Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the upcoming Degree Show is delayed without further info. Under this circumstance, True Dialogs is made to embody both online and offline platforms. It uses text as its main body, which benefits for slow reading. As for offline exhibitions, True Dialogs will be shown in its true form, an installation. The work tells a fragmental story, and each piece of writing connects to one spot in the artist’s room.
The installation will roughly replicate the layout of the room with a few furniture – a small carpet, a mattress, a wardrobe, a desk, a coffee table, a chair, three storage crates, an oven, a mirror and possibly a toilet. The writings will be hand-typed on A4 sized papers and pasted to the related locations, along with the pictures. There are two types of pictures in True Dialogs, one is photography, which will be printed, and the other one is hand-drawn, which will be the original ones torn straight from a notebook. The installation will take place in an empty place, where the audience will be able to see from all the angles.
Original room layout
The budget for this project is mainly for the furniture and its transportation, and the transportation fee depends. There are some requirements for the types of furniture though, they are accessible and ordinary.
small carpet - 50 £
mattress - 200 £
wardrobe - 200 £
desk - 150 £
coffee table - 50 £
chairs - 20 £
storage crates – 20x3 £
oven - 200 £
mirror - 30 £
toilet – 150 £
total - 1110 £
‘This virus is super contagious.’ said Ein. She blocked the door with her pink suitcase like it was a virus-proof shield. ‘We are not going anywhere until somebody somewhere on this planet finds a cure.’
‘Or a vaccine.’ I added.
She nodded. The floor seemed too slippery for the suitcase to hold its ground, and it was rolling off very sneakily.
‘How about groceries? I am not going to starve myself to death.’
‘Maybe – it is a good time to learn some gardening –’ She caught the suitcase by its handle and locked its wheels before it ran away again. ‘Alright, let’s do it once for two weeks. Full gear. Face masks, goggles, coveralls, everything.’
‘That will do, I guess. I don’t tend to go out even if I am not forced.’
‘Good. Just the typical us life.’
‘The show will get cancelled.’ I turned off ‘Vapor’ and started the eighth nagging of the day. ‘It is madness! People are still carrying poison place to place. Aren’t they afraid?’ I drew the curtain so I could see the street. ‘Look at them. Drinking and laughing on the street while we are eating cup noodles two times a day. It’s just not going to get any better.’
‘Learn to cook then. We are going to grocery anyways.’ Ein curled up in the corner of the bed, and under a shitty wall light, she was reading a picture book about mushrooms. It was her spot, and that light hurt my eyes. But what really pissed me off was that she didn’t even bother to give me a glance.
‘ I am not talking about the food - I am talking about the show!’
‘So, are you still going to do your part?’ She put down the book and sneered at me on purpose.
‘Yeah, I guess – you never know. The show might still be coming. Oh man, I’m seriously hoping the show is not happening now. We are not going out, and we are not getting anything made. Coming up with a new plan out of nowhere? We are so fucked.’
‘And you were playing video games.’
‘Yes, with a grudge. And I lost – meaning more grudge.’
‘Release it on creativity, young man. Go make something using air.’ Ein turned off the light and covered her face with a blanket. Three minutes later, she started snoring.
‘Let’s make something fictional real.’ Ein opened her notebook and pretended she was working hard. Even though she was moving her pen, I knew it was only doodling. ‘Can you think of anything like it?’
‘No, I don’t know what you mean.’
‘Like Gulliver you know, or Robinson.’
‘They are not just fictional. They are literally FICTIONS.’
‘Yeah, Yeah, I know. But -’ Ein scratched her head and gave me an awkward smile. It was super rare to see her being embarrassed like this. ‘- I used to believe that they were actually real.’
‘Never knew you were that type of girl.’
‘And Santa too. Don’t tell me you have never believed in Santa.’
‘Never. No tradition for presents in my family.’
‘Poor you.’ She very quickly turned shameless, like the way she was supposed to be. She turned the page and started drawing Christmas trees.
