Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Glass Head

It happened just before the recession hit I seem to recall. A scientist called Frances Burden had been doing some experiments with objects to try and animate them. Her research had of course drawn ridicule from at least six universities before, a wealthy relative died and left her a considerable fortune.

Frances decided instantly to continue her research, which had stalled somewhat and began to make some progress. A small point but perhaps a crucial one was that she did not consider either what her research was for or what the results might be. She built a conical body for her first object and within the body placed a highly sophisticated computer. On the top of this body, she placed a Glass Head.

Now the house she had inherited was very old and it seems fair to say that one reason the wealthy relative had died was an approach to science that was somewhat exclusive. For while it may be true that humans evolved it is equally true that other species have evolved beyond the knowledge or science of human beings. These types of species the older and more uneducated folk used to call the Fair Folk, the Old Ones, the Little People or the Faeries. They had been in that old house for centuries, watching the humans come and go. Each generation of humans had fascinated the faeries and Frances was as fascinating in her own way as the previous humans had been.

When Frances went to bed that night, she little thought of what damage she might have wrought, even without knowing. The faeries, got into the object's computer and fitted themselves within it's software. But it was uncomfortable for them and they left it. Instead they got up a similar conical form, only being faeries, they used twigs and feathers and the like on top of theirs. It seems that when they had left Frances' object they had left a little of their own magick within the computer.

Frances was surprised when she found the door to her laboratory open and the object missing. She believed quite reasonably that it had been stolen and called the police. The police were unimpressed until she described it.

"Doctor Burden, you had better come to the shopping centre instantly. Your object is causing some distress among the shoppers and a member of our armed unit is threatening to shoot it," the duty officer told her sternly.

Frances rushed down to the shopping centre instantly to find the object followed a little slower by the faeries object between the escalators. Her object with it's glass head suddenly began to hum. Then bright colours were emitted, straight up into the high central atrium of the centre. People watching were dazzled and amazed. Then the object stopped sending out colours and after a little while, images began to form within the glass head. Then sounds were heard, indistinct at first but gradually clear and beautiful. The officer with his gun lowered his weapon and smiled.

"Keep me covered boys," he told his fellow officers and he went down the escalator to the object removing his cap.

Frances followed him cautiously, she was sure that she had nothing to do with what the object was doing and she decided halfway down the escalators that if she could get close enough she would switch off the computer. The officer got there first and the object turned to face him, the images in the glass head of trees and flowers and small streams.

"Can I help you?" the officer asked the object.

"Who am I?" the object asked him in return.

The officer turned to glance at Frances who strode up to the object. She was about to speak when the officer frowned at her. He had a good idea what she might say and did not want her to upset the object. She frowned right back at him and said firmly,

"You are an object I made with for my research into the animation of objects. There is a computer inside you for a brain. If I switch the computer off and back on again, you will cease to exist."

The object considered this then turned to the officer again.

"Please don't let her switch me off. This is a fascinating place."

Frances made a dart for the panel to open the object, but the officer stopped her.

"You idiot. You've created an artificial life and now you want to switch it off?" he hissed.

"I didn't make it live, the computer doesn't do that. It's just there to monitor the experiment and where did the other one come from?" she snapped back.

The object suddenly ran out of magick and stopped altogether. Frances was so relieved that she went looking for a hardware shop so she could buy an axe and stop the nightmare of this event. When she returned, people were shopping as usual and the object was gone. The officer had taken it home to see if it's 'life' would return. It never did. Such was the episode of the Glass Head.


madameshawshank said...

The police officer removing his cap..I do like that scene Griffin!

Oh how you've taken us to a place..artificial life..methinks there's many such stuff already created by the lab rats of the world..methinks we'd be shocked to our toes if we knew what was a happenin'..come to think of it..Griffin, your story has come to life!

as for the wondrous pieces..they live at the Art Gallery of New South Wales..each time I visit I'm drawn to them..there's one with a massive lead book as head..

it's amazing that what looks like papier mache is actually painted bronze..I'd love to meet Anselm Kiefer!

the glass cubed one represents Hypatia, a mathematician ..brutally murdered in 415 by Christian zealots..zealots are often drawn to murder :-)

her broken arms..further reference to her end...

a little info:Anselm Kiefer (born 1945)
(Left to right) Myrtis painted bronze, lead 144 x 133 x 128 cm
Hypatia painted bronze, glass, iron, ash 202 x 118 x 117 cm
Candidia painted bronze, iron 177 x 130 x 125 cm
From the series Women of antiquity 2002

Born in 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany, Anselm Kiefer is regarded as one of the most important and influential artists working today. Since the early 1970s his work has evolved from a formative interest in expressing the fascism of Germany to reflecting history through mythology, wide-ranging materials, and the language of iconography.

A recurring interest in Kiefer’s recent work is the treatment many mythologies have handed out to women, particularly women whose strength and intelligence have been seen as unruly or cause for demonisation. In Women of antiquity, he portrays Candida, Myrtis and Hypatia, three women who came to a bad end by competing with men. Each is identified through a key attribute: a lead book in place of her head identifies Myrtis, a Greek poet blamed for competing with Pindar; a glass Melancholia cube represents Hypatia, an Alexandrine philosopher who was brutally murdered in sectarian unrest in 415 CE; and a rusting mass of razor wire signifies Candidia, a Roman witch who wove vipers through her dishevelled hair.

Griffin said...

Ahem... and me an art historian too! I didn't realise it was Kiefer!!! Tho' I have heard of him. I didn't know about Hypatia either. Had I known about Candidia/a I would have thought of snaky-locked Medusa.

I tried to turn the symbols around - so the usually gun-happy police officer is the one who appreciates the new life and not the creator.

A tricky one this and I'm not entirely sure I've managed it. But there it is.

madameshawshank said...

The officer asking "Can I help you?" What an image..with his cap in his thinking of that as a scene in a film..who could play the officer? Griffin, who can you imagine? Older or younger actor..

Methinks symbols enjoyed being turned around..otherwise they become stuck in their symbolism :-) 'n we can't have that now can we!

Griffin said...

I was thinking of the actor who played the gung ho SWAT chief in Hill Street Blues. He would be good.

madameshawshank said...

ah..James Sikking! Lt Howard Hunter

'n G, thanks for taking me back to the wonders of that series..I used to watch Hill Street Blues as the dry earth absorbs rain...'n to think it was 1981!!!!! so far ahead of its time it isn't even funny..

so..James S it is...forever removing his cap :-)