A lot has happened since the 11th January, and some of it has been related to the Happening.

One of the principles of that event was that we were not going to keep any of the artefacts of the day’s efforts because they were going to be burnt on a bonfire. A second principle was that I would gather the ashes and use them to start the next Happening.

As I was cleaning up after the bonfire, I noticed that the ‘potato’ from the ‘poverty meal’ had not burnt because the paper mâché was still soaked. I decided to keep it as well as the ashes, and that I would dry and photograph it.

This is what it looked like:

Dried potato-side view.

These are some close-up views:

Curious to see how the inside looked, I opened it up, prising it open with my fingers as it was dry by this stage. Although this work is not based on any methodology as such, I can’t help but see it as a metaphor for all things photographical: from memory to portraits to documentary to landscape to conceptual to abstract and everything in between – probably because we can no longer see the original construct – but only photographic recordings of it.

It even fits into Michel Foucault’s heterotopia theory on imprisonment which claims that imprisonment is life as lived in a world within a world with no freedom to be anything else. It reflects how the world of poverty walks parallel with obscene opulence and cannot exist without it: would we know opulence if poverty did not exist? Would we know darkness if there were no light? Would we know we were inside something if we did not know there was an outside?

Am I actually photographing a potato? To what extent is my heterotopia application observer-dependent (1)? The conclusion of a paper on quantum physics (1) states:

“If nothing else, these experiments are showing that we cannot yet make any claims about the nature of reality, even if the claims are well-motivated mathematically or philosophically. And given that neuroscientists and philosophers of mind don’t agree on the nature of consciousness, claims that it collapses wave functions are premature at best and misleading and wrong at worst.”

I am not, in the wildest sense, claiming that the reality of the ‘potato’ can be analysed using quantum physics – although I am sure some would like to – what I am saying is that this construct is a potato because it existed, physically and philosophically, as such for a brief moment on 11th January 2020.

Some of its component parts emerged thus:

I tried my Beck lens on a piece:

beck lens image.

And then my microscope lens:

As I analysed the components, I realised that they seemed to be part of an archaeological dig, and, in a way, they were: you make a discovery, date it and analyse your findings. What can they tell you about your discovery? What can it tell you about the people who made it?

I then decided to arrange some of the items in a grid mounted in a deep frame, much like a museum exhibit. I was going to pin each piece in place but my pins were not strong enough so I used a strong glue, knowing that future viewers would not be able to pick up the pieces and handle them as if they were indeed archaeological curiosities with or without white gloves.

Analysis of a potato that would not burn.

This was all a bit of fun, producing nonsense from an experiment on artistic collaboration which was not supposed to have a residue except for some ashes. Some parts of the potato still remain so that others can have some fun too if they so wish next time we have a Happening. Given the viral ring of separation and self-isolation dominating our every conscious moment, this won’t be for a while, but when it does happen, I wonder how / if our thinking on collaboration or art or both will have changed?


  1. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/what-does-quantum-theory-actually-tell-us-about-reality/

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