‘I wouldn’t believe it anyways, okay? Santa is just not rational. It might fool you, but it won’t fool me.’
‘So, what does it take to fool you?’
Ein traced her drawing with green colour. And then she lifted the notebook up and showed me. It had a star on it.
‘Let’s make something fictional real.’
I stayed silent and waited for Mom to hang up the phone. ‘Mom said sport, Ein. She repeated it five times. And she said stay safe, four times.’
‘So, push-ups she meant?’
‘I don’t know, I guess?’ I sighed heavily. ‘And she said fresh fruits, meeting people and staying at home, several times, back and forth.’
‘Does not make any sense to me.’ Ein squeezed out what was left in the toothpaste tube, and she wiped it with her messy-looking brush.
‘And she said homework.’
‘Home – homework -’ She spitted out the little of the toothpaste very quickly and started giggling so hard that she could barely hold her toothbrush. After a good moment of struggling, Ein managed to stick the brush back between her lips.
‘She is just keeping her routine, so she would feel herself parenting and being responsible.’ I commented.
‘Or she is just caring.’ She mumbled carefully – No more losing precious foam.
‘No, she is not.’ In her mouth-washing sound, I hardly agreed.
‘Whatever. It’s the adventure day. I am getting a new toothbrush.’ Ein held up her overly used brush, and she jump-shot it. The brush dropped two feet away from the bin. ‘An electronic one, like the one you have.’
‘Have you ever heard of Tatlin’s Tower.’ It looked like Ein had discovered a lost continent.
‘A Russian Eiffel Tower that has never been built. It was meant to be the Jerusalem for all Communists on Earth. We can build it, maybe a smaller one.’
‘Why. You Communist?’
‘Isn’t it romantic? A physical form of an ideology, which stays as an ideology, and we give it its physical form back.’
‘No, it’s only confusing.’
‘Come on, it would even shoot Bat-Signal, like in Batman. Or Max-Lenin-Signal.’ With excitement, Ein scrolled down and read online documents in the speed of light. And suddenly, she paused. ‘Wait, someone already did it.’
‘And not just ONE someone, it’s many someone-s. They even created a group, like a bunch of Tatlin maniacs.’
‘You are no better, you know, only slow and failed.’
She was definitely in a rage. ‘Why would they do that. Dream never dies?’
‘An ideology based on a physical structure based on an ideology based on a physical structure based on an ideology.’
‘Like nesting dolls.’
I was shocked that Ein was actually writing something. I did not know if it was anything decent, but she was surely writing. She sensed my gaze and looked back at me.
‘What’s up? Duh?’ She gave me a few hipster gestures.
‘Nothing.’ I looked away and pretended that I did not notice her abnormal behaviour. ‘What are you doing?’
‘The THING, you know, for the show.’
‘The tower? Thought you had given up.’
‘No, bro, no. It’s all back.’
‘So, what you gonna’ build it with, bro. We ain’t got much in here, dawg.’ That was a dreadful mimic, and through her frown, I could tell she did not like it.
‘You can’t build a solid tower with text.’
‘Not a real tower. I am just going to write down the text, which is saying I have built it.’
‘It doesn’t sound very convincing.’
‘It will do when I write a detailed diary recording our tears and laughs – the struggles building this tremendous tower of dreams.’ Ein started clapping in delusional amazement. At least, she successfully convinced herself with it. ‘The hard work was worth it. Glory is yours, and mine, and Tom and Jerry’s, and Han Lei and Li Meimei’s. All this wouldn’t have been possible without the unity of the group. Well done, Comrades.’
‘What about the pictures you’re going to show-’
‘Oh, yes. Thank you. As the grand architect in our marvellous commitment, I will take this credit. My fine blueprints were no-doubt the essential ingredient. No one knows how to design a tower better than me.’
‘I won’t buy it, ok? It still sounds ridiculous.’
‘Both fictional and real I said, remember?’
‘Chapter One, Bankrupt.’
‘Tough begun is half failed.’
