Bedtime Story Event
[Performed at Art Spectrum London, Alexandra Palace, August 2001. Thirty beds were laid out in rows, visitors laid on the beds, with their eyes closed, while being read the text below.]
Step outside reality. Imagination built upon experience.
Find a fine final statement to begin with.
Just look at the millions of variations within the framework of a human being, all around the city. Just think of the complex jungle of their lines of communication, each one knowing vaguely or intimately a number of similar human beings.
Just look. Just think.
And now abstraction. With something resembling red, not readily available, but hovering there, above your head. Your head. And only you. In your bed, there is the vaguely unreal room of whiteness, in the vaguely conscious state of knowing your mind is working a little, but it’s so slow and so tedious and difficult. Nothing flows, everything jerks.
Painfully, the plain unhappy situation combines with your new felt indifference, as you lay there. Yes things seem abstract to you now. And yes, this is impersonal, an account that is separate from you, yet all of this is difficult to separate and difficult to account for. Yes.
Your eyes ache. They ache even more when they’re open and there are faces, near, and a new looking window, look at it, look through it, looking onto the city, onto people, onto the houses; look at life, look at your past life: it hurts you to look. And you shut your eyes. And try to remember those vague shapes that you’ve just, barely seen. Your eyes. Your compromise.
What has gone has gone. What has happened has happened. To you. And for ever. Here you are, sandwiched now and only now, between life and death. There was life and life was there: there was love and love was there. Somewhere. Perhaps and doubt. Now you doubt. And you can hardly move yourself.
There is a logical reason for perhaps everything, or so it half seems to you right now, but your brain is working, but not really as you would like it to, it is laced with a curtain, an almost inexplicable indifference, which you would like to question and perhaps you would like to fight it. But you lay still, and your thoughts revolve around you and your body, which hardly exists, and you cannot feel now.
The greyness spreads itself out beyond your closed eyes, painfully scraping your eyes, and pressing so hard on your head. You open your eyes again, everything is so light and so bright, glaring in. Such finely detached and ugly rays, piercing and forcing your eyes to narrow, voices are there in front of you, people as well, and that window. Aren’t you quite high up now? Over the city.
Your head can move. You can move, slightly, from side to side, just slightly. You are breathing in and air is coming in and out of you, but you always appear to be sinking, hoops of nothing surround, whistle round you; you remain something, fighting inside your head for sense.
When your eyes open again, yet again, you see rich blue curtains, reflecting light, reflecting on the complicated pattern of diamonds, formed by those lines, and below that another pattern and it’s all too completed for your mind, which threatens to explode, and you shut your eyes.
Start again, work on your brain, control yourself. Your control. What do you know? What is known? You’re never so tired, never too tired, you’re never as tired as you’d like. Never.
Your thoughts are forming again. You know something. There is memory. But things only happen in a certain way once. And never again. And never again will that childhood come again, yet somehow you feel so much like a child again, the circle has been turned; you are a child again.
The circle has turned but you know – even now – you know now that you cannot go back, you can only turn round once. Only once.
Once upon a time. You know that things were once clearer. Clear yourself, clear your brain, know yourself, again, now.
Your breathing is so familiar; you know that it once seemed automatic, now you can really notice it – if you want: now you will try to take nothing for granted. Nothing for granted.
You know no time now. There is no time now. There is no time for you now. Things are happening, or not happening, it does not matter. Now you know that time does not matter. Now you know.
Where is emotion and excitement for you now? Now. What were they? They are words, yet what do they signify? Past. The past. Past happenings, and you can only remember what you know you want to remember, you not only have to know but also to know of. You know that you should know certain things, but it’s all so very vague. All things are. So very vague.
Slow and fast mean nothing to you now. You need what’s gone before, but you don’t know why, you still grasp for some understanding of future. This spinning fit is your grave, you are sinking, spiralling, down, down, your thoughts hurt, your eyes hurt; you have a tongue.
Suddenly a tongue. And speech. Yes, you think in words, you can speak words. Yes you can speak. Say something! But you say nothing; you remain quite separate from those voices that are so near to you – and even somehow familiar – you find that you remain separate.
Things, all things, being far away and near to you, taking nothing, feeling nothing, round and about nothing, bringing nothing, feeling nothing, round and about nothing, now you feel so near to nothing, barely separate from nothing, just you and your tongue and your breathing between you and nothing.
Noticing things. Noticing noise as well as voices: you’re noticing sounds, rumblings, you are still aware, you have to be conscious even now. Clear yourself, clear your brain: now. You must avoid nothingness.
It’s so easy for you to sink, and so difficult for you to stop yourself sinking. For you. Your brain is so tediously pumping other thoughts forward, and you know that you have to know more. You know, you know, you know. You know that your eyes are out of focus, now that you have them open again. Blurred masses of bright, too bright, too light drenching colour; that window is clearer and other buildings below. Below.
It’s a flat, steady bed, holding you. It’s so easy really. Holding you. Holding on. You know that things were once important, but you can’t remember what things. Somehow you just think you know. Somehow.
