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Happidrome 3: Nick Wootton

Goonhilly Downs, Helston  5&6/9/09



Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true…

As the above passage from her private letters indicates, Mother Teresa is known to have struggled to maintain her faith in God especially towards the end of her life. Her experiences of doubt were also paralleled by those of arch-atheist Anthony Flew, whose views also wavered and changed - but in the contrary direction - as he grew older.

Portrait of Teresa Flew (picture above top) refers to both individuals, and is a meditation on the nature of belief. It is an other-worldly builder’s prop coated in nickel, perforated with drill holes and hovering uncertainly between the floor and the ceiling. It’s a genuinely intriguing and testing visual analogue that requires the viewer to perform their own mini leap-of-faith, though seeing it in a space that looks in need of building work itself reduces its metaphorical power.



'The essential guide to the meaning of life' comprises a neat column of books with their covers and spines removed. Organised in this way they cannot be read. Perhaps it is enough to imagine their contents. In the same space is 'On the importance of information as the fundamental construct of solidity', a more performative but less literal work on the nature of knowledge in which a bookshelf from IKEA is left unformed on the floor. Mental processes of a different kind are explored in three works, 16.2.94, Untitled (Will you) and Untitled (pointing woman), all three relating to Wootton’s own experiments with autobiographic memory.

On a spotlit plinth is a work with a backstory to end all backstories. 10 to the minus 37 (picture above bottom) is a representation of the universe pre-Big Bang. This hugely unassuming sculpture - wearing a barely fitted coat of lead sheeting - is the same size as the universe at its putative origin. Unassuming it maybe, but inert it is n't, as in its centre is hidden a radioactive radium isotope.

Other works are nearly as cosmic and ambitious in their scope. 9130275321 refers to the human population of the planet as it projected to be in 2050. In the damp, dark bunker of the Happidrome, this seems particularly poignant: the party poppers and streamers contrasting with the paint-peeled walls in a way reminiscent of the party on the Titanic.