair has been pressed into use along with most of the other seats in the living room (all from the street) in order to accommodate three of the housemates and their four guests. Of the four guests, three were once incumbents themselves before plans and preference and possibilities took them elsewhere. Entirely by chance, of the original six who moved into the house over five years ago, only (C) is not present. Anxious that the auspiciousness of this unplanned convergence not be spoiled, the guest who we might once have called (E) – before she moved out, to be replaced by the current holder of that title, who, like the current (F), is also elsewhere this evening – dubs the fourth guest (C)’s representative. This former (E) is one of three figures sitting on the dark blue pleather sofa next to the fireplace, and is rather drunk.
The room is moderately large but crowded with objects. Double sash windows face the street, defended by pine-coloured wooden blinds and curtains that the absent (C) either made or found, though quite which is unclear. At the other end of the room French windows lead onto the darkened garden and an enormous bright orange matted festival blanket is rigged up as a curtain to keep out the cold. It does not entirely cover the glass. Pictures – also either found or made by (C) and/or (A) – cover the walls to the ceiling; framed, unframed and in various states of yellowing and curl.
Warhol’s flowers, squares by Albers, scrawls by Twombly and several works by that artist who makes huge tapestries (Boetti?) hang alongside laser prints of the work of mutual friends. (C)’s monstrous, melting-faced pen drawing of Joe DiMaggio hangs above the wing-backed and haggard brocade chair that the guest who was neither the last (F) nor the first to live here is seated in, to the right of the closed door to the corridor. She, like (B), is smoking a hand-rolled cigarette with liquorice papers and her head is thrown back as she laughs. What appears to be a framed commemorative portrait of a prize-winning truck looms next to DiMaggio above the house’s original (F), who is sitting in another wing-back next to his still-laughing and smoking second successor. A cheap Chinese appliqué wall-hanging in red and white with frogs and pandas and other, less identifiable creatures, hangs opposite, flanked by a child’s huge drawings on torn-off lining paper; on one side an aeroplane and on the other an electrical storm’s worth of lines.
Hanging on the back of the door is a print of a Madonna; delicate, perhaps a Botticelli, girl-like and translucent skinned, heat printed onto fibre board and colours fading in that bleached out blue-green heavy way that suggests the seventies. Another such heat-print – bigger, square, abstract and of unknown authorship but jokingly referred to as ‘The Kapoor’ – hangs over the semi-defunct but much decorated fireplace. Two Southeast Asian kites in a similar style to the wall hanging – a dragon and a butterfly that (A) bought in a jumble sale – glare fiercely at each other from either side of the room.
Along with the drunk and now somewhat sleepy one-time (E) are seated (D) and the guest who has never lived here but whose rare visit has been the catalyst for tonight’s unusual influx of previous occupants. He and (D) are discussing the possibility or otherwise of social relations without oppression.
(A) is sitting opposite (B) on a small green velour pouffe between the sofa and the wing-backed chairs, talking very fast with the second (F) about a mutual friend. Behind (A), to the left of the windows into the garden, blue-tacked to the side of an enormous wardrobe – which houses the television, yet more VHS and several rarely used games consoles – is a drawing of teepees dissolving into geometric abstraction that (A) made at about the time the first (E) and the second (F), to whom she is speaking, moved out.
As (A) lights a cigarette, the upper half of the darkened window behind her is filled suddenly with bright yellow, rushing past with a rhythmic, driving roar. No-one even slightly responds, except the cat, dozing on the radiator behind the wing-backs, whose ears instantly reorientate themselves. The trains pass three times an hour on the line overlooking the back garden, each time altering light and sound all over the house for about ten seconds. ‘First (E)’, original (F) and (B) in his office chair continue triangulating a loud, passionate conversation about Buffy the Vampire Slayer from their positions at three points around the circle. Every so often one or more of the three intersecting conversations drowns out the others, or someone’s focus shifts from one to another, changing the subjects of both. It will be five in the morning before anyone leaves to sleep.
In less than three months the room will be completely empty.
Read an ABC of Relativity - A
An ABC of Relativity - C will be published on Thursday, 17th 2012.