Sunday, 29 January 2012

Packing the Van

Why tell these stories now? Why tell these stories again?

Stock-piling books, DVDs, comics, articles and music to take with me on tour. Stuff that's been on the to-read/watch list for months, some stuff bought especially. Touring luxuries.

Getting a bit done on the next two shows - moving them forward, conceptually and logistically, to a point where they can rest for a month until the latter half of the tour releases the head-space to pick them up again.

Checking the words are still there. Or rather, the stories. Discovering, as usual, on talking-to-myself walks to work that the words are still there - but the numbers aren't. Going back to the text to check dates and quantities.

Going back, too, to the wider research from making the show. Refilling my head with the stuff that is there in the show as spice and flavour, or (to push a metaphor) as stock, rather than as a main, visible, ingredient.

Planning workshops, talks, screenings and schedules. Getting my hair cut.

Asking myself, why tell these stories again, now? Remembering what first grabbed me about this stuff when Jorge told the first three stories. What made me want to tell these stories and find more of them. Thinking about how this project meant we had to look for bad stories, and the awkward contradiction of feeling pleased when we found them.

The What I Heard About The World project has been active in various forms, on various platforms, for almost two years now. That's pretty good service. Why tell these stories again?

I remember being sent a link to a story about a Korean couple who let their three-month old baby die because they were spending so much time playing an online game called Prius, in which they had to look after a (fantasy, magical) child. I thought simultaneously, (as a maker) brilliant, and (as a parent, as a person)...just...well, I don't know. Shock, disgust, disbelief. Anger, in fact.

I've been remembering that this contradiction is one of the things the show is about. It's about how we use stories. How we fit them in to our own agenda. At about the same time a similarly horrific and tragic story occurred in Sheffield - but not with the game element, and not, obviously, taking place in Korea. It seemed to me at the time - and a more recent internet search seems to confirm this - that whilst the Sheffield story was in the papers, it wasn't as widely reported as the story of the Korean family.

We like a good story. We like to repeat a great story - and to be brutal, the Korean baby and the computer game is a great story - partly because of the game, and partly because of where it happened. Korea. And as Chris says in the show,
...the thing about Korea, is, it's a very long way away. I mean, not if you live in Japan, but it's a long way away from the UK.
And, as Chris wrote to me just now, of course comparatively few of us have been to Korea. But we know it's part of our world. It has to exist, because we've heard of it. It's indisputably out there. We can watch its news. We can youtube its game shows and buy its exports. But for most of us, the place itself is just a series of facts, of anecdotes, without the balancing force of direct experience.  

I'm thinking about how, on one level, these stories of stand-ins are metaphors; their subject matter reflects the job they do as we carry them in our heads - as a stand-in for knowledge. As a substitute for understanding what it's actually like. Not that all the stories are as dark as the Korean story by any means - some of the stories in the show are ridiculous to the point of being almost unbelievable. A series of fakes, carefully crafted to let us believe we see the real thing.

They're a great stories. They suit our purposes. So we'll tell them again.

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