So I’m at Gorgie City Farm and there’s this large sow stood on her hind legs, with her forelegs over the fencing, snorting sociably at the punters. I stand next to her and point my phone at us, but she takes this as a signal not to pose nicely but to start eating my left ear and the back of my ski jacket. After multiple attempts and a very wet neck, I give up trying to get a porker mug shot and try one of the other stalls. With wire separating us, my new model is rather insouciant and can’t be arsed to face the lens, so I end up with this compromise Elsie.
And now I hear all my reader asking, what the fuck’s an ‘Elsie’? I shall explain, with a few examples.
No one able to read a blog on a computer can fail to be aware of the ‘selfie’. Oxford English Dictionaries made it their Word of the Year 2013 and I wrote a potty-mouthed pome about it, which you can see me perform here.
Some years ago, the idea struck me of photographing some of the many famous performers and artists who come to Edinburgh during the Festival Season, but having them stand next to members of the public, locals and tourists. To heighten any comment that may be implied by the juxtaposition of the celebrated with the quotidian, the celebrity would be so far to one side of the picture that only an unidentifiable strip of their side would be included. Each piece would be titled, eg, George R R Martin and Eric Smith of Lancashire.
I never got round to pursuing this idea, partly because being a performer limited the daytime hours when I wasn’t abed or distributing flyers and touting the show.
As with most of my projects, the idea comes as something that amuses me, in some masturbatory manner, and implications, subtexts or artyfarty justifications follow later. I’m sure a lot of bullshit about the ontological, existential or portentous ramifications of this idea could be generated by a nartskool graduate. If I ever get to do the pics, I might even have a go at the exegesis (as we call it, in order to sound intellectual).
So an equally ‘amusing’ idea struck me — the idea of doing a selfie, in which I only feature as a thin sliver of myself. And some would say that this degree of absence was justification enough for the concept. Mere nanoseconds later it occurred to me that if a picture of myself was a Selfie, a picture of (predominantly) someone else would be an Elsie (and don’t say you hadn’t seen that coming).
Trubble was, being a Luddite, having worked with computers since the early 70s, I was disinclined to move into the 21st Century and get a smartphone or even a tablet. I don’t want to be a zombie, walking round glued to a screen all day, basefucking and playing Angry Crush. And I would be worse than anyone else for this if once I started, believe me. It’s not that I have a disdain for such activities, more that I would be addicted from the get go.
Now, fortunately, your blogger is not well equipped with those ‘friend’ things that others keep going on about, so his wash’n’go Nokia Thickfone only needs topping up to the tune of £20-£30 a year. But all this does mean he has no camera device that will point narcissistically at the user when taking pics and can do neither Selfie nor Elsie.
Until now, that is. For a mere twenty post-Brexit pounds, the local crash converter shop had a cheap’n’nasty second hand smartphone of sufficient quality. So the project has begun.
It seems right to identify the Elses (obviously jargon is needed, so an Elsie is the picture, the subject is an Else) by first name and job description.
If possible I want a bit of suitable background, as with Nutan’s wonderful eatery. And, as with the statue and the pig, I shall call any unidentifiable character Eric or Erica.
I have eight so far. I also have a painful, swollen, lumpy left foot just now, so I may not get any more for a while. But maybe soon I shall show some more here and muse on the implications of this online installation of humanity (and pigs and statues and …?).
For now, I need to put my feet up.