One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

8th March

This story starts in Paris. With a 27 year old movie whose name I still have trouble pronouncing.

The week before my friend P.A. had mentioned a great TED talk that I looked up. The speaker was an artist called Jonathan Harris. Intrigued by what I heard him say, I logged on to his website and learnt about his latest project which involves taking and publishing a photo each and every day as a way to document his life. Not the most original idea, but all the same, his photos were impressive and his words seemed sincere. More remarkable possibly was how he found time to do all of this while travelling the world giving speeches and rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in global politics. One entry I skimmed over described a film that he carried with him in a blue suitcase everywhere he went. I had never heard of this film, the title was in another language - too hard to remember. I thought the idea slightly preposterous: imagine carrying a film with you everywhere you went, and we're not talking Casablanca, Ben Hur or even Scarface... just some strange foreign film that I had never even heard of.

Two days later I was over at P.A.'s house, recounting how that after watching the TED talk I went further and looked up Harris' website. As P.A. hadn't had a chance to do this yet, he listened keenly. I enjoyed telling him about an entry I read where Harris' had a dream about being in Sikkim. This was strange firstly because as Harris' explained, he had never even been to India, but also because, I mean, who has ever heard of Sikkim? Bizarrely, the only reason that I knew a place called Sikkim existed was because P.A. had spent two years making a documentary about one of the mountains in the region. We both found this coincidence mildly amusing and I continued to try and encapsulate my thoughts about Harris' work. It seemed to all boil down to the fact that I was a little jealous really. Jonathan Harris was doing great things, things that I might imagine myself doing but was certainly too scared to. The issue of privacy and how much of your life you decide to make public had me freaked out. Harris (and his family) didn't seem to have any problems with this, the more you read, the more intimately you seemed to know him. P.A. understood my fears but thought that the general direction of society was towards being more open in these matters. "In any case", he explained (as only the french have a way of doing), "if you feel like this is blocking you, anything you do moving forward, you will always carry this block with you". They seemed like wise words. Before leaving he gave me choice of two films to borrow. One of them was Jodorowksi's "El Topo" but I opted for the milder, more accessible looking option with a nice picture of a full moon on the cover. "You have to watch this", P.A. told me, looking serious, "c'est trop beau." The title was too long and foreign to try and decipher on the spot but he told me it translated to "life out of balance".

The next night cooking dinner for myself I decided to give it a look. The meal was over and I had almost given up after encountering one too many disc-region-not-compatible-with-this-player problems. I guess that's what you get for trying to watch these foreign fandangaled artsy movies. Giving it one last shot, it finally started playing and I settled in to the humbling and unrushed first refrains of the Philip Glass score.

The beginning was along the same lines as Arthus Bertrand's "Home" but without the poetic french monologue - nothing new here. But at about 20 minutes in, I started to have a very funny sensation. Could it have been that this was the film Jonathan Harris was talking about? The one he carries in the blue case? After just 10 more minutes I was so convinced of this coincidence that the only thing that stopped me verifying straight away was my imagined utter disappointment if it were to prove otherwise. It was too late at night for that kind of drama. I kept watching. With every passing scene it became more impossible to imagine any other film that someone would want to carry with them wherever they went. If a more beautiful film existed, and Jonathan Harris knew about it, I would find out what it was and probably start carrying it around too, foreign language title or not.

I continued watching the rest of the film entranced, thankful that it was displayed on a small computer screen and relatively tinny speakers. With an audiovisual experience any more convincing, I knew I wouldn't be capable of lasting till the end without somebody's hand to hold. Before it had finished, a concrete plan had formed in my head. In the months previous, a strange feeling of nostalgia had been growing in me ever since I heard that NASA's space shuttle program will stop forever later this year. Growing up in Australia I was about as far away from Cape Canaveral as you can get, but somehow the Space Shuttle seemed to be an integral part of the dreams of my youth. A symbol of all the good parts of the American Dream if you will. I didn't want to let this pass by without at least marking the occasion somehow. For this reason, being in America this summer was always on the cards for me. Koyaanisqatsi (the name of the film, which even now I have to check the spelling of) was released in 1983 - have you ever heard of it? What are the odds that in 27 years I don't hear anything about this film and then all of this happens within a few days?
The film starts and (tragically) ends with footage of an American rocket blasting off. I don't know what the director was trying to communicate with these images, but I think we would all agree they are awe inspiring and are also a powerful symbol for humanity.
The plan in my head was, the very next morning, to verify if it was true: that Koyaanisqatsi was indeed the film that Jonathan Harris carries with him everywhere he travels. If it proved to be the case, I would have no more excuses for being afraid. The time would be ripe to take action.

That was yesterday, and this morning I checked and it is indeed true.

I will try and get to Cape Canaveral to see a Space Shuttle launch before these launches stop forever. In the process I will document the journey here, with a photo everyday. (Ok, its not the most original idea, but hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!) In the spirit of great coincidences, maybe somewhere along the way I'll cross paths with Jonathan Harris. He might even feel like coming down to Florida.

We'll see.