I’m not much into fashion, but I do like wearable art and the ways in which clothing and outerwear can express (or conceal) aspects of personality. The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibiton at the NGV in Melbourne is all about this, in fact, and was fascinating to see.
La Trobe University, which has an education partnership with NGV (and with whom I’ve been working on some related projects, including this blog post), had the 1dentities photo booth up on Friday nights. There, you had your photo taken while you said a single word you thought encapusalted your identity. The word I immediately chose was ‘Storyteller’.
A project to work with the university using these pictures and flash fiction didn’t quite come together, but I hated to abandon the sample stories I’d written. I can’t use the photos, except for my own, but here are some little stories inspired by the labels people chose for themselves as part of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at NGV.
Some labels are windows and some are doors. Some are shields and some are prisons. Every label tells a story, though it’s not always a true story. Or maybe the label is just someone else’s truth.
I’m a storyteller. I invent truths all the time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that my writing attempts to wrap types of truth up inside fictions, inspired by the world I see. The 1dentity stories I tell aren’t true stories about real people. But maybe they will be true stories about being human.
Then again, maybe you’ll just learn true stories about me, wrapped up in the fiction of someone else’s label.
Everyone wants to be McGyver-resourceful: to cobble together a rubber band, three toothpicks and a wind-up toy into a terrific device to save the world.
Okay, so maybe some people want to be Jackie-Chan-resourceful: doing fast, clever things with chairs, pool cues, even a karaoke machine, to bamboozle the bad guys. Or Bear-Gryllis-resourceful. That’ll be how to survive the zombie apocalypse!
But there’s an everyday kind of resourceful, where you look at the world with wide-open eyes, and see each thing free of labels, not only as itself, but what it was, and what it could be.
Forget what it says on the tin. Crack open your notions. Reshape and revive a thing, an idea, maybe a whole life.
Go ahead. Be resourceful.
Katie wished that people would be more accurate with their words. “It’s enough,” they said, as though that meant that it was only just enough. Merely adequate.
But enough was more than enough. Enough was full and plump and replete with potential. Enough was ample and it was abundant. It was sufficient and also to the degree required for satisfaction.
So Katie knew that she was hopelessly human, that she was flawed and had so much still to learn about life; and she also knew that her flaws and the gaps in her knowledge didn’t make her less. She had strength enough, and heart enough, and brain enough to take on the world, if she had to.
Enough meant equal to what is needed, and Katie knew she was equal to any challenge.
Benjamin was curious, in all senses of the word. He wanted to know everything about the world. He wanted to open every lid, peer into every shadowed corner, lift every rock and know every secret. He wanted the universe to be known.
Mind you, he wasn’t bothered by the fact that the universe wasn’t known. Asking the question was the important part.
As a result, Benjamin’s friends sometimes thought he was other kinds of curious. As in singular. As in unconventional and offbeat. As in The Curious Incident of the Benjamin in the Nighttime, when he’d spent a night on a rooftop with a telescope and tracked a distant comet for hours and hours and hours instead of going to the post-match booze-up.
Benjamin just wanted to know what the comet looked like, burning across space and time (time, he explained to his brother later, because by the time the light reached his eye, the comet had long passed them; it was a kind of temporal trick, the speed of light).
Benjamin is curious about everything. Why do flavours have flavour? Why are smells nostalgic? Where is the love? But it’s okay that he doesn’t have the answers yet. The joy is half in the asking, and half in seeking the answer.
“I don’t believe it.”
Rae’s mouth softened in what might have been a smile, though it was a curve made of irritation and challenge too. “Believe it or don’t. No skin off my nose.”
“You’re really a mechanic?”
“I said I was a mechanic when I was a kid. I worked in my dad’s garage all through university. I suppose you could say I still am a mechanic; I still have the skills, but of course I design machines these days. Well, aircraft to be precise. I’m an engineer.”
“My god, really? I don’t believe it!”
Rae sighed. “You really need to do something about your rigid belief systems.”
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.