Monday, August 21, 2006

This is Public Art, A Failed Event

When you think you have accounted for everything, you are still not prepared for all potentiality. Or, put simply, the last laugh might be on you. I know this to be true, particularly after this weekend.

The “customer service” woman at the HSS Hire shop assured me three things before I placed my reservation on her hand-held generator for this weekend’s event. First, it was silent. Of course, I didn’t expect silent exactly, but quiet was what I was hoping for. Secondly, after explaining that I was a 5” 3 weakling, she assured me that indeed I would be able to carry this thing across London by tube. It was a handheld generator after all. And lastly, she assured me that there was 500 watts of power, plenty for my 150w data projector. (A fact I knew because she made me call the data projector “customer service” people, who much less confident and not at all interested in checking, told me that it would definitely be under 500w).

And my prep day went like this:

Carsten, my German friend who is on holiday with me at the moment and I walked down to Brockley Road. I sent him off in a direction for good coffee, Time Out travelers guide and A-Z in hand. I met Michael and we headed to the Home Depot store, can’t remember the English name for it, to source wood and various gadgety-things for our show in September. With a short stop at Comet, to buy a dvd player, we made our way to the gallery space where Tom was working on the roof and Alison was already waiting for us. Alison, Michael and I proceeded to test the infamous brick clips ™ (thank you Lee Valley) and measure the ins and outs of the space. The procedure ran like a well-tuned machine, efficient and satisfying.

Then I went home to run my last checks on the equipment for the event. The generator worked, but silent, it was not. Our first clue was the “must wear ear protection” sticker slapped on the side. Remarkably, we got the data projector doing its thing quite quickly and I phoned for technical support regarding the power surge protector. Then we packed up and were transported by a very large moving van from Poland –an extremely funny way of transporting our hand-held generator.

The thought of the loud generator in that space, with all the cameras and a parked police van not more than 12 feet from where I wanted to project and a building security guard sitting in a lobby, was torture. And then I remembered that the point of the game was to get things running and get them shut down. So I got everything set up saving the generator for last. Pulling the generator starter and hooking up was the climax. Get the power surge protector in, got that running. Hook the data projector in, got that working. Plug the data projector in, got standby power there. Turn data projector on, and the power ceased. The climax fizzled as I tried a few more times to get the power to get there. The generator sounded pathetic as it struggled to rev up enough power for my 150w device, never getting there. I phoned the rental place only to be told that the 24hour centre in Hackney was only 24hours during the week, a different story than the one I was told only hours before. We packed up and went home.

Ironically, I didn’t feel complete failure as I had expected; I had after all run a loud generator in public space for at least a half an hour without any attention, and in a paranoid anti-terrorist kind of place, that was something.

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