53 The meaning of a spotlight

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53   The meaning of a spotlight

In the early afternoon I take an affectionate leave of Pippa outside the Metropolitan, return to my room and dance around it for pleasure, during which Alaia knocks and enters. "You look happy," she observes. "Was it a liquid picnic?"

"You guessed it! So, at seven we're doing our next recording session for Big Bang, yes? And I get to lead you this time, because you led me yesterday." She nods. "I can't wait for it! Alaia, isn't this whole thing just a blast?"

"Yes it is. And we have time beforehand to watch your spokes-sheep material, with Rik and Evelyn. Fancy doing that? We could call and see if they want to watch it now—no, hold on. What am I saying? You and I finally have the chance to watch Sound & Vision now... We're the only two who still haven't seen it yet, remember?"

"Oh yeah!" We stare at each other with amusement.

She looks at the television in the corner, which I have never thought of turning on. "Wait," she says, disappears to her room and then returns with an unmarked black DVD case. "Rik gave me this, which is what went out on TV. And there's a DVD recorder under the TV. What are we waiting for?"

"I have no idea. OK, let's call Rik and Evelyn and fix a time to watch the spokes-sheep stuff later this afternoon. How long was the broadcast?"

"Well, we were one hour—remember?!—plus Rik said there's about ten minutes of stuff wrapped around that."

So Evelyn and Rik are called, an appointment is made for four-thirty, a "do not disturb" note is taped to my door, our phones are switched off, the curtains drawn, the DVD recorder turned on, the disc inserted, the TV set to drink from the recorder, the menu navigated and the "enter" button hovered over by Alaia's right index finger.

"Ready?" she asks. I nod. And we watch...

I realise straight away that this broadcast will make a strange juxtaposition, for me, with the drunken whimsy of the picnic I've just had. As soon as it begins I sober up fast, for it is no kind of mirthful viewing: not that it's entirely without flashes of implicit wit, but these are subtle rather than funny and in any case they must be engaged with on the broadcast's terms, not on the viewer's. The viewer is not in control of Sound & Vision at all—not even these two viewers, although we aren't ourselves actually hypnotised by it, knowing far too well how we achieved the effects we did. In this, my first "outsider's" viewing, I see more clearly that what my eyes achieved in the broadcast, aside from the scaring up of each viewer's own internal magic for them, was a selective but rich celebration of one viewpoint on this bizarre state we call being alive—my own viewpoint, as it happens, but representative of a multitude of viewpoints.

What can I say except that it is powerful and beautiful, we are blessed that it happened, I am grateful for it and shall die much the happier for knowing it was put out so widely. It is itself, in sum, and funnily enough there is not a hell of a lot for her and me to say about it to each other: most of what is to be said has been said already, either by us in what we presented, or just by the fact of its broadcast and reception. Quite what it means that such a specific set of idiosyncratic material from inside these particular two individuals was transmitted and consumed so globally, I'm not sure. I suspect it may mean nothing more than that with good fortune we managed to effect such global transmission and consumption for ourselves, in place of some other duo's effecting it for themselves. In other words its cultural meaning is a retrospective, simply historical one, rather than one deriving from any culturally prescriptive wisdom on our parts: it was these two who pulled that off by the method they did, and there it is.

We're both rather zonked by it, but we get it together to trundle unspeaking down the marble stairs at four-thirty ... and then with rather a jolt we are in the studio again, crashing back into the good-natured quotidian chit-chat of Evelyn and Rik. We didn't tell them earlier that we were going to watch Sound & Vision, and the prospect of mentioning it now seems superfluous, so we don't.

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