Writing: The Installation

The Installation

Simon and Anna are artists and sometimes they are commissioned to produce something to place in a square. Their respective companions, Lolita and Buster, are in love and this has provided Simon and Anna with the theme for their next project.

When Simon met Lolita, she was hungry and homeless, he gave her food and a roof over her head and she returned his kindness with loyalty and warmth. Anna had met Buster under similar circumstances and the outcome of their acquaintance equalled Simon and Lolita's. Buster had no balls and Lolita's womb had been removed, and Simon and Anna agreed that, with so much in common, the two should meet. It was platonic love at first sight. The encounter gave birth to a bond that Buster and Lolita became addicted to and that Simon and Anna recorded daily as reference for their project.

Buster and Lolita shared everything. When they ate, they left food on their plate for the other one to taste. When they slept, they entwined their bodies into the same space, and when they walked with the sun behind them, they created only one shadow. They even crapped together. Buster and Lolita didn't look alike, nor act alike, but they felt alike. If ever they were separated, they became inescapably depressed, taking to their beds, declining food and fresh air, and sulking in a foetal position. Their physiologies converged and their personalities merged to the point of confusion when it came to distinguishing one from the other sometimes. So successful was their liaison that it became a living legend to those who witnessed it. They never fought nor had a bad thought about one another for all the peace and happiness that streamed from their hearts. People were always wanting to touch them, as if by doing do, they would feel those things too.

Simon and Anna had three years to prepare their piece before exposing it, during which time they travelled the world with Buster and Lolita, documenting their moves, accumulating material with which to create their work of art. Simon and Anna were lucky because Buster and Lolita were exceptionally photogenic and they never tired of their presence in front of the lens. Photographing them was a pleaser that yielded all sorts of variations on the same theme. There was video footage of them running in various urban settings paired with snapshots of them standing in front of each of those cities' most popular landmarks. Reels of super-eight film highlighted their many walks through fields and forests, and carefully filed slides showed them bathing, swimming in seas and rivers. A part of the collection was made up of polaroids of them at parties, social events, and of them sleeping together. A chosen number of the portraits were taken of them elegantly, side by side.

Three years had not quite passed when their trip was cut short in India. One late morning at the big Bombay bazaar, Simon was filming Buster basking in the sunshine, sprawled out next to a little girl. The little girl was selling chilli peppers which she had delicately placed perpendicularly to one another so as to create a wonderful array of colours zig-zagging across her mat. The contrast was intriguing and Simon did not notice the rabid dog until it appeared in the frame and bit Buster. Lolita intervened immediately but she got bitten too. Anna managed to shoo the sick dog away, but it was too late to do anything for Buster and Lolita - an effective cure could be obtained but not in time to save them.

The next available flight home wasn't for a few days. As long as they did not bite, they could do no harm, and the first obvious symptoms of the illness took a week or so to appear. The vet entrusted Simon and Anna with the good care of Buster and Lolita, on the condition that they respect certain precautions to avoid the disease spreading. They paid him money and he gave the dogs a clean bill of health that would get them past the Indian authorities.

Simon and Anna did their upmost to fill their friends' last days with as many sensations as possible. They led them down through slums, they hung out in mean markets, they tied them outside temples so that they could smell the incense that was burned inside. They took them running, they held up sticks so that they could jump, they took them to bathe where Indians bathed. At night, they all slept under the stars so that they could savour the infinite variety of fragrances and odours that India has to offer, and before they boarded the plane, Simon and Anna painted them in a way that Hindus decorate sacred animals.

The footage of Buster and Lolita coming through customs is the saddest bit, according to some, because it looks like they know they have come home to die. Their heads hang low, their legs tremble, weakened by fatigue, and their eyes scan the cold flooring of Charles-De-Gaulle airport, in search of somewhere inviting to lie down and rest. Simon and Anna fool the officers by blaming Buster and Lolita's behaviour on the sleeping pills, but it is clear, to those in the know, that the end is nigh. Some of the public were too moved by the first part of the installation to bear watching the short film of Buster and Lolita raging in the cage, foaming at the mouth, and a fair few believed that it was an unnecessary addition to an otherwise delightful depiction of two dogs in love. The ultimate image was what inspired the soundtrack to the installation, delivered, a cappella, by Simon and Anna who sobbed into a microphone as they watched, over and over again, the tape of Buster and Lolita receiving their final injections, paws touching, going to sleep in their masters' arms.

Anna Wildsmith

2010 I, Absentee