"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

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"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Saturday, 22 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 11: Art and Science

It was the last week of the Fringe Festival, which meant my last opportunity to see shows I'd never seen before. I spent days scanning the Fringe guide looking for something unique. Hmm... There's a show here called Relatively Speaking, a musical about the work of Albert Einstein... Queen Zeppelin, a nostalgic look back at the music of two of England's biggest musical exports... Ooh, Silent Disco! Where everyone only hears music through there own headphones and anyone looking in from the outside thinks you're a dancing lunatic!
"But hang on..." I thought. "Isn't the whole point of this challenge to open yourself up to things you wouldn't normally do?" I'd go to a silent disco with or without a challenge and Queen and Led Zeppelin are smack bang in the middle of my musical tastes. Keep looking.

Further on I saw Vivaldi: His Masterpieces and thought "That's more like it!" But I'm not sure how easy it would be to write a good blog about it. Then I reached the Visual Arts section of the guide and it hit me. "An art exhibition!" I read out all of the descriptions for the different exhibitions to Jerida. I managed to narrow it down to three options for her: What? - a literal interpretation of popular phrases and sayings that we've long forgotten; Collideascope - What happens when bold colours are clashed and thrown back at you; and Adoorable - a collection of doors of all varieties and what they mean in our lives. Jerida rolled her eyes and said "Whatever, just as long as I don't have to pay." After some pushing she decided she wanted to see Adoorable the most. I decided What? was my favourite. We called up our friend Jason and asked if he wanted to come and he said "Yeah, that Collideascope one sounds interesting." So we had three different people voting for three different exhibitions. We decided to just meet him at his house and decide there.

We got to Jason's house and as he made us lunch we started discussing the options Jason began with 'Ok, so who voted for what?'
'I voted for What?,' I replied.
Then Jerida shouted 'Who's on first?' and we laughed and laughed at just how monumentally lame we are.

We realized that Adoorable was too far away to drive and it would be almost closed by the time we got there, so eventually we decided on Collideascope. We jumped in the car and set a course for... the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital? They have art galleries there now? Whatever, it's close and we're running out of time. We got to the hospital and began the unexpected task of trying to find the place. The listing in the Fringe guide simply said "Gallery A" The map on the wall didn't show any Gallery A. It took us 15 minutes to find it. You know why? Because Gallery A wasn't a gallery. It was just a corridor between buildings with a few paintings along it. Oh well, we're here now. Let's check it out.

The paintings were all by an artist called Tracy Vandepeer. They looked like Aboriginal paintings, which hadn't been alluded to in the guide. The three of us had fun trying to interpret each painting ourselves like real art people before consulting the descriptions next to them. For the first one we had pretty much nothing. We had no idea how to interpret this series of dots, lines and circles. But as we moved down the corridor, we got better and better until by the end we were pretty much nailing it. I've got here some photos of the paintings next to their descriptions. See if you can do better than us...

We nailed this one. We figured that the four colours represented the elements and that people needed to come together to protect the Earth.

This one was a little bit harder. I deduced that this was some sort of spirit of mischief (an Aboriginal Loki) and that the shadow behind him was his dark aura. I was half right about the shadow I guess. I was the only one who picked out that he had three sets of eyes.

My first guess at this one was spot on, but as we kept speculating, we got further away from the truth.
That's us admiring a painting...

It took us 20 minutes to see 7 paintings. So when we got to the end we looked at each other and said "Do you want to go see What?" So we got back in the car and made our way to the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Stepney. Now in my mind, art exhibitions had always been in dedicated galleries. I had no idea that an artist's works could go up for display in just any old venue that would have them. It took me two goes to learn that lesson. In hindsight, the name "Wheatsheaf Hotel" should have tipped us off. But we happily plodded along thinking this would be a proper art exhibition like we'd imagined it.


It was a pub with photos hanging on two of the walls. We had to kind of navigate our way around the patrons like dorks, being the only people who were actually there for the art. The photos did look nice though. It was just as the listing in the guide had suggested, with photographic interpretations of weird sayings. Multiple artists had contributed to it and they each had there own way of doing it. One of them had decided to concentrate on sayings that involved horses and each of her pictures featured someone wearing a horse's head mask and doing human things. One was "Get Off Your High Horse" and featured the horse-human sitting in front of a couple of lines of coke. Another was "Hung Like a Horse" and the horse was doing chin-ups.

These are the first four.

Aren't they pretty?

It took us ten minutes to do that one before finally giving up and grabbing a drink. He hung around and chatted for a while and then dropped Jason off home.

