BEAUTIFUL WORLD PURE COLOUR
Walking for 4 hours straight listening to Sheila Heti read her latest novel Pure Colour has been, so far, the best thing I’ve done this year. A reimagination of God and creation, in it we’re living in God’s first draft. God has divided himself into three critics in the sky – one that takes the form of the bird, one a fish, the other a bear. People born of the bird egg are interested in art and beauty, those of the fish are concerned with the welfare of the many, the bears choose one or two to focus all their love and attention.
God’s intention is to wrap up his first draft soon. He’s using us as critics. We’re here to see and feel and experience but not necessarily grasp the world’s love and beauty in all its fullness. We have a sense of wonder - sometimes incredibly – but are most often preoccupied with the small details, full of complaints. And that’s okay – that's part of our purpose. And this first draft is not without its compensations - art, family, community – they're all here to comfort us.
Pure Colour tells the story of Mira, a bird, who loves Annie, a fish, and whose father is a bear. Unlike Heti’s other novels – among them, the critically acclaimed How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood – this one feels led by instinct not intellect. It’s felt not thought. It’s realism at its most surreal. It’s a shape-shifting dream, dizzying and acute. It's the crack in the clouds where the light streams in. What it feels like is exactly how it feels to be alive right now. And to know how hopelessly ourselves we are – which contrary to common thought, feels strangely like freedom.
THE WHITE DIAMOND
Imagine Anicka Yi’s jellyfish drifting lazily across the Tate’s Turbine Hall, or a child’s lit paper lantern held aloft against the dark sky. The beauty of Dr Graham Dorrington’s airship in Werner Herzog’s The White Diamond has something akin.
Dorrington, intent on designing a machine that can float just above the tree canopies of the world’s equatorial rainforests, has developed a small, teardrop-with-a-tail balloon with a two man gondola underneath. He wants to explore all that is undiscovered in the trees’ flora and fauna.
Dorrington is a dreamer. An obsessive. An intensely knowledgeable, childlike eccentric, the like of which Herzog is so often drawn. He is also deeply sad. Grief over an accident that killed cinematographer and friend Dieter Plage in a similar expedition ten years previous, troubles him deeply and adds weight and gravity when all he wants is to fly.
The documentary, shot candidly, but with a mix of the poetic, expressive real and unreal for which Herzog is known, follows Dorrington and his team as they attempt a first test of the airship in Guyana, home of the vast Kaieteur Falls. Scenes of fantastic beauty – mists, dark forests, sheer drops of water, scores of wheeling swifts, strange and incredible magical creatures – depict a Ghibli-esque world writ large. The soundtrack too: soaring and earthy. But what transfixes most are the people they meet along the way – truly human, full of wonder, genuine groove and soul. Frankly, just so f**king cool.
DAWN CHORUS DAY
Sunday 1st May 2022 is Dawn Chorus Day, a global celebration of nature’s sweetest symphony. Every year on this day, people all over the world set their alarms, rise early and head outside before daybreak. No music, no human voices, just the sweet sound of birdsong as the night sky retreats and a new day comes.
Dawn Chorus Day first came to my attention in 2017 via a mysterious glut of posters tacked up all over my local woodlands, a 5 minute walk from home. A bit of investigation and I was soon signed up to head out at 4am for my first dawn chorus walk, accompanied by my then seven year old. What magic awaited us. It felt like we’d never heard birdsong before – it touched us both and we’ve spoken of it often ever since. Needless to say, it’s a repeat date in our yearly calendar.
What luck that Soundcamp, an arts cooperative in London, Crete and The Hague, make their London home at Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe. Along with a series of sound and ecology events, they also coordinate the long-form radio broadcast Reveil on Dawn Chorus Day each year. Reveil is a collective production by multiple streamers at daybreak, from listening points all around the world, in locations rural, urban and other. In 2022, starting on the morning of Sat 30th April in South London, the broadcast will pick up feeds one by one, following the sunrise west, tracking live audio sounds, making a first-light loop over one earth day.
For more information about attending a local Soundcamp, to become a streamer, or to listen live to Reveil 24 + 1 Hour Broadcast 2022, visit www.soundtent.org.