Java House, 31st March 2019, 6:45pm.
A conversation is about to take place. Tomorrow everything will be different, said Liam.
With City Island erupting from London’s lard, mud and muscle, we gather in this place, not quite an island itself but not the city either. On this peninsula, where factory workers, drivers and engineers once gathered, we now eat, sweat and sleep, snuggled in the crooks of Bow Creek. Right next door, on Limmo peninsula, birds, toads and others breed feed.
I’d like to have seen this place when it was still a mess, maybe. Maybe we’d have played together. From what I hear it was PURA factories and parties. The setting sun delivers one last golden night. The question this evening is what do we do tomorrow?
To the sound of Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny, guests begin to take a seat.
In this bare room the wooden round table seems more welcoming. I observe Nicholas, frowning as he realises the Isla Negra Merlot is a screw cap rather
than a cork bottle. The cheap, red metal cap and its cheap red metal skirt are boring. They peel too easily. The manufacturer’s cost-efficient attempt to mimic the traditional capsule of a wine bottle is a skeuomorphic deceit that has its consequences. No more anticipation around the twists and pulls of a corkscrew. No more loud pop when the weathered cork is plucked from its glass neck.
And no more testing; just straight pouring.
The funny thing about East London is that it’s always been a spiritual home for a lot of cultures, said Gavin.
There has been and always will be a lot going on here. To squint too hard at the future isn’t healthy. But to cling to the past is to mythologise, and we all agree we have enough on our plate right now.
Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted island, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit, said Helen.
Yes, I can’t agree more. I want to pack up and leave. Who can afford to live here, let alone be an artist. For a worrier, these are dark days.
7pm reminder: Fertilior seges est alieno semper in arvo, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. Don’t forget this you fool!
As I was saying, I spend too much time defining myself in opposition to others. I’m not selfish, I’m not lonely, I don’t want Brexit. I mean I... i...
– Hell is the other, interrupted Jean. The haunting echoes of Johnny’s steel guitar bounced off the concrete walls, the missing lyrics adding to the sense of nostalgia.
It’s well known. If you could just hide, isolate yourself and be free of the Look, then, my friend, you could be your true self. But be careful of what you wish for. Just ask Old Blighty or Bob Maitland or that twat Robinson Crusoe. Wasn’t it Bob who proclaimed I am the island?
Is Bobba here tonight?
Non, replied Nicholas. He iz not. But I am. And this is what I have to say. Your island is surrounded by water, and not unnaturally its inhabitants are affected by the nature of the element in which they live. Unsubstantial fantasies slide
easily into their minds. They think their dreams to be visions, and their visions to be divine. We cannot blame them, for such is the nature of their land. I have often noticed that the English are greater dreamers than the French.
Ah! coughed Akutagawa, that reminds me of an amusing irony to Napoleon’s life, if you’ll indulge me. While still a student, Napoleon had written on the last page of his geography book: “St Helena. Small island.” This may have been what we call a coincidence, but the thought must certainly have aroused terror in him in his last days!
At this point everyone laughed and for a moment all was best in the best of worlds.
Chris Rawcliffe is a visual artist and curator. He founded Project/Number in 2010 and is currently artistic director at Forma