Curious machines overheard from the flat above disharmony mall

Saturday 18th October

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Greetings from Mumbai. We’re jetlagged, hungover and dying of heat. Hello.

  1. Jojo is asleep on the sofa, which is the most fortified position in the house being both under the ceiling fan, next to the plug-in mosquito repeller, and with a rotating fan by her feet.
  2. Tom is next door, laying out various complicated looking bits of machinery on the bed – home-made microphones, mixing desk, loop pedals and the new sampler, which has a lot of buttons and lights up in satisfying colours.
  3. I’ve just cut a lot of my hair off and had my second cold shower of the day and applied deodorant for the 4th time. I’m pretty sure I’m smelly again already. It’s 1pm.

It feels difficult in this heat – I think it’s about 40 degrees – and this newness and this cultureshock and this meeting-again of friends here, to ‘get started’. Other than a couple of meetings (which felt wonderfully sociable too – we’re back! hello!) writing this is the first bit of ‘work’ I’ve done. This may or may not be a problem. Hopefully/probably it’s not, in the grand scheme of things, but we do also have a script deadline at the start of next week…

For now, we’ve been planning, napping, trying to get our lives set up. It’s very different to think about being here for three months rather than three weeks. For one, it’s worth nesting a bit, which definitely didn’t feel like something we needed to do in the madness of last December where we more or less jumped off the aeroplane and into our first workshop (do not pass go, do not collect two hundred rupees, etc). The flat is nice – light and clean and on the seventh floor, and we haven’t had to kill any cockroaches. We’re the first people to live in the house EVER – apart from Saskia, our housemate, who arrived here from the US 15 days prior to us – it’s part of a brand new and long delayed development above ‘Harmony Mall’, referred to as ‘Disharmony mall’ due to it’s equally long delayed building. Just another big, blocky empty shell on the side of the road. I can’t imagine this city needing more malls, but apparently there is demand. Bombay likes to shop.

(The big supermarket here is called Star Bazaar, and is a joint venture between TATA and Tesco – does this make it the most evil shop ever?)

From the balcony you look out over a dusty earth sports field, which they painted a football pitch onto yesterday and which has almost already rubbed off, a busy road with a market down one side, the aforementioned back-of-disharmony-mall, and – construction. Everywhere, people are building, scaling car-park like prefab concrete structures on bamboo scaffolding; hammering, welding, drilling. The noise, mixed with the constant car horns/engines/shouts/hum of fans is overwhelming, and the soundtrack to this city is coming back to me.

This show will have a machine at its centre – a Rube Goldberg/chain reaction/Heath Robinson type device that will be constructed over the course of the performance, and set off at the end. I think we’ve come to the right city for building such a machine.

Below/above you can see some of the drawings from our prototype version (videos to follow soon) that we designed and built in perhaps a less obvious place – Falmouth. (I suppose they construct boats there… so maybe it is obvious after all?) As part of our UK R&D we spent six days working in Falmouth University’s Woodlane workshop with Andy Currie and the rest of the technicians there who let us take over their courtyard with ladders, suitcases strung to the canopies and crudely drilled bits of wood. We had a lot of fun, got very frustrated and ended up making something that semi-worked with the aid of a lot of clamps and bits of string.

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The challenge with this is that we need to make something that will work. Something that we can put together in an hour, and set off, and know that it will manage to complete its action without getting stuck, or falling apart. We’ve been watching a lot of these devices on youtube for a long time now, and gradually it occurred to us that for every single-shot video of a perfect machine, there are probably 20-50-100 other times that the machine didn’t work, and the artists had to painstakingly reset it all, make adjustments, set up the cameras and try again. That’s not really a risk we can take, which is why theatre is exciting, but is also very daunting from our perspective. We aren’t OKGO, or Fischli and Weiss, or Honda. We don’t really know what we’re doing, and we need it to be perfect (double conundrum) so we’ve been trying to balance out precision with impressiveness with simplicity. It’s exciting to do something that feels impossible though, right? Right??

Off to take another cold shower. I’ve never enjoyed washing this much.

R x

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R x

ps. this is the view from our balcony!

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