James Beckett (ZA, NL), Larson Keys, 1966
Previously resident in South Africa, James Beckett returned to Cape Town for the residency, where he reconnected with old friends. Some of whom had traversed or were in the process of dealing with drug addictions. For Very Real Time, Beckett developed a fictional narrative around a close friend.
Larson Keys, 1966,
Larson was born on Tues 15 th February in Dumfries , Scotland to parents Jock Keys and Zahra Reuter. Jock was a modest man of poetic nature, and mother Zahra a humble hard working woman who had spent much of her life before twenty on an island off the North German coast, near Hamburg . Both quite reclusive, his parents' characteristics had rubbed off on Larson. From an early age he applied endless hours to numerous hobbies: cataloguing stamps, balancing ph levels of various water samples, and among other activities, scraping off and solvent-dissolving build-up from the interior walls of his fathers Volvo V6 exhaust pipe.
He was later to take interest in the natural sciences, which resulted in a prosperous
5-year study of geology at the University of Mysore, India, a premier institution for the earth sciences. Under the tutorial leadership of the distinguished geology-educationist, Prof. M.N.Vishwanathaiah, Larson succeeded in being one of few foreigners in decades to be awarded a full degree in sedimentology and experimental mineralogy.
Considered to be of mostly pragmatic nature in profiling new ground fit for industrial development, the sedimentology division of geology had come into conflict with Larson's base passion for nature. Although having been offered numerous positions in the field, he chose to abstain and, with his parents' blessing and financial backing, turned instead to study towards becoming a maritime engineer in his native Scotland .
Intimately involved in the prototyping of a cross section of tugboats , Keys had held the post of head engineer at the Scottish Maritime Engineering Society for three consecutive years from 1994 to 1997. In particular contribution toward the evolution of tugs toward new efficiency was his work on the central pistons of the Bolton range of tugs. A school famous for their handling ability in bad sea conditions, the Bolton range are called upon in times of crisis and salvation such as large scale oil spills; moments of potential life loss and environmental damage. In justification of his interest, Larson had found the study and application of engineering to be a helping hand in a resistance against what he was increasingly experiencing as a situation of ecological detriment on a global scale. His involvement in safety and environmental health enforcement provided the moral spine he had so long desired.
Keys's vocation spurred much wealth and esteem, which he took lightly. Having steadily progressed to a position of quite some influence, he took on several responsibilities for both the development of a new range, as well as (and more importantly) the propagation of the present Bolton range of engines. His position increasingly took the form of a public relations secretary. Through his ability to sell the idea of stronger and faster tugboats he had travelled to many of the worlds choppiest seas in collaboration with many different countries. The Tokyo bay contract (as well as those of Cape Town , South Africa and Marseille , France ) was the source of his steady income and pride. Conversely, they were also the birth of much pressure and stress.
He had initially moved to South Africa for professional reason, that of monitoring his work in practice, the tug-boat John Ross, operating the choppy coastline of Cape Town . Much diplomatic work was necessary; networking in order to justify the costs involved in the acquisition of the S.A. Maritime Board. Keys was talented in these entries, he was fluent in several languages and had a deep grasp of the complex infrastructure. Nevertheless, it was always clear that he would require a partner in operation. He had chosen to work with respected conservationist Shama Tudoit: a young French woman who had already been busy with the Cape Coast Maritime Environmental Commission for quite some years.
The shared responsibility of this partnership helped relieve much of the associated stress of his vocation. Nevertheless, Keys retained habit of several consecutive courses of antibiotics in futile attempt to boost his weak immune system, a move which would later lead to a dense build-up of sulphonamides in his skin.
His stress was not helped by the obsessive nature of his approach. He found his work to become integral only if it were close by, 24 hours a day. The desire to wake up and see what he had been doing the night before was in effect the preparation of thread for the construction of a cocoon. Figures and design, pioneering engineering and its manifestation in profit were his temporal fix and at home he found he could feed his obsessions without any external comment or judgement. This would also mean that aside from his networking activities, he would not get out of the house much.
Stress to Skin
Polymorphous Light Eruption
This is a skin eruption, and is commonly known as "sun poisoning". It occurs in susceptible individuals when they are exposed to solar radiation that is more intense than usual, i.e. the first time a body part that has had no prior UV exposure is in the sun in a given season. It may also occur when the person travels to higher or lower latitude. The skin-rash reaction usually heals within 7-10 days if additional sun exposure is avoided.
