I had my last walk back from Campus today with Ridley attached. I was exhausted, there is part of me that is incredibly relieved that it all ends tomorrow; however there is also another that is despondent to the idea. Ridley has become part of my life in these 2 weeks and although he has caused me pain and slowed down time, he still feels a genuine part of myself. In rehearsal today, as I was deciding the best way that I should take him off, I could feel myself starting to release a lot of emotional stress and relief, but also a sense loss. The majority of the people around me have been incredibly supportive and I am extremely thankful for this. Stranger's reactions and support have been positive and the publicity has, at times, been overwhelming. Ridley represents all these reactions and feelings. Is to lose Ridley, losing all of this? I have got used to people staring, pointing and even laughing at me as I walk from place to place. These have become the norm and a small part of me does not want this to end. These two weeks have really started to feel like a journey; it seems an age ago when I first walked out of the Aphra and immediately tripped over, a lot has changed in my attitude towards Ridley and the project since then. He is no longer a puppet, he is something that has shaped and lead my identity and life. We have begun to understand one another in terms of everyday practicalities. The process, however, does feels like it is naturally needing to draw to an end. There are major parts of the construction that are feeling the pressure of the weight of Ridley, being under constant strain throughout the day. Likewise my bruises and sores from the constant friction when walking have started to become a problem. In under 24hours it will be over, and a new chapter of Ridley's "life" begins.
I have reached the stage of resentment for Ridley. I am in constant discomfort. My shoulders are tender, my legs are not in a good way and walking up the hill to campus is becoming almost unachievable. Ridley is a burden that no longer holds the sense of unity, even when we are fully attached together. We are used to having objects around us making our lives easier and having practical uses: Ridley is none of these things. Even his persona is starting to fade when manipulating him. This is an affect of my physical state, I am lacking the energy in rehearsals to push the puppetry and in everyday life I am starting to loose this altogether. My posture is slipping which means Ridley's follows, making him slip down, knees bent. The piece of metal that supports his hips has also bent so they are dragged down by the weight of the legs, making everything harder. I feel like I am nearing the wall with Ridley, but if it comes before Wednesday I hopefully will be able to break through.
This exhaustion has bred other negative thoughts. In rehearsal, for the performance on Wednesday in which Ridley will be removed, it no longer felt like a celebration of Ridley's life, more of a relief it is finally coming off. This comes from a part of myself that Ridley is absent from, not one that Ridley likes. After this we went to feed the ducks today, which I thought could be quite fun and insightful into Ridley's attitude towards other living creatures, aside from humans. Although he found them intriguing he was greatly put off them as they did not like Ridley. They were scared, not coming very close and running away at the slightest movement. It feels like no living thing will accept him, perhaps this is because he is the dead amongst the living.
Cameras have had a constant presence throughout the process. Ridley's life has been documented through video and through this he has accepted and appears very comfortable in front of cameras. He has started to acknowledge the camera and started playing up to it; he now appreciates it as an audience. There seems a strange parallel between the taxidermy animals and Ridley's attitude to the camera, both being forms of documenting. As the animal has no choice (being dead) to remain still locked in its form of documentation, Ridley also feels that he is partially a slave to the camera. He has begun to want to be fully animated not infront of the camera with privacy. This comes from a drive to be more than documentation: a survival instinct. To form parts of his existence without the camera, so that he can hold onto them after the project.
As I am doing less pshyical activities in front of the camera with Ridley, I have started to feel that he feels neglected a little. We have rarely been fully attached over the past few days and I think this is grating on both of us. Without the feeling of unity and purpose of full manipulation, Ridley is becoming more of a burden. Today in rehearsals Ridley took the lead and this was the most comfortable I had felt in days; it was almost a relief for Ridley to move freely again. This effect of the absence of Ridley's manipulation demonstrates the bond we have created; it was a pleasure fully manipulating him today and this will be missed.
I have really started to feel the physical strain. Whilst walking, the legs of Ridley are wearing away at mine. Alongside this soreness is the limitation of constantly having to wear a coat when out of the house. It heavily restricts my ability to sit comfortable or just relax. Even though it is not hugely thick that extra layer brings forth possibility for new levels of discomfort. I am starting to feel a little trapped at times at Ridley.
Rehearsals have started for the conclusion performance, which is taking the form of Ridley leading. He has found a way to communicate and plans on directly addressing the audience. It is a celebration and an important event in his "life" but he does not believe it to be the end; more of a suspended animation. We have also started reading a book called Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Kent near Canterbury and puppet shows are prominent. I did know of the book until people started asking me about it. It is written in a strange English dialect which forces the reader to slow down and change their approach. This experience is similar to that of mine and Ridley's. He has forced me to slow down, lower my expectations of time...an uncanny coincidence.