‘That’s not the phrase.’ Ein pouted in a weird look. ‘Besides the ending is already written.’
‘Don’t you feel it’s a bit overdramatic?’ I still could not believe we were following her absurd lead.
‘Challenges are what makes the charm.’
‘Just to make sure, we are not doing it because you want to write some pulp, right?’
‘Yeah, yeah, it’s for the show, I know, and artsy ‘greater good’.’
‘I see no artsy in it, only abracadabra.’ She was not taking it seriously, and the time was crucial. I could feel the pain in my head grew.
‘Yes, good point, mister.’ Ein leapt onto the bed and hopped on it. ‘Our main lead Lady Ein was struck by a bolt of wicked magical lightning, and KABOOM, she was cursed and turned into a giraffe, with a unicorn horn. She would have to stay in this shape and feed on diamonds for ten thousand years unless she and her loyal companions built a Babel in the next thirty days -’
‘Ein, please -’
‘- or maybe not.’ She stopped hopping. ‘I rethought it. What if people ask me how it feels like to be a giraffe, I wouldn’t be able to tell. And they would think the story is a lie.’
‘It is a lie -’
‘Guess either Jerry or poor Tom would have to take the strike for me then. Clever me. No one would get the chance to ask them questions, so no one would think it is a lie anymore-’
‘You are a lie!’ I was at the moment, truly furious at her. ‘What are these cliché dramas for, Ein? Thought you were planning something brilliant. If the maker is not taking it seriously, how can you expect the audience to?’
‘I am serious!’
‘I am just making the fiction part do its fiction job – being fun and attractive. Problems appear, several attempts, problems solved. People love it.’
‘What about the reality part? It’s the core, isn’t it?’
‘The reality part is -’ Her tension dropped. ‘- problems don’t always get solved.’
‘We really shouldn’t have bought ramens by boxes, especially when they are all in one same flavour.’ After having the same type of noodles for a week, I was starting to question myself. ‘What were we thinking? Morons.’
‘That’s all they had unless you would rather fight for kid-sized packs.’ Ein did not seem to care. She was brutally tearing the ramen box open and reaching for her meal of the day. The tear appeared to have caught her hand by the wrist. ‘Besides, you seem to be much more patient with Chicken Katsu Curry. You were eating that thing basically every day last year.’
‘I was patient because that was my choice, not the only choice.’
‘Cook – your – self – then.’ She just went berserk toward to the poor box. Even when I handed her the scissors, she ignored me.
I might poison us before the virus could ever do.’
‘Wish us luck then.’
I went online and searched for the most basic cooking recipes, and it was full of ‘right amounts’:
Delicious Braised Pork
Step1. Chop right amount of pork into the right size.
Step2. Add right amount of water, sugar, salt, soy sauce and alcohol.
Step3. Boil the meat with the right amount of heat until it is cooked.
‘I am giving up.’
‘No, you are not.’
‘Tell me then, what is ‘…until it is cooked.’ How do I know if it is cooked or not? I wouldn’t even realize if it were burnt.’
‘Well, in that case. Wish us luck.’ Ein smashed a pack of ramen on the ground, and the bag exploded. Little pieces of noodles went all over the floor.
‘I feel like my brain is drained, Ein.’
‘No, it is not.’
‘It is a figure of speech, stupid. I can’t concentrate and work.’
‘Neither can I.’
Ein was hiding behind her laptop, and the reflection of the screen lit up her eyes. She is sitting in a very relaxing but awkward pose, and I knew when she did that, things were going to get nasty.
‘What are you doing exactly?’
‘Gonna flick the bean.’
‘What?’ I was not prepared for her being so honest. Ein did not hesitate, even a bit.
‘Masturbate.’ She took her panties off, and the red bow on it hung like it would break at any time.
‘Really now? Come on, use headphones at least.’
‘Yeah? Thought you wanted a talk.’
She was definitely not listening, but I did not care either.
‘Ein, I can’t think straight. Every time I sit on my back and try to make the thing for the show, my head starts to worry about some nonsense -’
‘- the future – the new life after the show, what do I do to live on – am I even able to make a living -’
‘Blah, blah, blah.’
