Saturday 15 September 2012

Aristophanes and Embarrassing Photographs

In a GROTESQUE and UNJUSTIFIABLE invasion of my privacy, I have heard that French and Italian magazines may be about to publish intimate photographs of me looking as though I was asleep on the job last Thursday.  

Work-In-Progress for Alexandre Singh's The Humans
I had arisen unforgivably early to travel by Easyjet from the UK to the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. Along with three other academics from France, Britain and the Netherlands respectively, I was taking part in a public audio-recorded discussion, which lasted an exacting SIX HOURS. It was  convened in the hope that it might assist the exciting Anglo-French artist Alexandre Singh in his fascinating new Aristophanic performance/installation project The Humans (to reach fruition in 2013).

Shortly before Philosophical Trance
Following a traditional Dutch lunch heavy on carbohydrates (pumpkin soup and cheese pie), I was unwise enough at one point in the afternoon to close my eyes and adopt a horizontal position. Paparazzi using sophisticated telephoto lens technology snapped away while I was actually engaged in an interior monologue which entailed advanced philosophical reasoning (see below). 

The photographer now blackmailing me claims that “the photos are by no means degrading. They show a middle-aged woman not on vacation, not beautiful, fully clothed, and not with her husband.”  This reprehensible individual also claims that it is certainly “in the public interest” for it to be proved by these shocking images that I am so signally not earning my living, since (until the British universities were recently privatised) British academics were paid by the British taxpayer.

Socrates, thinking, gets Horizontal
I have two comments to make. First, I was NOT asleep. I was thinking. I can surely be allowed to contemplate the Form of Absolute Beauty in Rotterdam, if Socrates could have a philosophical trance in a military camp such as is described by Alcibiades in Plato’s Symposium: “One day, at dawn, he started thinking about some problem or other; he just stood outside, trying to figure it out. He couldn't resolve it, but he wouldn't give up. He simply stood there, glued to the same spot… He stood in the very same spot until dawn!”

A Sleep-Deprived Scipio
Second, obviously no well-trained classicist EVER goes to sleep in a public place, since they all know that sleeping people can be raped and impregnated (the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia—see last week’s blog), blinded (the Cyclops), diverted from superintending the Trojan War (Zeus in the Iliad), abandoned by their lover (Ariadne on Naxos), ambushed and murdered (Rhesus in the Iliad), or have their cattle stolen (Apollo by Hermes). Moreover, properly valiant warriors in antiquity could manage far more than a six-hour symposium without succumbing to a snooze: Scipio stayed awake for six whole days and nights in order to achieve the siege of Byrsa (the citadel of Carthage), at least according to Appian (Pun. 130).

Ancient Greek/Roman gods and heroes did not have many privacy rights. They understood that if they wanted to be rich while doing absolutely nothing constructive or useful, they had to take care of their public image. But I, on the other hand, was hard at work. I will certainly sue any media outlet which, motivated by unadulterated greed, thinks it can boost sales by publishing these fruits of shameful and prurient prying. I can offer a reward (a transcript of my inner philosophical dialogue while apparently asleep last Thursday) for the original images. Please email me privately via my website, or write c/o The Gadfly, St. James' Palace, London.

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