I am at the halfway mark of the process and the biggest thing that plays on my mind is clothes. Dressing Ridley was a hard, long and slightly disturbing process. I had to take the feet off Ridley to get the trousers on and this was an uncomfortable experience. It felt like I was amputating a limb as I struck the bolt to try and loosen it. Once the feet were off, the stumps of the legs seemed ugly and deformed. It felt better after they had been put back on and I initially liked Ridley clothed, this soon changed...and so begins a battle of wills.
I feel Ridley loves his clothes he enjoys the sense of fitting into the sea of people. I have had people mistake Ridley for a real human at a distance, only to recognize their mistake once closer. The clothes allow Ridley a renewed sense of belonging and also a bazar sense independence. The presence of pockets have also thrown up the question of belongings. Ridley now has the ability to keep things on his person, to carry small items and feel that they belong to him. At the moment the only item he had carried is my wallet...something that is mine. He is still yet to find something that he calls his own, and that he can fit into his pocket.
Here is the conflict, I think very little of the clothes. They make operation of Ridley a lot harder than it previously was and the extra weight is almost unbearable. I think they look a little ridiculous and Ridley wearing them is a bit of a gimmick, one of which I would avoid. This is the first time Ridley and I have disagreed over something. I want the clothes to go however there is an overwhelming sense that Ridley wants to keep them. Only time will tell who wins this; a compromise has to be reached.
Another trip into Canterbury city centre prompted another day of confusion and discovery. We visited a charity shop as Ridley had a desire to be clothed. I think this comes from the issue of acceptance and to try something new. Adapting the clothes to fit could prove to be difficult but that is to be seen. I have found Ridley's wood exterior to be a natural guise for him to be in. I have not felt the need to clothe him until this point. I think it will make for an interesting change to discover how this will effect his movement and behaviour. His exterior form will be similar to the rest of us and this may change my and others attitudes towards him. I see him as an alien object which I have have begun to accept and learned to live with. At times however there is a real sense of unity when manipulating him and the introduction of clothes may disrupt this. Wood was a personal choice, and to cover it saddens me a little.
We also went to The Beaney (a museum and library in Canterbury), here Ridley witnessed taxidermy animals and globes of the world. I'm not sure what the staff made of Ridley peering into the shining plastic eyes of a dead fox. Introducing once alive creatures that were now still and lifeless provoked the issue of mortality. A human's death is measured biologically, but the same can not be applied to Ridley His form could be claimed as immortal as he could be stored and kept whole, however the potencial to hold forms of "life" would only remain. Once no-one applies "life" to him he ceases to hold it. Thoughts turned to after these two weeks and what will be his fate. The conclusion performance on the 20th Ridley will be removed from my body, is this his death? The fact that he was never biologically alive changes the perception of death. Biologically he is dead, yet he moves and has his own persona; these belong to the people's perceptions, which forms the base of Ridley's "life".
As I have previously mentioned that once at home I do not feel the need to animate Ridley. This has provoked unique reactions from some of the people I live with: they do not see "Ridley" but just the materials that form his shape. They never witness him moving fully they only see him as an inconvenience that holds no other character. It demonstrates how people can react to the same object differently when exposed to it in different ways. This also highlights the "life" Ridley holds and the impossible thread from which it is hanging from.
The physical strain of living with Ridley is starting to show and we are both starting the feel the effects. Small minor repairs have started to become necessary to keep Ridley working properly. Luckily there has been nothing major only the turn of a screw, glueing or bending something back into shape. I have also started to bruise: thighs and knees and taking a battering whilst I am sitting and walking with the feet up. There is a sense that we are both feeling the pressure, which makes it easier to live with.
The weather has turned a lot colder and being caught waiting for a bus whilst being haled upon is not a good feeling. Once in Canterbury City centre Ridley and I visited the Dane John Gardens. Here Ridley was let loose, and by this I mean fully attached, to roam the gardens. This was the beginning of an uncanny day. Exploring the trees and evergreen plants Ridley started making sense of the natural world in relation to himself. As the puppeteer to this, I found the process of manipulation incredibly natural. The persona of Ridley, that is formed from out of myself, came very easily and almost rebounded the other way: I found myself smiling at Ridley's reactions and surprising myself.
After this we visited the Canterbury Tales tourist attraction. The purpose of this visit was to bring Ridley into a false world. The attraction takes the form of different scenes populated by life size model characters. Audio recordings and lighting leads you through different rooms as you make your way from "Rochester" to "Canterbury", being told different tales on the way. In this world there are no real people, only false statues and the feeling that nothing is authentic. It is a world which Ridley belongs to, inanimate objects. The reaction of Ridley to this world was at first one of uncertainty. Confusion over these still, human shaped objects. Through these he began to realise the reality of himself, as he discovered false flames and false people the truth of him being part of this group swelled, or rather this was born out of the growing impossibility of the project. Ridley is an animated inanimate object and this paradox has served as an interesting experience for the both of us. He "lives" only in the minds of myself and the people around me. Other people see his "life" through movement. I have a different relationship: I do not need the movement to reconfirm this "life". Through living with Ridley I have accepted his paradox and he holds "life" as an object even when he is hanging off me as a "dead" object. It is longer any dead object it is "Ridley" and all the experiences we have shared together. I do not feel, I need to animate him fully when I am at home, however when in public there is a strong sense to display his "life" and to tempt people into seeing this, for example: when people show an interest in Ridley there is an automatic drive to start animating him, a need for performance. This manifests from Ridley being a performing object, he was built to perform; suspend reality for an audience and appear with uncanny life.