‘- going back to a home which I have hardly lived - a place familiar yet so strange, and people, the people I’m supposed to know –‘
‘So, you singing now?’
‘- man, I really can’t take it anymore. I just want to focus and make something – do something I am currently capable of accomplishing.’
Ein seemed to reach a point, which she was not able to respond. It took her a minute before she could speak.
‘Phew. Maybe you can draw something.’
‘I don’t know. Something that pulls your thoughts together…Anime girls?’
I stared at the keyboard, like the LED light behind it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I dared not to look up – not a word was written.
‘The deadline is in two weeks.’
‘Nah, it is next month. Don’t be so paranoid.’ Ein was picking some suspicious plant leaves from a jar. The leaves were in a strange shape, and they looked mould green, like snot.
‘I mean the recruitment, not the show.’
‘Oh, the ‘decent job’. The date is up?’
‘Yes. Mom said she used her connections for this opportunity. She didn’t say it, but she certainly meant ‘don’t waste it’.’
‘Does it pay a lot?’
‘Not at all. It is just decent and stable, which she doesn’t trust me to be.’
‘Good enough for me.’ Ein looked like she was making teabags. She pulled out my fancy fabric scissors and started messing around with a piece of cloth. ‘So, it is like a solid solid connection? Apply-and-happen sort of connection?’
‘I don’t think so. It’s more like a ten-page-proposal-plus-two-A-Level-tests sort of connection.’
‘For real. Ten pages and two tests in person. And for the record, I have absolutely no idea what they are about.’
‘Oh, you are fucked.’ Ein broke the first attempt, and she seemed not to give up yet. She collected the scraps from the floor and stuck them into another twisted bag she made. ‘Wait, in person you said? Doesn’t that mean you need to be there in two weeks?’
‘Go home now, that’s what mom said.’
And then this time, she sealed up the bag in one piece.
‘She misses you.’ Said Ein.
‘you will write your proposal.’
‘And I will not drink whatever that thing is you’re making.’
‘Here comes your favourite part!’
‘Which is?’ It was both arousing and frustrating when I saw Ein was keeping up with her schedule. Or at least, I assumed she had one.
‘Bringing out the reality. Time for the photos.’
‘I was just wondering, how are you going to do this?’
‘Capture the moments of our daily hard workings. Of course.’ Ein lifted her hand, pretended she was nailing something with an air hammer.
‘Which doesn’t exist.’
‘It exists!’ She squeaked like I was negating her efforts.
‘You were writing indeed.’ I tendered my tone. Sometimes, I would need to encourage her a bit. ‘But you are certainly not building any physical structures, aren’t you?’
‘I don’t have to. I just need some proof for the sentences I used in my writing.’
‘Like this one.’ She gave two little coughs, reached her hand aside, drew out her notebook like she was an American old west outlaw. ‘…After blending the concrete for forty hours non-stop, Ein and her twenty men were weary and hungry. A feast was necessary and urgent. Han Lei used the little energy left in him and pulled out his rusty saber. Two screaming sheep and six twittering quails were slaughtered and made into barbecues. And when the feast was finished, all of them slept one day and a night…’
I caught her sneaky glimpse, and before I started finger-pointing, she quickly spoke again. ‘See? I might not be able to show the concrete. I can still set up a scene for the feast.’
‘But we don’t have twenty people. And where the hell am I going to find ‘screaming sheep and twittering quails’?’
‘My loyal companions wouldn’t be in the photo. They went for the long rest. Weren’t you listening? Maybe just the leftover plates and chicken bones on the dining table? I bet people won’t tell the differences, meats look the same, and not to mention they’re even barbecued.’
‘We do have a dining table, and maybe some chicken and pork to barbecue with. But did I hear it wrong? You said bringing out the reality, yes? These kinds of pictures just make your fiction even less trustworthy.’
