Tuesday, August 16, 2011

David Blaine - Above the Below - September 2003

Written during the stunt magician David Blaine pulled where he suspended himself in a glass box by London's City Hall and starved himself for 44 days. Marvellous.

Why there’s a man in a box hanging over the River Thames

It wasn’t so long ago that nutters were carted off to the local lunatic asylum, pumped full of drugs and encouraged to become expert basket weavers. Obviously the Tories Care in the Community released some back into society resulting in a rise in certain types of offences and an increased number of odd people on buses, but as far as I was concerned I still believed that anyone who was a serious danger to themselves would find themselves a nice bed with their name above it behind a door with a rather secure lock.

But obviously I’m wrong, because, as I write, perhaps the biggest nutter of them all is dangling himself over the River Thames killing himself in the slowest yet most effective way possible.

David Blaine. The Magic Man.

Bless him.

You’ll all know by now that he’s shut himself up in a clear box without food or a good book and aims to stay there for 44 days. He’s got a tube to receive water and a tube to take away his poo and wee (aka Body Waste). And that’s it. He did take some lipbalm in with him, to which all us girls breathed a sigh of relief – imagine going through all that with chapped lips!

These are some of the risks Blaine will face: hypothermia (the box is unheated and he won’t be able to retain as much heat as usual when his body slips into starvation mode), organ damage when his body starts to digest them around the latter stages of malnutrition, brain damage through lack of glucose and kidney failure. Not to mention the sanity issues that 44 days of no food or distraction could cause – you know how shitty you can be if you miss lunch for a start.

No doctors will examine him unless he’s not seen to move for 2 days, by which time the damage incurred could be irreversible.

Ultimately, David Blaine faces death. But he’s not too bothered as he sees death as a ‘beautiful experience’. In fact he thinks that even if he does cark it, it’s worth it ‘for my art’.

‘I don’t want to be understood’, he says leaving me to wonder if that’s the case why in God’s name doesn’t he do it in his own bloody garden. If he really is just doing it for himself then what the hell does it matter who sees him? Hanging alongside one of England’s most famous landmarks isn’t exactly private.

Still, in an attempt to explain why (the master of contradiction), one of Blaine’s claims is that he believes no food or human contact for the duration of this ‘test to human endurance’ will result in the ‘purest state you can be in’. I’m sure that the ten men who died during the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikes would’ve completely agreed with you, David. They’d also’ve agree that it’s definitely a search for personal ‘truths’.

And you know what: those starving communities all over the world, if they could actually read about you, or even see you on a telly, they’d probably be clapping their hands with joy that someone at last understands what a marvellous idea it is not to eat; how truly superfluous nutrition is to attaining your true self.

I also think that branding yourself with a tattoo matching that of a Holocaust survivor is in impeccable taste. How touched the remaining Auschwitz survivors must be by your selfless actions, especially those who lost family not to the Nazis but to the pesky inability to endure starvation.

And don’t be surprised if you generate a little fan club made up of sufferers of anorexia nervosa. At last someone’s recognised that not eating actually is a vocation. Especially since you’ve eschewed the glucose supplement in your water (really? Honestly?). Well done, David.

Unwanted by the Guinness Book of Records – both this little drama and his buried alive trick (which I personally believe was just a unique way of getting to look up New York girls skirts) have been beaten by miles: Dennis Goodwin in 1973 starved himself for 385 days in Wakefield Prison while Bill White spent 141 buried in a box – and demonstrating against nothing but the weakness of the body, and all for what?

All of us are capable of more than we can imagine. Blaine says that and it’s probably one of the only things that’s dribbled from that egocentric, arrogant mouth I do agree with. We will all go through periods of time when we’re stretched beyond comprehension, be it physically or emotionally. And people will say to us: ‘you’re being so strong’ and you’ll say ‘you just get on with it’ and you do. Even though when you look back, your own personal resources will far surpass those you imagined you had.

You’re not that special, David. We just choose to do our testing behind closed doors (Trisha and Kilroy guests excluded).

When this all finishes and if he survives, he’ll be carted off to hospital where he won’t be sectioned into a psychiatric unit to make sure he doesn’t do this to his body ever again while trying to figure out why the hell he’d want to in the first place like they would if any of us displayed such worrying behaviour. Attempt suicide in the UK and, quite rightly, you’ll be placed in twenty-four hour observation and given intensive psychiatric therapy. Not David. He’ll be treated by a posse of highly qualified doctors who’ll try and fix everything he’s broken as best they can before unleashing him back into society. Back off into the sunset, he’ll go, ego bolstered by the success of another insane mission, ready to test his shocked body by yet another ridiculous task. Perhaps he’ll go through gender reassignment. Just for the sake of it. Become Davinia and wear big fake boobs.

As a magician I find it hard to think of anyone better than David Blaine. He is simply amazing.

As a person his self-belief is unnerving. As is his conviction that he’s doing this because he’s ‘above’ human. Which he’s not (and I hope he doesn’t find that out the hard way). No, what we’re clearly dealing with is someone who didn’t get enough attention as a child. Look at him up there: he’s got no privacy, he’s got a rumbling belly and absolutely nothing to do but sit around with a mildly smug look on his face. He’s not changing the world, he’s not making a difference to anyone or anything but he’s getting a whole heap of attention. As I’m writing this I bet a hundred or more people are doing the same. There are gawpers crowded beneath him at this very second if only to demonstrate or perhaps catch him using his poo-tube. For 44 days commuters will be walking to work by him, tourists will be photographing him, reporters will be filming him, women will be falling in love with him, men will be talking about him in the pub, old ladies will ask who he is and remark on his beard.

In the first few days one man took a four iron onto Tower Bridge and fired off golfballs at David’s box (none of the dozen actually hit, his aim was remarkably ‘tragic’ says one of the site technicians) and eggs were luzzed by ‘yobs’. But it doesn’t matter. Because it’s all about David. Look at me! Look at me! I Am David Blaine!

Ah David. I think someone needs a hug.


SarahJGee said...

Ah yes, just as a brilliant smack round the face as I remember. Did he do it in the end?

You know can't help but think that this wouldn't wash now at ALL! Folks have got too much else going on inni.


Lucy Smallwood said...

He did, yes. I remember thinking: cor, imagine his BREATH as he came out crying and hugging people.

And I agree. Sign of superfluous times. :)