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Para-Phrase: Theo Simpson & Christopher Eperjesi
Apr 18, 2017 - Christopher Eperjesi
‘In the near future – corporate networks reach out to the stars, electrons and light flow throughout the universe. The advance of computerisation, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.’
Ghost in the Shell, 1995, Mamoru Oshii
Days prior to the awards ceremony for his Peace Prize in Nuclear Physics, a celebrated academic develops a painless groin hernia. He is almost certain it was caused when reluctantly assisting in a colleague’s office relocation. The bulge is soft enough to be gently eased back into his abdomen, but reoccurs during hard coughing bouts. He cannot easily trace the source of his dogged cough, so also places blame on his co-worker.
While driving to call in on his ageing mother, he thinks how worn and brittle the woods now look. As if one were driving through a burial ground. The two aren’t close. She is an alarmist and hypochondriac, so recently moved to a new suburban gated community for safety and security. They discuss his failures as a son as he subtly pushes on the now tender and bulbous hernia.
Sintra Bronte was born in Trinidad, but became the face of a 1972 Jamaican Tourist Board promotional poster. Bronte is seen emerging out of crystal waters. Her hair is smooth and slick. Clinging to her body is a wet, semi-opaque, bright orange t-shirt, with the word ‘JAMAICA’ accurately printed across her chest.
Often, I wonder what was going through the minds of Doyle Dane and Bernbach executives, the New York-based advertising agency who devised this campaign. There are a lot of beautiful people in Jamaica, so why pick a woman from Trinidad? She is particularly engaging. So engaging there is a luxury yacht named after her, a thoroughbred racehorse and an elegant Swiss wristwatch.
We do, after all, live in a highly excited state of overstimulation. Avatars have become talented at winning human trust and loyalty. Images of beautiful women are reliable, so are rendered landscapes, both can be used to sell anything.
I wonder what would happen if you stare at Bronte for long enough and then look at a blank wall? If you blink your eyelids a couple of times she should appear in your vision.
Q: ‘What would happen if you gathered all of the nuclear weapons on earth, some fifty thousand warheads each averaging the explosive power of one hundred thousand tons on TNT, put them on the moon, and blew them up?’
A: ‘Even if the devices were arranged for maximum effect, the result would be a scar on the surface almost invisible to the naked eye on earth. We tend to misinterpret the threat these weapons pose to the fragile life on earth as extreme mechanical ability. This mistake, coupled with the casual relationship to the moon still coloured by its perceived size, yields distorted responses.’
Kipnis, Jeffrey. “Moonmark.” Assemblage, No. 16 (December 1991): 7-13
Broadcast live across all TV networks, authorities raid a diplomat’s office to seize fake paracetamol, antibiotics, vitamins and sexual enhancement pills.
DIPLOMAT and PRESS OFFICER contemplate the news coverage in a nearby hotel suite. They commit to erase their laptop hard drives and destroy their mobile phones. They then decide to re-enact a moment from Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus. DIPLOMAT playing Orphée and PRESS OFFICER as Heurtebise travel through a mirrored gateway into the underworld where they linger until the debacle blows over.
FADE TO BLACK
Shopping with his youngest daughter, at his newly opened super-mall, Elysian Fields Plaza, is a malcontent and longsighted architect. Between trite conversations, he ponders nearly all of his profound existential fears.
He now sees his outcome as an elaborately shameful pageant hall to house the exploiters and exploited, the milked and the milkers, the manipulators and the manipulated. He notes where every human and every machine are working to a particular specification.
(Of course, mistakes happen. Things can be inaccurate or defective. It’s the law of averages. Maybe it’s something that won’t matter, but, you know, it could be vital.)
An internal mirrored pyramid dominates the central atrium. As they circulate up the synthetic superlattice of levels, he cannot help mining the repressed and sordid enclaves of his mind. Humming along to the tannoy melody, his small daughter glances up with a sort of malign – told you so – look across her face. Unsettled, his grip cardinally tightens on the toddler reins as he repossesses some of the lax cord.
(Bloody hell, it’s obvious, if two bodies come into collision their density and inertness determine the outcome. Thus spawning this ceremoniously rotting heap, a decoy operation to gag some sort of discord. Systematically kettling and operating the deception of terror, the speculation and ploys of seduction.)
Cottoning on to his cognitive and untempered evaluations, he struggles to draw a line in his internal dialogue. As to no longer be possessed by them, he consecrates his secrets. They retreat back through the obstacles of revolving doors to the parking lot, pledging never to waver from concrete thought again.
On numerous beaches across the Torrid Zone, locations that sit within the latitude lines discussed as the Tropic of Cancer (23°26′13.4″ N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23°26′13.4″ S), coupled residents, holidaymakers and honeymooners often stand barefoot and look out over a setting or rising sun. Post-dinner, on an undisclosed sanded shoreline, this penultimate act occurred;
LOVER ONE tenderly purrs into the ear of LOVER TWO:
“Baby, we can do all the things you want to do . . .”
LOVER TWO, without disturbing a vacant gaze across the water, impassively responds:
“Is that a promise?”
LOVER ONE reassures: “I promise.”
Noticeable to a passer-by is a look of concern and unease in the eyes of LOVER TWO.
LOVER TWO gradually becomes aware that the right thing for you is actually, sometimes, the wrong or seemingly immoral thing. Occasionally, the right thing to do isn’t very nice. But, how it can make it seem better and how it can make you feel good.
Our guidebook didn’t cite any precise location. Sufficient to say, the longer I followed the seemingly arbitrary signage and guiding arrows, our encounter with the monument had become summarised in the futile hunt of the monument.
This is very specific, but, I remember hearing about a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Black Christ at the Basilica of Esquipulas, Guatemala. Worshipers travel to the isolated hilltop shrine from across Central America to offer prayers. Traveling such distances, on a route that once snaked through undulating terrain and steep crags, is impressive. And pilgrims often ended the trek crawling on their knees. Local people lay down mats along the path. Some even had their eyes blindfolded as they head towards the holy precinct. I suppose at the end the blindfold is taken off summoning some sort of hallowed acuity.
Thanks to the Pan-American Highway it is now simple. Air-conditioned tourist buses probably take you to the top. Not as commendable. I suppose there are vendors of bottled water just in case you are parched. Security guards keep the crowds from touching and prevent sightseers lingering in doorways.
Anyway, our search led to a Neolithic monument temporarily closed for conservation. Seething is a good word to narrate the blanket emotion upon our discovery. I looked at them with a lack of credence. Such sentiments would have been just after an uphill, blindfolded pilgrimage on all-fours, but certainly not a downhill wander. We even got an iced coffee on route. As calmness returned for a moment in between our gripes, I became conscious that I was going to be the baby thrown out with the bathwater.
Para-phrase is an online project that commissions pairings of images and text, where a photographer is invited to submit images and a writer is invited to respond to the selection. It offers a platform for exchanges and responses between artists, writers, and curators whose work produces and promotes the discipline of lens-based media. Para-phrase draws on the multiplicity of artistic processes and aims to encourage their exchange. It supports a wide range of voices from an expanding network of practitioners open to collaboration and exchange and shows that the outcome reflects the many, varied approaches of how to interpret both image and text. Both the acts of writing and photographing attempt to interpret the world, to decipher the symbols, figures, data, complexities of our respective realities.
Theo Simpson’s collective works reflect on mythical themes relating to landscape and industrial heritage, investigating the instability of the post-industrial landscape and its cultural and physical borders, through the examination of materials, ruins, objects and experiences encountered and created.
Christopher Eperjesi (b. 1992) is a curator and writer based in London and Glasgow.