‘But the pictures are real. And no one will be able to prove we are lying from them. Which means -’ She slightly raised her head up. ‘- for the matter of reality, we score one, and the haters score zero.’
‘I think my gums are swollen.’
‘What do you expect. Your dentist warned you weeks before. You needed a treatment.’
‘I am stuck here, am I not?’ Once again, I started checking on my gums through the mirror.
‘Turn off the flash. Your phone is dying burning.’
‘What if it is cancer? Tell me. I can see my vein pulsing. Is that normal to you? It’s been like this for a long time.’ I ignored her.
‘Your dentist said it was an infection caused by your badly placed porcelain crown.’
‘I don’t trust her. She barely looked at this spot.’ I hooked my mouth open with pinky, pointed my gums to Ein. ‘What if it is cancer? I looked up, they said cancer looked black. My vein looked a little black, isn’t it? What if it is cancer?’
‘And they also said freckles could be cancer.’
‘They might be!’
‘Nothing you can do right now. Just leave it.’
‘Care more about your beard instead.’ Ein interrupted impatiently. She waved the scissors in her hand. ‘It looks awful on you. Let me get rid of it.’
‘I do have a razor -’
‘I want to keep the hair, you know, for my collection.’
‘You what? What about my gums -’
‘Uh-uh! Don’t move, I don’t want to cut you.’ She dragged me over by my beard and aimed at it with the shiny blade. ‘As for your gums. Fresh fruit?’
‘How about a book?’
‘No one flips a book in a gallery. It’s just lame. Besides, your writing sucks compared to a proper book. You don’t want to compete it with them.’
‘An artist book, you know, a fun one, with playful mechanics in it. Maybe a few layers of translucent cards, my drawings, photos, and maybe even a treasure-hunt map! If people read the book following the map, they would find our home address or something.’
‘Like I said, No one opens a book in a gallery, it would be like looking for trouble.’
‘But I want it as a book.’ Ein was still trying.
‘Ok, you can make one.’ I found myself being soft on her. But what could I argue? She did make something happen. ‘Just not for the show. We still need something else for it.’
‘Hooray! Are you going to help me make it?’
‘Yes, yes.’ I nodded perfunctorily. I was a man of my word. ‘Now, focus.’
‘Frame it, and hang it, page by page.’
‘Project the writings on the pictures.’
‘Record me reading it and hide the playbacks behind those pictures on the wall.’
‘Film twenty people reading different pages of it. Satisfied? I can keep going on and on and on and -’
‘I am just feeling – I am just feeling we need to present this work in a way that relates to what we are trying to say.’
‘So, what exactly we are trying to say again?’
‘Ein, it was your idea.’ I sighed. Guess she just had too much fun with it. ‘Truth, but a lie? Lies, but true? You tell me.’
‘Oh, yeah. Something like that.’ Ein scratched her head and played innocent. ‘Remind me, why are we not doing something we used to do? Like sculptures?’
‘We were grounded! And thanks to everyone out there, we still are. There is no way we could get our hands on materials, studios, workshops or anything.’
‘There is always a way, if we risk our lives – whatever, let’s move our house there.’
‘Where? Wait, What?’
‘To the gallery.’
‘If you’re being stupid one more time -’
‘Hear me out. It’s totally sane. Remember you kept saying my story was not believable? Nobody would trust us? Well, let’s throw our ‘crime scene’ in their face.’
‘Not everything. Like, I had a chapter talking about me finding Li Meimei from the cabinet, right?’ Ein made a repeated noise knocking on our cabinet.
‘Yes, you were describing yourself whipping people, so that fictional character of yours ran and hid. We took a few photos of the cabinet. You even put a teddy bear in it so people could tell how scared Li Meimei was.’
‘Right. Let’s move the cabinet there, along with everything we’ve mentioned in the story, and place them in the gallery exactly where we would put them in our home. Then, we match up the texts and pictures with the furniture -’
‘And we find some eye-catching spots on the furniture, and BANG, we stick your story on them.’ I slammed my palm and finished her sentence.