As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I did the unthinkable; I turned traitor. Yes, folks, I broke my solemn vow, taken at the end of 2009, to never again work for anyone else – and I got a real job.
Well, kind of.
In my defence I’d like to say that, firstly, I thought it was a voluntary position when I applied for it, and secondly – they’re paying me a shitload of cash for the privilege!
Now, you could be forgiven for wondering, just what it is that I do at this job.
As it happens, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.
I’ve been working on the show for three weeks so far, and I still haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. But it does seem to involve a lot of rice.
Basically, I’ve been hired to be part of the art installation ‘Of All The People In All The World’, created by British theatre company Stan’s Café. Quite how I landed a job as an artist is a matter of debate. I’d just like to point out that at no point was I required to sleep with anyone. For any reason. Unfortunately.
So this is what happens: we use one grain of rice to represent one person (whether it be you, the Prime Minister, or Michael Jackson). Then we build up piles of rice to show off different numbers – the population of Australia, for example, is represented by a large mound containing twenty-two million grains of rice!
It’s very nearly as big as the pile representing all the registered gamers of World of Warcraft…
It’s this kind of juxtaposition of different statistics which makes the show what it is. Once you can see a hundred million of something in one place – and with a grain of rice in your hand as ‘you’ for comparison purposes – you can actually understand something about the scale of these numbers. Otherwise, I find any number containing a big string of zeroes to be a sort of abstract concept. I hear it, on the news for example: ten million people… blah blah blah… and I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds like a lot.” But without the ability to visualise it, a number that big doesn’t really have much meaning to me. Now, after not only seeing ten million grains of rice in one place, but actually counting the damn stuff out – I can fully appreciate how big these numbers are.
I can honestly say – they’re really, really big.
Maybe even bigger.
So, I pour rice. I started off by carrying and stacking sacks of it (which weighed 25kg each) – in assorted pyramid shapes to form the largest piles of the exhibition. It was bloody hard work, and I sweated so much I decided to wear underpants the following day. So it didn’t look quite so much like I’d pissed my pants, y’see.
And no, I didn’t count them one at a time…
I counted the bags though. 348 of the buggers! And one trip to the chiropractor, to get my spine to bend the right way again afterwards. It’s been through so much, it’s got more kinks than my Dad’s CD collection.
Anyway. With the stacking and the pouring mostly taken care of, my job has devolved to that of a sweeper. I constantly roam the piles, seeking out dust and dirt to remove (as no-one wants to get a face full of fluff when they crouch down to appreciate the number of people who had plastic surgery last year).
I hunt spiders; I talk to the public, explaining why they would benefit from spending half the day staring at huge piles of rice. I occasionally caution a bad-mannered child, or tackle a drunk who is convinced that underneath our rice is the only place he can hide from the government helicopters…
But most of all, I walk around and around the hall, approaching pile after glistening pile of rice – and sweeping away all the pubic hairs.
Yes! Where the hell do they come from? Well, to be honest I’d rather not know. But someone is distributing them, fairly evenly, around the entire exhibition – day after day after day! They’re short, black and curly (the hairs, I mean) – and any more than that, I shall not say.
Other than to wonder – to marvel, really – at how this can possibly happen, in the middle of a wide-open public space, without anyone noticing.
But if you’re reading this, and it’s you that’s doing it – please, please bugger off! Or at least, go trim yourself in the privacy of your own home. And dispose of the evidence in a similar fashion.
Because I don’t care what anyone says – it’s just not art.
I also remove footprints from the otherwise pristine white paper on which the rice piles are placed. No-one ever walks on it while I’m looking, but every bugger in the place must be tap-dancing on the stuff as soon as my back is turned, given how many footprints I get rid of every day. For this task I use my trusty eraser – and I can honestly say I haven’t done so much rubbing out since I worked as an assassin for the British government.
What? No, I mean… um, let’s just forget I said that.
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We (by this I mean, my fellow pube-sweepers and I) get asked a variety of questions each day, but there are some that crop up fairly regularly. Like: “What do you do with the rice afterwards?”
The answer, of course, is that giant betentacled robots descend from the heavens and annihilate it with bolts of pure anti-rice from their navel-lasers. Oh, but we get to eat any bits that they miss.
We also get asked, “Has anyone ever taken a running jump into the rice?”
The answer, of course, is “No, of course no-ooOOOOOOOOO!”
Because a four-year-old child had chosen that precise moment to do just that.
And so, out came the brushes.
Luckily enough he didn’t dive head-first – because, as I have a habit of pointing out to people considering it, rice is actually quite dense. Not to mention, most of the piles are cunningly constructed from those fully-packed 25kg sacks, with just enough loose rice drizzled over the top to maintain the illusion. So, diving into one of our piles is rather similar to diving into a large pile of bricks.
But no damage this time. Other than to the OAP population of Europe, which took a beating… I’ve never seen pensioners move so fast. The culprit survived with a vicious tongue-lashing from his mother. His friend, nearby, was distinctly unimpressed.
Working on the show has also given me chance to ponder many of the more sobering statistics we showcase. Like how each day, nearly twice as many people are born in the world as die in it – making it disturbingly obvious just where the our population is headed.
And then there’s the positives; like when weighing out 3,327 grams of rice to represent the planet’s 200,000-person population increase since yesterday (scary, eh?!) – I had a ‘YES!’ moment.
I opened a sack and tipped a load onto the scales – only to get it exactly right, to the grain! In one go!
I looked around in excitement for someone to share my triumph with – only to discover that no-one was watching.
And even if they had been, they still wouldn’t give a shit.
But it made me very happy nonetheless.
And on that note, I shall leave you with a couple more pictures of Megan Fox naked. No? Really? Sorry, my mistake. That’ll be more pictures of piles of rice then… you lucky, lucky people!
And please, use the comments box to exercise your very best rice-based puns, because I hear so few of them. Go on – I dare you!
Dunno if you can make this one out, but it’s a fascinating insight into the nature of religion in Australia. In that, the sixth largest religion (according to the Census) – is Jedi. Both Roo and I are in that pile…
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