As part of its response to pandemic cancellations, Next Wave offered a home-delivered care package for isolated audience members. Monique Grbec reports
A brown cardboard box left on my doorstep is rushed inside and opened. The origami folds of a Next Wave program release a handful of bay leaves, promising some self love in a nurturing stew. I unzip a brown bag of Organic Cacao Husk Tea by Living KoKo, salivating at the strong, sweet smell. Two jars of Four Pillars : an Orange Marmalade and a Breakfast Negroni Moaning delicious. But what is Breakfast Negroni? It’s a by-product of making gin. Leftover steamed oranges with a little bit of Campari. Sunshine dancing in a jar.
A red and yellow print on a soft calico hankie designed by Aida Azin and produced by Silk Presse lies on Next Wave posters, The Parallel Effect zine by Daz Chandler and team, a Magic Steven Postcard, crossword puzzles, a stretched open silver link and penny etched FAKE, an Art Guide Australia magazine, issue May/June 2020, that is filled with beauty, intrigue and establishment wall spaces. Now the promise is dreamlike.
I put a couple of spoonfuls of cacao husks, dry but less brittle than peanut skins, into a pot of water and heat. The can of Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale is icy to the touch so I find a stubby holder and drink. A light refreshment. About 20 minutes later the delicate flavour of a hot cacao reminds me to stop moving, to simply enjoy.
Universe Name/Designation: PND-555-444. My very own entry level THE | PARALLEL | EFFECT | @HOME! is now assembled and ready to go. While the DIY-er in me became frustrated with the inconsistencies of blending video-style commentaries with numbered sequential instructions, the idea of inter-universal wormhole generation in kit form kept me reading. And now, here I am. Ready set…
I’m sitting at my desk, warmed by the sun streaming through the window. The radio station that my plumber is listening to becomes audible. It’s 3AW with Neil Mitchell. The plumber’s van is 10 feet away and Mitchell is speaking to me.
That everybody’s-mate voice – one caller gushes that it’s “calming in these times” – asks about the morality of Daniel Andrew’s dealing with “the Chinese” to build roads. The sickening bile of the Sinophobe pops the gentle bubble of my COVID-19 isolation. It feels like a grotesque erosion, like the pure, white enamel of teeth submerged in the toxicity of sugary drinks. My chest tightens and the pit of my gut becomes heavy.
Surely Mitchell’s phone is made in China? Surely his whiny listeners are fans of exporting coal, steel and meat for the industries of the wealthy? Why don’t his listeners realise how much they rely on the Chinese market? A woman calls to tell us that “the Chinese” had the same road deals with Italy and Iran and that “all of their workers brought the COVID in”. The plumber says “he’s got softer over the years”.
A woman whose voice has the same lulling monotone as Mitchell calls to talk about morning television ratings. She names some commercial channel hosts and ends up acknowledging that the ABC’s growing ratings are due to their factual coverage. Without pausing, she calmly moves onto explaining something else, but we’ll never know what it is because she is disconnected mid-sentence. Her comments are replaced by a series of advertisements.
Surely the plumber can’t be too much longer… I don’t want to hassle him because after three visits and more prompting he still hasn’t told me how much the fitting of my water tank is going to cost.
Life in universe PND-555-444 is not somewhere I want to spend any length of time. If I’m listening to the radio, I mostly listen to ABC Classic FM because they don’t do a lot of chatting. When they start talking, I switch.
But there is happiness in the Next Wave Essentials package. Azin’s hankie is tangible happiness. It’s a pleasure to behold, it allows the ugliness of talk radio talk to dissipate. I study the pictures of teardrops crying and holding their hands high to make a chain that frames a playful picture of two beings. Angel Wings, with leg warmers and a pleated frill neck tunic, holds an electrified paintbrush toward Demon Wings, their naked form adorned with a monk’s bowl haircut.
From Angel Wing’s pirouetting feet curves some text: HEALING CAN BE Lonely. There’s a bunch of flowers and under the crouching step of Devil Wings is written A period OF purposeful. From the tip of Devil Wing’s wing, across their head, is an umbrella marked Sleepiness.
The text is like a blanket. It warms me. It speaks of the healing reward of taking time alone, of my loneliness. It speaks of how the COVID-19 isolation period can teach us that sleep is not the only time for rest. It speaks of connecting with New Wave Assemble! and the affirmation that art affords: it feeds, nurtures, encourages, enlightens, engages. Art gives. Art creates.
I read the information about Azin’s artwork. There’s a thoughtful reference to Fernando Amorsolo’s 1910’s gin label, which depicts a sword-wielding saint standing over a cowering demon. When the gin is poured, the image becomes inverted and the demon dominates the saint. Azin “swapped the sword for a paintbrush because when the dark thoughts become too much, we fight back at it with our creativity”.
I shared some Four Pillars Gin breakfast spread on toast with the plumber. I took the jars out on the plate, to somehow show him how my world works. I offered him a jar and he chose the Breakfast Negroni “to take home for my wife to try”.
He seems to be a decent man. He came highly recommended as a plumber and fixed a leak in my roof for a reasonable cash price. This morning there’s still more work to be done on the tank downpipes and no price is locked in. I’m a little scared about how much it’s going to be.
And I wonder how many people like me pay cash. How much tax he avoids. Does he talk about “freeloaders”?
Thank you Witness Performance for the opportunity to immerse myself into the realisation of artistic dreams. And thank you Alison Croggon for reading my work and finding ways to make it glow.
Thank you Next Wave Assemble for making care a priority. Thank you for sharing.