NOW ZERO: THE PRADA CODE
This month Ella Plevin slides her way in and out of “thin places” and finds that there’s plenty of nothing to think about (except the number sixty-four).
“Everything will turn out right, the world is built on that”
April fool. This month I skipped a meal and then a flight, the two events linked by a chain of salt-rimmed glasses and shit talk. The party was George Grosz: gazey, slid out of shape. The morning, Sarah Lucas: Dad jokes given bulbous flesh, grit. In the morning I woke up in my shoes and retched at the metallic aura folded over the stiff hotel sheets, realising I’d left my phone in the hole of the night before and was about to miss my flight home. The freedom was eerie. As I swept the surface flotsam into a bag, leaving my laptop to book a new flight I thought my God I could go anywhere, be anyone. Then I felt a palm full of evil between twill breakers. Out of battery but unharmed both of us. I travelled lumpily back to London. Filed my review. Pitched more work and slid around complacent at my d*yj*b. Wondered what the hell.
But the fairylights from the bar whose name I’ve already forgotten still glitter like electric tinsel. Ada is there in her little hat swimming through the crowd with a matching tinsel laugh. I spent most of the night talking nonsense to a favourite editor and his school friend. Drug athletes and who is Good and who is Bad. The friend is plate-eyed at all the crap we’re (I’m) talking and I envy him. The spoon one uses to eat it all up with can become a shovel to move it around.
In her new novel ‘Oval’ Elvia Wilk writes (among bigger bolder things) about people being spawned at parties: from the internet, to have sex with. I’ve been trying to read an advance for months but creep through, torn between savouring it and holding it at bay. Her story takes place in a sideways zone difficult to revisit or resist. Too familiar, too intimate, but a testament to her prowess is that the malaise the city bears is all there. It glowers through her gentle prose, the terrible Thin Place.
I go home for Easter Sunday and sit in the garden with my parents. Birds cut up the air with shrills. A light plane drags itself over the sky. Insects jerk around leaves and branches, buzzing.
“The sky looks like pixels”
“No it doesn’t”
“Yes. Phosphenes or whatever. Dust swirling across the membrane. You know what I mean.”
“Oh that. It looks more like film grain”
“No it doesn’t”
“Yes it does”
And so on. But beyond bickering as a sign of affection, the point was granularity. Artifice. As usual. Four and twenty blessings in 35mm.
The Prada Foundation in Milan holds Thomas Demand’s Processo Grottesco –like most truths– in a basement room. It is dark at the bottom of the staircase. Tables holding photographs, postcards, books against a wall connecting two spaces. In the back, a recreation of a grotto, with stage lights and rigging. Production sets do something very strange and it’s no coincidence that this one lies beneath the Fondazione’s cinema like the roots of a tree. The reconstructed grotto: reality revealed as unreality, but not to the person standing in front of it. No business like show business.
Jung said when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. When an intangible reality is not felt, it manifests as circumstance. Just for a game, let’s consider this as fact rather than hypothesis. And let us then reconsider the current set of circumstances: life lived in mediation, neglecting the Real of our own lived lives. What happens next?
Sixty Four Zeros
When I came back to England (having been gone only three days) there are cameras on the self-checkout tills at the Tescos on Holloway Road and the machines at the Marks and Spencer’s speak in the voice of a reality TV show contestant, which might as well be tongues. I buy packets of food then trail north.
Through the month I try to think of nothing and as usual there is plenty of nothing to think about. Black holes, burned churches, the Peterson Zizek debate. Ashwords. It might be easier to know about the deaths of Visigothic kings or entanglement based protocols than to consider human folly in the present. People defend against information that threatens their justification system. That’s all good or evil is. It isn’t as exciting as angelic aethers or brimstone friends. No one needs to know that beneath the fabulous uniforms evil is as boring as a reflection and “have you swiped your nectarcard”. Perhaps it’s occasionally justified to abandon a justification system.
The solution you posted is not valid. To show that energy is conserved, you must show that the derivative of the energy function with respect to time is equal to zero.
When a system and its surroundings undergo a transition from an initial state to a final state, the change in energy is zero.
The same problem: nothing to say. Mouths and fingertips full of words of no consequence. And so much of it, this nothing. And it is so loud. All of us yelling it out all day and all across the world and then all night too. From our fascinating little podcasts, from the Blue Checkmark midden, from our academic tenure or esteemed position in wherever, from our so on and so on. Not to be missed! Put inelegantly: we can drown in the shadow world of things which the things we say, say.
Close to absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius), magnetic materials may undergo what is known as a "quantum phase transition." Like a conventional phase transition (e.g. ice melting into water, or water evaporating into steam), the system still switches between two states, except that close to the transition point the system manifests quantum entanglement – the most profound feature predicted by quantum mechanics.
There are sixty-four opposites on the board. Sixty-four codons in DNA, sixty-four hexagrams in the book and sixty-four elements in the lobed rosette of the hexafoil. Sixty-four possible scenarios.
In one of them, I buy a green light bulb and switch it on at night.
In another, the fire alarm goes off and I put two things in my bag and leave the house.
In the last one, I come out of another fugue weekend spent in the Netflix cinematic multiverse to write this column and wonder if all I’m guilty of is getting exactly what I wished for: nothing.
Ella Plevin's column Now Zero is published once a month. Last month, she wrote about her visit to the Royal Academy of Arts and to London's Wearable Technology and Digital Health Technology Show.