Some PLE are due to the presence of drugs, hormones or heavy metals in the individual's skin. Photo-allergies may also result when light rays interact with certain chemicals. Photo-contact allergens include: phenothiazine (a type of tranquilizer) and hexachlorophene, as well as certain sulphonamides (a type of antibiotic).
For Larson this would mean more than just staying out of the sun: constant rest and a special diet consisting of little more than fruit and milk became necessary. Up to 14 hours of sleep a day would also come to mean a complete paralysis of his usual work mode. All his efforts of a return to normality would only become effective in the long-term, in conjunction with a wide variety of sunscreens.
Already quite frustrated with his slow rehabilitation, Larson had peaked over several of the tangent marketing ploys of the lotions he was researching for personal use. Although still in his shopping basket, the ‘bronzers' were of particular irritation. To develop a sub-culture of sorts, the sunscreen company had claimed the existence of several different levels of experience in tanners, and targeted their product range as such. Larson was not an ‘experienced tanner' and had no ambitions of becoming one. In his case Polymorphous Light Eruption was serious, and was something he took very seriously.This all became too much for Larson. His concentration wavered, and his passion for his work phased out. Previously his home was familiar as a work place, it was now his lot to be indoors, or at least in the shade at most times of the day. This would mean he was further confined to the walls of his home, with the intermittent excursion into his narrow suburb. The space he had earned through years of dedication and focus had begun to describe its own shape more that ever. High walls and a constant retreating public were even more distant and alienating than his native Dumfries .
The problem was in that people were not communicating with each other, and it was not that he had been able to stop what he was doing long enough to take notice before. This became the space which he despised. He longed for a community like a polar bear would snow.
Shama had kept a close watch over Larson. She could see the cynicism leaking out in all his mutterings and found the clutter of his home to reflect the disdain with which he was interacting with the world. It became too much. She decided to make a concerted effort to get Larson out of the house more often, to offer him an alternative to his navel gazing, a characteristic which had begun to spell out his demise. This would mean quite some sacrifice on her part, and a respective level of tolerance on his. In Shama's plan, a series of scenic drives would offer such an alternative.
In the beginning the drives were quite enlightening for Larson. He had never the time to view the beautiful coastline without the pressure of a destination; he was, to some measure, lulled by Shamas' slow swaying through the undulating landscapes. After a week of such amateur therapy an incident struck a deep chord within Larson. While driving with Shama down quite a steep hill, at around 10:30 one morning, a young black man ran into the middle of the street, through a gap in the traffic. He was retrieving a rugged old blanket which appeared to come from a construction site near the section of road they were entering. While the man's clothing hinted that he was working on the site, he could just as easily have been a passer-by making opportunity of a lost rag. The interpretations were open yet the nature of the retrieval was clear. The receptor was poor.
It was not so much the incident in isolation as it was the significance of the blanket in the equation. Larson had an almost identical one at home, a blanket his dog usually slept on. Never before had a single moment spat so much sense into Larson's existence. It was at this point that Larson decided to dig a hole.
In return to his days as a refined geology scholar, Larson prepared his kit fit for excavation. Appropriated from his selection of garden tools stored in the corner of the garage above his home, the kit was comprised of several spades, a large fork and a smaller shovel. This prepared, he then covered the majority of his skin with one of his darkest suits, the one usually reserved for formal gatherings. With seeming purpose, he set out in all his weakness, towards some of the more open clearings in the burnt-out forest on the hill at the tail-end of his home, and, upon finding a suitable spot, he began to dig.
At first, with quite some haste and fervour, he managed to clear a surface area of approximately one metre squared. The deeper he managed to penetrate, the more rocks he crossed and successively the more difficulty he encountered in clearing away material. Within eight hours and with much strain he managed to reach a depth of around one metre, at which point he began to clear away all trace of loose soil and obstructing rocks from what he deemed the significant body of his hole. With a dustpan and brush, and then finer paintbrushes, he managed to clean up the surfaces of the exposed stones to a point where he was ready to begin profiling the layers and variety of rocks. With tedious detail he had, within three days, completed the study and duly presented his synopsis to Shama for her approval.
Shama realized there were no differences between the rocks Larson had numbered; his profile was fictitious. Consulting a psychologist about how best to deal with the awkward situation, she was advised to relay that he should take up a musical instrument or frequently attempt crossword puzzles in order to keep the inconsistencies at bay.