The Hunger Artist?


Learning little from last week’s post I spent the weekend hunting celebrity. But this time the prey was super elite and more meaningful for a girl growing up in a North East village under the backdrop of film and comedy gold.

However, this was a weekend of lab work. So how much “fun” and “adventure” can one fit into a working weekend? You underestimate me dear reader. You shouldn’t do that.

In the first part of this double whammy posting session I will detail Day 1 of this past weekend.

Saturday was a set up day. I had plenty of reading to plough through and an experiment to prepare for Monday. But by late afternoon, and after physical activity had been completed, I was left with only one more box to tick. The David Blaine box. Except this time he was not in a box as such, he was more perched on a podium, being fired with a stream of a million volts of electric current.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no childhood attachment to David Blaine. But I cannot resist a spectacle. And staged on Pier 54 of the Hudson Riverwalk, this 3-day stunt is just that.

For me the whole experience was just a bit bizarre. Visitors stand gaping, their hearing protected from the blaring organ-like music with garish yellow foam ear plugs. They are all looking on at a crazy man standing on a small platform surrounded by Tesla coils. He is wearing a highly conductive stainless steel suit so that the million or so volts of current do not pass directly through his body, as that would certainly cut the show short. I, however, am definitely more concerned about the 72 hours of torture this must be for him and find myself wondering, perhaps oddly, if he has a catheter in. Because certainly he won’t be able to hold it in that long. And what about sleep? I am just tired watching him giggling away up there, waving at his fans (and the passers-by who thought this looked a bit weird and popped in). You would have to pay me some serious money to stay awake that long with little to no chocolate and wearing a Faraday suit of armour and a specially designed helmet to avoid getting one million plus volts in the head.

As the organ notes reverberated around my head I was reminded of a very moving short story I read about a hunger artist. Of course most of my associations involve food so this should not come as a surprise to you.

Namely Kafka’s  “The Hunger Artist“. As I look around at a relatively tame and sparse crowd on the Hudson, I wonder what lengths Mr Blaine would go to maintain public interest in his “craft”. In the fiction, public tastes are waning. That hunger artist, after years of avid support, is left abandoned and ignored in a cage close to the animal housing of a circus. And as you can imagine it doesn’t end well. Eventually he is found under the straw in his cage. He dies.

It made me think about Mr Blaine though? What happens when public interest in your feats of “magic” dwindle? What lengths will you go to to revive them? Honestly, I quite dread to think.

Let’s just hope then that a lack of funding and Healthy and Safety step in well before we reach that point.


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