Vertigo Leg 1: 2005, US



23 June 2011
Glastonbury festival. Set up day.

Housekeeping’s first assault on my room came at around 10am.  There was knocking on the door that penetrated my coma, then the sound of keys in the lock and the door opening. On spying a corpse in the bed the maid no doubt surmised that this wasn’t the best time to whip out the hoover, so went away briefly before the phone rang with a voice asking what time I’d like my room cleaned.

I rolled back over and found myself plummeting into the abyss. I really had a physical sensation of flipping over, like I was tumbling through space and time, falling out of sync with everything and anything. Where the hell am I, and what are the implications?  The hour of the day and my location on the planet have become so entirely random and irrelevant that it might as well be me up in orbit, snatching words out of the air like Commander Mark Kelly in our show video clip. A series of further phone calls followed from all and sundry, asking one question apiece; ‘are there fireworks in the show?’, ‘is it OK to run the video screen content this afternoon?’, ‘can you do an interview?’, ‘when do you leave for Detroit?’, with me replying out of some deep subconsciousness, resisting full waking for a little longer.

Admitting defeat, breakfast seemed like an idea, though a challenging one at 3.30pm, eventually settling for late lunch in the conservatory of this beautiful country pile with Allen, equally spun out.  There were some issues with transportation so it was nearly 8pm before we got picked up to go back to site but that might have been just as well.

Back at the festival things appeared to be progressing but the enormity of our chosen task was also becoming apparent. Who on earth decided it was a good idea to show up with five trucks of video equipment that needs integrating into the festival system? (ah, that would be me…) It was a massive challenge with extremely limited time, all undertaken in the middle of a tract of farm land in the pouring rain.

Darkness came so we were able to look at what we had and the first glorious moment came when the video screens sparked into life. The first image we saw, blazing into the night from seven big video screens, was the opening frame of text from The Fly;  EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG.  I practically did a back-flip, it was such a fantastically incongruous sight, juxtaposed with the night-time trees and fields.  We are using the original video sequences from the ZooTV tour, and this is a piece of video that I made with Mark Pellington in Dublin in the Autumn of 1991.  I’d toyed with updating the piece, putting in new phrases (I really wanted to add 'Unexpected Item In Bagging Area') but when we messed with it, it didn’t seem to feel any stronger, if anything quite the reverse. Mark made a new version of The Fly text for the Vertigo tour in 2005 but oddly that one now feels a little dated. The original hasn’t lost anything, despite being twenty years old.  It actually feels prophetic, this antique voice from the past, from a world where there was no internet, but still absolutely on the money.

Next up we ran the brand new Damien Hirst video sequence for Real Thing which was equally jaw-dropping in an entirely different way.  Paint splatters, flies being electrocuted, giant butterflies on fire and the legendary diamond skull – I can’t imagine what the passers-by made of it, I only hope the vegetarians had already gone to bed.

With every project, experience has taught me that I have to push and push and push to get things where I want them to be, but there comes a point where I just have to let go. A project gains its own momentum, many other people board the vehicle and there comes a time after which the flow of events will pretty much be what they will be.  It’s important to be able to recognise when that moment comes, otherwise you’ll run yourself ragged, and at about 1am it came upon me that this was the moment. It’s clear now that what we’re trying to do is certifiably insane, the task of restaging ZooTV in a farmer’s field, but I am also completely sure that we could not be more prepared and that everything which could be done has been done.  From here onward, everything else is a throw of the dice so let’s hope we roll a double six and that it doesn’t rain.

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