Notes from Quarantine

Having left London on one of the last regular flights to the island of Madeira, where my elderly mother resides, we were, as the authorities required, in quarantine. The following is a record of ranging thoughts over fourteen days.

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Illustration from Ignatius Donnelly’s Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883)

Day 1

London’s a city where one’s constantly hectored by announcements while travelling on public transport, mind this, mind that, but now in the thick of a pandemic … silence.

I’ve often thought the UK a cynical mix of hyperbolic safety guff and rank indifference to social ills, more a case of indemnification against liability than giving even a rat’s arse, nevertheless, this is stupefying. Passing through an eerily empty Gatwick not one intercom regarding the virus, just a few posters; no testing, either, this, 16 March, being the early days of the government’s dilettantish theory about “herd immunity”. My partner overhears a hushed conversation by management types near one of the duty-free shops: “I can’t speak about it,” one of the suits alarmed says under his breath, “but it’s spreading!” …


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Christopher

Goodness, three years ago now Christopher Rodrigues and I worked non-stop on this project below. We were skint and nigh homeless. (We still are!)

Anyway, we didn’t find the backing we needed and have since crossed continents looking for opportunities.

It would be a shame if this work, dealing with the Great Financial Crisis, didn’t see the light of day. So, I’m deciding to publish it here. Who knows how timing works?

⤷ Anatomy Of An Unrealised Project

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The Sleep of Goldman — 3D Render

The following is a proposal for an exhibition dealing with the Great Financial Crisis provisionally entitled: “TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHT …” Regarding its material finish and scale it remains a work in progress as we must cut our coat according to our cloth. Gráinne McHugh and I, collaborating as Gail Luis, initially conceived of bronzes, but acrylic and polished concrete also recommend themselves, so does ceramic — Gráinne’s primary medium.


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The world no longer cares about South Africa the way it used to

The accordion melody of an erstwhile Basotho miner, Forere Motloheloa, is the first act of Paul Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland. It’s dense, melliferous, and steadfastly sticky. By the time Simon comes in we’re approaching one of the defining albums of the decade.

“It was a slow day / And the sun was beating / On the soldiers by the side of the road.”

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The struggle against apartheid counted in its ranks great musical virtuosos — Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Stevie Wonder — but Graceland was unique. It was transcendently humanitarian in a way that straight-up political songs weren’t. Against the grain, not least breaking the UN-approved cultural boycott by recording in Johannesburg, a famous singer-songwriter and a number of South African artists, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo (then unknown outside of the country), sang about archangels, shoes, and trampolines. American music reunited with its African roots and in the melange, notwithstanding the brutality of apartheid, the world was turned on to the bittersweet reality that life could still eclipse suffering. The overlaying of absurdist pop lyrics on top of township rhythms — unthinkable in today’s PC climate — was of the same skein as old-fashioned heroes like Frederick Douglass: “The soul that is within me [Graceland was saying] no man can degrade.” …


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sometimes

i put images down

like stepping-stones

on a blank page

it’s a matter of survival

otherwise i would fall into nothing


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I Am Collective : South African National Reserve Bank

It will be hard for some, when he eventually dies, to brook any criticism of the man

“Happy is the country that has no history” is a proverb attributed to the French philosopher Montesquieu. In 1994, South Africa – up until then a synonym for backwardness and brutality – was reborn as a democracy. A new epoch dawned. A promised land beckoned. And the man who had come to embody that hope was inaugurated as president. As Nelson Mandela concluded his address on May 10, everything was just as it should be: “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa! Thank you.”

Nineteen years later, the dream is spent. The country is somewhere east of Eden – where Cain was exiled after he slew his brother in a field. Mandela’s would-be legacy – democracy, reconciliation and reverence for children – is upside down. Authoritarianism, resentment and abuse – not to mention corruption, profiteering and poverty – loom large. Life remains cheap; state violence still resounds. …


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From Post-Crime to Pre-Crime

Even though an American is four times more likely to be killed by lightning, there’s no greater bogeyman in the Anglo-American body politic than the homicidal terrorist. It beggars belief that something so statistically insignificant (it has been suggested that the odds of death at the hands of a jihadist, or the like, is one-in-20 million) has been manipulated to trump fundamental freedoms – not just in the US, but globally.

No matter that salt, sugar and fat contribute to a one-in-467 chance of dying from heart disease, or that, approximately, ten times the number of people that died in 9-11 are slain annually as a result of gun violence — it’s counter-terrorism that sets the real agenda. Its counter-laws (laws that repeal the rule of law) have been used to explain away indefinite detention, extrajudicial assassinations and torture – sure signs of a tyrannical order. …


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Peter van Straten’s “The Intellectuals”

Astronomy, Bill Hicks and Rush Hour Traffic

The astronomer Fred Hoyle once observed: “Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” Which is to say it’s twelve hours nearer to us than Cape Town is to Johannesburg.

Imagine such a perpendicular journey:

100km above sea level we cross the Karman line — the defined frontier between our atmosphere and outer space.

You can breathe because such is your imagination. …

About

Christopher Rodrigues

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