Another day, another exhibition.
Melbourne is crawling with artists at the moment. Apparently they’re all on their winter migration, heading south to our summery shores for the warmer and more loving months.
One such group of artists from the cold north is Stan’s Cafe, a troupe from Birmingham, England.
I imagine Birmingham, England to be a cold place in winter.
The weather in England horrifies me.
Stan’s Cafe is a theater company that specializes in creating unusual performances in a range of contexts, with a variety or different performers.
In their latest production the performer is… rice.
Grains of rice.
Piles of rice.
Thirty-three tons of rice.
That, for the record, is a whole lot of rice.
The exhibition was staged in an old meat-market.
Curators for the exhibition work diligently to keep the statistics correct by sweeping, re-weighing, adding and subtracting to the mounds of perfectly arranged rice. The numbers and the ideas for new additions are constantly evolving.
Upon entering the gallery viewers of the exhibition are required to choose a single grain from a bowl, a single, tiny grain to represent themselves and to carry around the exhibit as a constant reminder of the insignificance of one measly, minuscule grain of rice.
That’s me on the right.
It certainly puts things in perspective.
At least, it did for me.
This is the population of China.
This is the amount of people who own a copy of Dan Browns “Da Vinci Code”.
Most of the exhibition is sobering and thought provoking.
A big part of me was concerned that thirty-three tons of rice would be
better served feeding some of the starving people in the world instead of impersonating them, but now… I think it’s worth it.
The effect is astonishing.
This last pile portrays the number of children who will die this year from diseases for which there is a vaccine. These children, these thousands and thousands of children, will not have been vaccinated.
The following mountain represents the number of people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today. Alive. For now.
I couldn’t even frame this photo to encapsulate the sheer volume of rice that represents this devastating number of people.
Sobering stuff indeed.
But the exhibition wasn’t all serious statistics and
Interspersed between the examples of frightening current events and numerical abominations were more light-hearted numbers that brought smiles to our faces.
When I told people where I was going they looked at me as if I was an idiot. It was hard to make people understand my excitement. God knows I tried.
Someone asked me if there was going to be a pile of rice to simulate the amount of sand in the whole world. I responded “No, but they’ll probably have one to represent the number of grains of rice in the world.”
And then I sat back with a beer and happily waited for the irrationality of those two statements to sink in.
I went to the exhibit with my Mama.
Originally I wanted to take a rice-cooker with me so I could pretend to be a terrorist, but I’m glad I didn’t.
I don’t think this person would have approved.
We left with smiles on our faces and a reinforced feeling of being very small in the face of very big things.
But perhaps that knowledge is what we need to force us to be more proactive about the issues at stake.
People are fighting and contracting diseases.
People are cold and afraid.
All over the world.
People. Like you and me.
It’s just so hard to imagine… until you see those disproportionate numbers shrunken down to a proportionate size.
If “Of All The People In The World” comes to a city near you, I recommend a visit.
Despite it’s deeper, darker message I left feeling elevated.
It was a good day.
And that is more than most people seem to experience in this crazy, unfair world.
Smile. If you’re sitting at a computer reading this then you are rich and fed and safe compared to most.