Friday, 2 March 2012

Hockney, the freedom of friendship and merchants of death

A curiously chastening experience came my way a couple of hours ago.

I was buying four cinema tickets for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tonight.

‘Adults?’ asked the man behind the counter.

Well we’re certainly all over 18. Over 21, which was where the bar was set when I was a child. Why, even over 25 where it was in the Renaissance. Surely adults then? But I suddenly realised the problem wasn't one of youth.

‘Two of us are over 60,’ I replied.

‘Ah,’ he said, ‘two adults and two seniors.'

What? As we approach old age we lose our status as adults? What game is this? Without regaining the charm of children we lose the authority of grown ups?

Danielle wants to make a big deal over my sixtieth birthday next year. I can’t imagine what I’d be celebrating. Loss of adult status: what’s to be cheerful about in that? Even a couple of quid off the cost of a cinema ticket hardly makes up for it.

Marigold strikes me as a suitable way to wrap up what has turned out to be a tiring week. A fine and intellectually stress-free prospect which will provide a perfect counterpoint to the much more cultural experience of yesterday, when we went to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy.

What an extraordinary show. As well as some strikingly beautiful paintings and drawings, what he had done with an iPad left me breathless. If Apple needed another tribute, it could only have been this one: a compliment from a major artist who managed, somehow or other, to use an i-ad to conjure up the beauty of the emergence of spring, or the tall quiet dripping trees of Yosemite, breathing majesty in their stillness.

He’s a joyful painter so I found myself smiling a lot, but the first smile came in the courtyard outside the Academy. A member of staff had the words ‘visit for free, ask me how’ on the back of his jacket.

‘Visit for free’:
sounds good until you translate it

This is a Marketing-speak statements that need translation. First of all, the ‘how’ is easy: it’s by becoming a friend of the Academy. ‘Friend’ in a special sense: it has nothing to do with disinterested liking and companionship but, on the contrary, everything to do with the purchase of status with money. When people buy love for money, we know what to call it, but what’s the word when you buy friendship?

Becoming a friend of the Academy means parting with a substantial sum in the hope of amortising it by 
‘free’. That merely means attending exhibitions several times more often a year than you ever would by simple inclination. Free, like friend, is being used with a rather special intent, not perhaps immediately recognisable from ordinary, non-marketing life.

That was yesterday. Today I completed the process of exhausting myself for the week, training software users for six hours.

One of the trainees was curious about analysis of mortality, something that has tended to be done rather badly in the past. I talked about having attended a meeting a while ago, ‘as a supplier’.

I caught myself up short. A supplier of mortality? It made me feel as though I was presenting myself as an arms dealer.

Time to go and see a good, clean, mindless, feel-good movie. What a relief I’ve got tickets for one in my wallet.


waggledook said...

I can't help feeling this is at least 3 blog posts bundled into one!

David Beeson said...

Nothing gets past you. Just three though. And at least I got them all off my chest in one go...