But it wasn't the end of the day for Jerida and myself. I had a Fringe voucher that I'd gotten for Christmas and still hadn't used, so we decided to check out the Einstein: Relatively Speaking show. All we new about it was that it would have music, comedy and Einstein, presumably all at the same time. We got to the venue and were greeted by the man himself - a tall, thin man speaking in a German accent, shaking everyone's hand and excitedly saying 'Hello, I'm Albert! Nice to meet you!' Once we were all seated, he began his "lecture on theoretical physics". Here, interspersed with a few songs, Albert broke down some very complex ideas into very simple and palatable demonstrations. For the first one, he began talking about the speed of objects. He brought two people out from the crowd who had arrived a bit late to be his volunteers. He put them on opposite sides of the room and told them that they'd demonstrate "inertial reference frame" by using the age-old institution of "courting".

'So let's pretend Darren wants to have relations with Alicia,' Albert said. The two were clearly already a couple. 'What could he do to achieve that?' Suggestions came out from the audience, but Albert stopped them and said 'No no no. There is one vital action that Darren must first take if he wants to "get it on" with her.' It eventually clicked for someone in the crowd, who said
'Walk to her!'
'A-ha! Yes Darren, we will get you to walk over to Alicia in order to try and get it on with her. Please walk to the other side of the room at the average human walking speed of four kilometers and hour.'
So he did. But just before he got there, Albert stopped him and said
'Uh uh, not yet. We don't want you to finish prematurely. Go back to your starting position. Now let's assume that Alicia is just as eager to get it on with Darren as he is with her. She must also walk towards him. So can both of you walk towards each other at four kilometers an hour.' They did, and there was laughter as they both met in the middle and awkwardly tried to figure out what to do next. Eventually Albert put a stopped to it. 'Well done. Now here's where inertial reference frame comes in. From Darren's point of view, how fast was Alicia approaching him?'
'Eight kilometers an hour!' Yelled someone from the front row and Albert said
'Yes! This man has just performed a complex mathematical equation we like to call "four plus four". Now let's assume that Darren is REALLY eager to get it on with Alicia - which is not hard to imagine because Alicia is pretty and Darren is a man - He's going to walk towards her at eight kilometers per hour while Alicia will remain at four and this time they're going to meet and we will see what happens.' They walked towards each other and met on one side of the room. There was more awkward staring and then they lightly kissed and the crowd cheered.
'Well done, so from Darren's point of view, how fast were he and Alicia approaching? That's right twelve kilometers an hour. Thank you for your assistance, you may sit down.'

So then he continued. 'But that's what happens on a very small scale. What about when two beams of light are travelling towards each other? As we know, nothing can go faster than the 300 million meters per second that light puts out. So to demonstrate what happens here, we will need two more volunteers.

One girl volunteered straight away. Props to her, because everyone else was too nervous to do so. Albert spent a good minute trying to look for a male to accompany her on the stage. The whole time Jerida was nudging me to put my hand up and I eventually gave in. I put my hand up and got asked to come out the front to the the crowd's applause. He put us in the same positions that the previous volunteers had been.

'Now as we all know, this is 1918, so we're in the middle of the great war. Michael has been a soldier in the war, so we need something to represent that. We're not allowed to have guns in here, so we'll have to use this,' and he pulls out a plastic light saber from behind his desk. 'There you go, you can hold that. And if you press this button, it makes sound effects.' I pressed it and the who room heard the sound of a light saber extending.

'Now Michael and Brenda are lovers, but Michael's been off at war, so they miss each other terribly. Luckily, Michael's been given leave, so they will be reunited what do you think will happen when he returns home?' My arm was just hanging at my side at this point, which meant the light saber I was holding was at about crotch level. When Albert asked the question, I tilted my wrist up about 45 degrees and hit the sound effect button, indicating something quite crude.

I like to think I got the biggest laugh of the night. Jerida might recall differently, but even doing stand-up, it's rare to hear a crowd laughing so hard it hits you like a wall. I felt pretty smug after that.

I can't really remember much of the science that went on after that. We had to run really fast on the spot for a while while he explained more concepts and I can't remember why. I think we were representing two objects going at light speed. Then when we started running towards each other, we had to do it in slow motion to represent how time slows down the closer you get to light-speed. So there I was running in slow motion towards this stranger trying to figure out what I'd do when we met in the middle. Would I give her a hug? Would I grab her hands and jump up and down? Would I stab her with the light saber? We got to the middle and Brenda threw herself backwards and fell to the floor, indicating... I don't know, that we'd come together with such force that she'd bounced off me? The audience gave very surprised laughter at that, and even Albert didn't quite know what to make of it, but it was endearing and we got a big applause when we went back to our seats.

The play continued and we got into bigger and more important moments in Albert's career. It got funnier and funnier right up until the moment the atomic bombs exploded. Then it actually got quite serious and sad as we watched him deal with the consequences of his life's work. It ended with him dying and reminding us that what made him such an important figure in history - it wasn't that he was smarter than anyone else, it was that he stuck with problems longer. Don't worry, he didn't leave us in a state of despair, everyone was smiling when they left. I went home and did a bit more reading on the subject and decided I still just can't get my head around E=MC2.

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