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Spectacular Spectacular - 48.8582° N, 2.2945° E
14 Apr 2014

One of the great wonders of the world the Eiffel Tower stands powerfully above the hundreds of adoring fans waiting at the bottom either lucky enough to make it into an elevator of undertake the task of walking the hundreds of stairs.  My imagination of what might happen at the Eiffel Tower went a little something like this.




Arrive by night (we instead jumped off a hop on hop off bus mid afternoon)


My lover and I would gasp (we did gasp, with our close friend and child present)


There would maybe be about 100 people there (there were thousands)


It would be a long walk up to the Tower (we were literally under it)


We would picnic and look at this beacon of romance (we walked around disorientated, until I needed to use a bathroom, which was closed for cleaning for an hour, as I tried to negotiate via our friend who speaks some French where the next available toilet was for thousands of people to share)


We would be so overcome with beauty I would tear up (I nearly wet my pants)


We would eat a chocolate croissant and sip Perrier (we are all gluten and diary free)




I was however on the bus ride home contemplating what had happened. Why was I disappointed? Why had this spectacular icon created such a narrative in my head? Why could I not just be present to what was happening and enjoy the way it had turned out?




spec·ta·cle  (spĕktə-kəl) (Urban Disctionary)






a. Something that can be seen or viewed, especially something of a remarkable or impressive nature.


b. A public performance or display, especially one on a large or lavish scale.


c. A regrettable public display, as of bad behavior: drank too much and made a spectacle of himself.




Spectacle is incredible. It is something that is unique, magnificent, of scale / size / feat, it is actually a moment when we contemplate something that might be both grotesque and visually stunning but it is beyond our actual comprehension to begin with. Perhaps you too have fantasized about “those” moments.




However being human means we need to do things like go the toilet. The practical trumps the spectacular even if we mentally don’t want that to happen. 




Unfortunately one very important natural instinct of mine beat my romantic imagination, which I am sure on some hierarchy of needs, must be structures just so.




How does all this relate to my work? Well I am encouraged by the academics and practitioners I work with and am inspired by, to consider the spectacle in my work. However I also had this great conversation with Amy Spiers back in February where we talked about every small and seemingly minute detail involved in our work, the shape and style of the table used, the colours of the shirt we wear etc etc is an aesthetic decision.




I have since the earliest of days been concerned with seemingly mundane things like water, seating, toilets, shade, sunscreen, temperature, public transport, parking, childcare, readability, accessibility, giving plenty of notice, providing signage and way marking. Often it feels that these practical things, I have become an expert in. Making people feel comfortable is part of my artistic practice this is an aesthetic decision. It is part of the everyday and very much part of the reasons why people like going to places that are comfortable and welcoming. However I have to question if I have outweighed my attention toward the practical and away from the spectacular?




Perhaps if I had created the Eiffel Tower I would think – well piss your pants, I don’t care you are experiencing such magnificence. But often I am concerned that if someone, such as I did, could not find an available toilet for over 30 minutes (which is a very strange concept anyway that they needed to shut the entire toilet block for an hour for cleaning) and was so overcome with such a challenge that in fact I managed to miss the beauty of the Eiffel Tower and left feeling somewhat disappointed by the experience – regardless of the spectacle.




How do we balance the spectacle and the practical? Who does this well? Who does this terribly? Should I return and see if I can do over the experience? Or was THAT my experience? We do have some good photos and maybe one day my memory will change what happened anyway?




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