It is 4:45pm on 27th December, 2012.
I am inside an immersive kinetic installation. There are lasers, lenses, smoke, pendulums and cameras. Spectroscopy and molecules, an optical harmonica.
Dave has become Andrews&Lynch. He introduces me to “Becs”. Richard is also here and tells me he’d like me to meet “Becky”. I’m not sure if they are the same person… it is dark and there’s a lot of smoke.
I am melancholy. Earlier that day I started counselling sessions. This girl, she broke my heart three times in just one year. I need revival, a new phase. I love to watch Dave work. I’m grateful to be amongst friends.
It is 6th September, 2014.
I am in Linz, at the Ars Electronica Center. Here for the festival, I’m looking for Steve. We live in the same town, but travel to festivals in Austin and Austria to hang out. Becs was coincidentally on Steve’s flight and is tagging along.
Steve disappears. Becs and I spend the afternoon exploring the Höhenrausch and OÖ Kulturquartier together. We talk about religion, art, synthetic realities, love and loss. Back home, she is going to show me around Liverpool, I’ll introduce her to Leeds. She is Jew-ish, I am Muslim-ish.
You can only say “I feel like I’ve known you for years” to someone you have not known for years. Am I in an Austrian mashup of Before Sunrise and Lost In Translation? We’re not on a train to Vienna, but my American friend Rich is there and is taking the train to Linz tommorow.
We find a piece uncomfortably similiar to Phase Revival. I convince her Andrews&Lynch should reform and enter their work for the next festival. Becs agrees, but is evasive about why her partnership with Dave ended.
We find Steve and my colleague Joanne and head to the waterfront for the evening’s Sparkasse OÖ Klangwolke, a cheesy-weird floating fireworks display. Jo succeeded Steve as curator of Leeds Light Night, but they have never met. She is surprised that I only met Becs a few hours ago. Jo tells me she thought we were old friends.
Becs asks if my camera can capture the omnipresent scent of dog turd. I tell her that the smell is so powerful, that’ll it’ll just be encoded somewhere. We all wind up at Cubus, atop the Ars Electronica centre for dinner. Becs thinks Steve’s son Oscar looks like Thor, on account of his muscular frame and heroic hair. But Oscar doesn’t have a magic hammer.
It is 7th September, 2014
Rich is on his way. I haven’t seen him since 2009, the last time I was in California. He now lives with his son in Vienna.
Becs, Rich and I spend the afternoon exploring the CyberArts exhibition and giggle at the name of the nearby Kunstmuseum. Becs tells me about a device she has for capturing the volumetric data from a singer’s lungs. I tell her we’d love to bring our VR skills to visualise that data.
I make Rich tell Becs about his ‘sex maps’ — we’re both too British to not be prudish at his geography of conquests.
It is 3rd October, 2014.
I’m meeting Becs in City Hall, for the opening of Light Night Leeds. Everything hurts. I’m recovering from a bad cycling accident. Becs laughs and is unsympathetic when I explain what happened; a suicide squirrel ran through my front wheel…
I have to help out with a performance and leave her to explore on her own. We keep missing each other throughout the rest of the night, but catchup long enough to consumate a Light Night marriage with a pair of glow sticks.
It is 14th March, 2015
I am once again a component in one of Dave’s artworks. Wetware, hardware, software… my soul is a software object. Dave is mind-mining –extracting my brainwaves with a Neurosky headset and using them to direct a live performance. An old flame is in the crowd too. I miss her.
Becs introduces me to Mike and comes backstage after the show, wanting to try on the headset. I jack her in, but her data is flatlining. We both wonder if souls can be defibrillated.
It is 19th March, 2015
We are at the Hepworth Wakefield. I drove into the back of somebody trying to get here early.
I’ve persuaded Becs to join the latest edition of a creative labs programme I’ve been comissioned to work on. The cohort for this edition is a playlist of some of my favourite people. I talk to them about Deep Hanging Out & Human Infrastructure.
I’ve paired Becs with a mathematician, an artist and a student.
I encourage them to play for a few weeks, hoping that their frictions and collisions yield interesting ideas.
It is 4th June, 2015
Becs, Paul, Alex and John have together conceived Porous Assets, exploring what it means for a gallery to be a non-prescriptive experience.
They’ve crafted an audio tour of the gallery, with recordings from residents of the city. They are subverting official narratives. The gallery is somewhat nervous. I like that. It’s exactly the kind of disruption we’d hoped for.
They began with a fractious dynamic, but came away with much respect for each other. Alchemy, chemistry, curiosity and conversation is their real product. This is the first time I’ve worked with Becs.
It is 6th November, 2015
I’m meeting Becs at La Bottega Milanese. Their sicilian donuts are only available on a Friday and I need a treat. The report I’m writing isn’t going well and interviewing Becs is a part of it.
She’s upset and thought I wanted to talk to her about a work opportunity. I did want to see if she’d like to collaborate on designing some VR experiences with her theatrical talent.
She doesn’t look well. Underweight. We talk about depression, counselling and our hopes and fears.
She wants to hang out some more, but I need to sleep. I’ve been up all night writing and am exhausted.
I’ll never see Becs again.
It is 4th January, 2016
Beloved Chums! Unbelievably I turn 38 this weekend! I know it doesn’t seem possible as I am still a teenager in chin and spirit. Please come and celebrate on Sat 9th with booze and food from 7pm. Partners welcome of course! Love Becs (who will transition straight from adolescence to menopause without the usual interlude. But Not Quite Yet) PS My grown up husband will be cooking so don’t worry.
It is 10th January, 2016
Shanaz calls me to ask me if I know what’s happened. I don’t. But I know what’s coming… I should have stayed with her that evening. And I wish I’d replied to her birthday text earlier.
I’m with my friend Zsolt, waiting for news. It comes.
I think about Dave and Andrews&Lynch — I call him. I’m not sure how to have the conversation or how much he already knows.
I’m starting to realise, people I thought were close to Becs actually thought I was. Turns out, none of us really know her.
I’m in denial, like our schedules are just out of whack and we’ll eventually catchup. I’m heartbroken, she was the most interesting friend I’d made in a long while.
Her death opens a pathway for me. A path back to faith, back to Islam. After many years I return to prayer. Five times each day.
It is 7th October, 2016
Its Light Night again. For an hour, I’ll be manning Phase Revival with Richard. I was supposed to be paired with another, but the Hand Of Dave intervened and we’re right back at the beginning of this story. The effects of phase and oscillation have looped Richard and I around again to December 2012… or October 2014. Richard, Becky, Becs, Rich?
We are inside an immersive kinetic installation. There are lasers, lenses, smoke, pendulums and cameras. Spectroscopy and molecules, an optical harmonica.
I’m glad Richard is here. Becs is gone and now Becky too; they weren’t the same person. It is dark again and my turn to help him.
I am happy. There’s a girl here. With her, my life is entering a new phase, a revival. I’m grateful to be amongst friends.
There’s a different pair of us taking over the show every hour tonight. We’ve all held some fragment of Becs and this feels like, together, we’re approximating and aggregating some shared sense of what she meant to us.
My friendship with Becs is episodic… ten days and ten episodes is all we got. But HBO can mount an epic in ten shows and that’s what this friendship feels like; a miniseries cancelled before its time, but with unwritten narratives and fanfics that surface new possibilities. Like tonight.
Gravity, light, phases, oscillations, kinetics, spectroscopy, molecules… Hidden patterns and structures are being revealed as time elapses. All of reality and a fraction of Becs is somewhere in this simple structure.