Your distant brain is what you are, is what separates you from nothing. And the stillness of your position is disturbed by a very slight, quite quiet, shivering, quivering of your head. Your almost round head.
You have a past and you have learned the various degrees of imperfection to which everything belongs. But then your thoughts become green and insipid, they ooze out of you, into nothing again, as you lie so still. And you stop shivering. Everything is so still.
The extent of your separation is terminated by those voices, which determine you are hearing things right now. You can hear things. Other things. You know. There is a connection. You know.
In your mouth, on your tongue, there is saliva, and it has been running down your face for a long time. And now you realise. It has been running down your cheeks, and onto your neck and now you can feel it, but you cannot feel your body.
Your state is still real, but you cannot feel your body, for you seem to have no body. It is all so strange, so strange, so strange, so strange, so strange, so strange.
Perhaps there’s been some knocking, you realise it now that it’s stopped, and perhaps a door is closing, you realise it now, you know of things now, as they happen. You are all right. You need nothing and you need do nothing. Nothing. Whatever once pleased you doesn’t any more, everything is breaking up into countless, aimless bits, forever mingling, like red stars, all around you.
Instil in your brain even more clarity. Just think of the various variations within the context off a human being. You are a human being. You are. This uncertain binding of your horizons goes, around and through all the voices and the swaying. You can’t feel excitement, you can’t feel shock now. Not now.
As your eyes open again, yet again, in front of them appears memory, it’s so quick and familiar, yet gone so quickly, too quickly for you. It’s gone too quickly to remember, but there, before your forehead, is the answer, it hovers in front of you and you grasp for it, but you cannot reach it. Your eyes are firmly shut, you feel your breath swaying with your spinning body, you feel a little, but so little.
And then comes the surreal. For the various sizes of various things are out of proportion with what you know – more than you don’t know – that they should be, all out of proportion with each other, as you very briefly open your eyes, shut them again, alternating, desperately trying to stop yourself sinking. Your optimum colour becomes an optical pink, your dreams are retrospective and surrealist.
Submerge and emerge, submerge and emerge, you consistently alternate, your eyes opening and closing as you breathe and breathe and breathe. You cannot point towards the point of anything, you have no starting point, the point is lost, there is no point.
Pointing towards nothing.
You don’t think that you care less about anything, you hardly think. But you do think. You can think. You are thinking.
Think more. Think more clearly. This is a bed, and where is your body? This is your head. What is this throbbing pain? It’s a gentle, quiet pain, changing in intensity. You must recognise things. What things?
You seem to be going down an invisible pit, and around you invisible forces are fighting. Your conscious is fighting your unconscious. And you have to lie there, sink there and try to think. There. Invisible.
Unseen, invisible sounds knock at you, yet again; everything is happening again and again, going on again and again. Again. And you try to gain more clarity. But all your thoughts seem to be the same thoughts, and nothing seems to separate them for you – not now.
Now and not forever you lie, your mechanical breathing being all you know right now. Right now.
You don’t seem to be spinning any more, now, just swaying gently, continually, starting from your forehead; your own forehead seems to be start of everything for you now.
Your teeth feel so weak and your tongue so lethargic; you must right yourself, try to make a noise, you must try to speak. But you don’t, instead you have been sinking lower and lower by erratic, throbbing degrees.
Your whole face hurts, in patches of pain, uneven pain. And cannot move, you are too weak. The vagueness of your thoughts is definitely related to your breathing, which seems to condition your whole pattern of thought. And your thoughts are clearer when you are breathing in. But you cannot always be breathing in. Not always.
All those eyes are staring at you, but you cannot finalise your thoughts, any end is arbitrary. And the monotony continues, as you spin. And you are spinning round and round and round, on and on, continually, round and round and round. Clear yourself, again. Open your eyes. You are still around.
All of the nose is always there; always there for you to hear, and things are becoming much clearer now. Just look at all those eyes, all above you. Above you. Staring at you.
And there is your son. You know it is now, and you always knew it was, it was just you didn’t know you knew. But now you do know. And now you know that everyone is there because of you. And you can speak, above the sounds.
‘Hello,’ you say out loud, but not very loud. ‘How do you feel?’
‘I feel dizzy,’ you say.
And you can speak, and you do speak. And you realise that of course you are dying, here, now, everyone is here because of you, because you are dying. And speaking seems so stupid to you now, so ordinary, so mundane; all your senses give you such a limited point of view, everyone here is: they are all so limited.
And so you start to leave them, glad to leave them, as you float away, still breathing, still lying still. So very vague.
You are going, floating, drifting. You are hearing nothing now, and almost knowing nothing. You are approaching nothing, nearing nothing, wanting nothing, so very near to nothing.
Everything ends in nothing. Everything ends. Abstraction ends, the tedium ends, the narrative ends, the pain ends, your life ends. Your eyes are still open, someone closes them. Another life ends and another day ends. Just another life. Just another day.