I feel like I have started to settle into a routine and almost the worst is behind me, but that is to be seen...
I have started to notice a pattern of highs and lows throughout the day, in terms of the my feelings towards Ridley. In the mornings - showering, getting dressed - is the low point in, the sheer effort of doing these ordinary tasks is exhausting As the day moves on however things start to change. I become more positive as we begin to move around together. I have begun to understand that "together" is a complex term...There are different modes in which I find myself resorting to. The first is the "puppeteer/manipulator", I do everything through Ridley. We are fully attached, my hands are his. There is a sense of unity and real enjoyment from myself and the object infront of me. In this mode we are one front and that is Ridley, he interacts with the world and I guide him there. The second mode is a state of uncertainty, usually not every part of Ridley is attached to myself. The front of us is unclear. Ridley's head is down but his presence is still lingers. People around us acknowledge him and a state of limbo manifests through whether I interact with or without Ridley. The third is one of complete disregard for Ridley. I interact with people as myself, I do things as myself and Ridley becomes that dead weight, only having a physical material presence, which I have written about in the previous blogs. This usually happens at home when I'm trying to get things done as efficiently as possible, which is not always easy.
The third mode does not happen in public. The performer in me keeps a sense of theatricalisation about the object in front of me: I want to keep it "alive". I have had some great reactions to Ridley also today, some don't really know what to make of it, some amazed, some don't understand and others think it is absurd. All valid, all interesting. The large majority seem to be intrigued by Ridley but see the documentation camera and immediately back away. I feel like Ridley wants interaction and to be excepted, this drive I think coming from my instinct as a social being, him being my creation and me living through him.
Finishing this entry is a simple yet a fantastic and uplifting event! We managed a walk (with my feet attached to his) across campus from the Jarman building to the Grimmond without falling and only tripping once! From this pont in the day Ridley and I's bond grew and we had some successful filming in the Library and in the University's campus shop.
The rain is testing Ridley's construction but just rolls off the wood, which is a relief but not overly surprising as similar results happen in the shower. At one point his head did fill with water...but a little shake and it was fine. Tomorrow Ridley and I are spending a day indoors at home and with forecasts of snow in a few days...things might start to look a little tricky.
It has been a day of firsts today. First shower, first sleep, first day-light public, first cooking of a meal. Through these activities we have been in a constant state of flux; one activity needs 3 of the many straps, and then another needs 2 completely different ones. This never ending cycle of clipping and strapping becomes tiresome, and Ridley begins to feel like a dead weight.
Living through Ridley and having him at the forefront of everything is feeling like an infringement of my freedom. It dictates what I do and how I do something. I am not use to putting something so reliant on myself first. Their are moments when I resent Ridley for this, however coupling these are always moments when I feel a sense of affection and bond to him. As I walk within public areas, with the feet and head attached there is a strong sense of unity and togetherness; making this journey. However in the evening we sat and watched a film, in which I was able to comfortably sit and relax with Ridley slumbed over, at this point his presence is gone. He is a dead weight, no unity, an inconvenience.
This constant change throughout the day is dictating my feelings at this point in time. Even this blog is changing through 'we' 'I' 'him', something of which I am still unsure about settling on.
The launch performance went well, thank you to everyone that came and supported us. The object and I think that it was suitable "birth". After this, however, things did not go so well. After leaving the Aphra we walked about 100 yards tripped and fell flat on our faces...not a smooth start. Walking across campus was a nightmare, we stumbled every other step. Clearly this is not going to be easy. Eventually I had to carry its legs so to make it a realistic possibility to even make it across campus. Walking is something that will need practice and hopefully be improved upon.
Once at home things were equally frustrating, everything takes such a long time to do. My whole pattern of living had to be adapted, slowing everything down. I have started to realise I cannot expect to get done things in the same time scale. Cooking dinner, going to the toilet etc. all seem like events. Hopefully with over time I will get used to this pace, or learn to quicken up. Its almost like I am very old, every activity can take a long time and even small routines are time consuming and physically draining.
The object and I sat down and looked through websites to choose a name. After much searching we found the name Ridley, which we were immediately attracted to; it means "from a cleared wood". This name has stuck. It was a lifting moment naming Ridley, all the previous moments of frustration seemed to less poignant. In my experience naming an object strengths your bond to it, giving it a name seems to make it more human or at least gives it more significance.
Tomorrow Ridley and I have a couple of exciting prospects...with possibilities of video interviews...we shall see.