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Bridget Critique's Diary:
At the edge of Reason at the Bytom Festival

by Bridget Critique (translation Marta Pietras)

June 2005 -- Bytom, Poland

["Bridget Critique" was a member of a team of six preparing Polish and English language Festival newspaper editions on alternate days while cramming in as much of the Festival programme as possible. -- ed.]

Time: 7.00 a.m.
Stress units: 30
Tiredness units: 50
Cigarettes: 0

It seems I’m sleeping, but it’s not true. I can hear people coming in and out from the room. I know, it’s my fault, sleeping under the table is not a good strategy. Well, there’s no free space anywhere else. The whole floor is covered with sleeping bags. I can hear because I have lost an earplug from my left ear. Probably it has stuck to my hair and I will have to pull it out. But I’ll do it later. Why do I use earplugs? Parties in Fantom [The bar at the Silesian Dance Theatre] last till 4.00 a.m. and our flatmates get up at 7.00 a.m. Seven minus four leaves three hours sleep

Time: 7.15 a.m.
Stress units: 40
Tiredness units: 40
Cigarettes: still 0!

I need to pee. I have to get up. I’m groggy, but I manage to stagger out of bed and I’m on my way. And soon I am coming back – the toilet is occupied by those leaving at 7.30. I will have to go outside. In pyjamas? I put on my clothes.

Time: 7.30 a.m.
Finally the silence I’ve been dreaming about. I return to my sleeping bag. A drop of sleep in a whole sea of tiredness. I want to drink it right now.

Time: 10.00 a.m.
Stress units: 50
Tiredness units: 30
Cigarettes: 1

Clean my teeth, fast make up, coffee made of three teaspoons per cup, first cigarette – this one kills fastest; to settle my shaking hands. There’s no electricity in the flat, same as every morning. With wet hair I am running for my theory classes. Luckily the others don’t look better than I do. Where did they sleep? While passing us, people stare in a strange way. Knowing we look like zombies, we turn our identity badges upside down, so they can’t read our names.

Time: 11.30 a.m.
Stress units: 80
Tiredness units: 60
Cigarettes: 20

With my head crazy with pain I am checking my e-mails in the office. Maybe somebody decided to write a review of yesterday’s performance. The computer breaks down and the black screen has devoured everything that was done last day and night. Who will help me? The Chief Editor is neurotic so don’t go close. A guy with a minimum of computer knowledge is trying to repair it. Swearing, he is taking something from one place and putting it to another. I am smoking the next portion of cigarettes. I feel sick. Maybe I should eat, but there’s no time.

Time: mid-day

Deadline for texts for the today’s issue of the newspaper. We won’t be ready with the translations. Stuart has fallen asleep in a chair. I should wake him up and motivate him - a lovely man. I didn’t know that they play hymns in Bytom too. I am moving my toe in its rhythm– well I am at dance conference, aren’t I?

Time: 14.00 p.m.
Stress units: 100
Tiredness units: 95
Cigarettes: 43

The Internet isn’t working. We cannot send our texts for the layout. Shattered nerves. To relax I am building on a desk an installation made of plastic mugs, yesterday’s issue of the newspaper and the wrap of the chief editor. The last cigarette. A glass of water. My mind is elsewhere. I rest in the sunlight streaming through the window.

Time: 15.00 p.m.
Stress units: 20 above permissible standard
Tiredness units: 10 above norm
Cigarettes: 50

I’ve had enough. I’m going to eat. The ingredients of our meals are still the same. I have a mouth like a hog and my hands are shaking. There are no napkins. At the moment a disappointed reader is scolding me for a negative review. With my dirty nose I look like a cross between a zombie and a clown – a real authority. My appetite is gone. The crisis is coming. A remark: people take words too personally - they become offended like children. Our discussion is not a dialogue. The critic doesn’t play a constructive function. What are we here for?

Time: 16.00 p.m.
Stress units: 10 above norm
Tiredness units: at the same level
Cigarettes: 52

To catch someone and give him a questionnaire. He may not agree to fill it out. The target recognized, mission completed, the only question that remains is whether he will give it back completed? An interview with one of the Korean dancers. It’s crazy. I am making notes, but my handwriting is unreadable. A dictaphone is out of the question – it records only Polish words. How does it happen? Ghosts from the office are specialists of rummaging for technical equipment. But not only that – they have half eaten the editor’s pen.

Time: 17.00 p.m.

I am running for yoga. I don’t know where studio C is. I'm guessing. Then I am standing on a mat surrounded by athletic dancers’ bodies. My own, flaccid from sitting at desk is recalcitrant. I am falling asleep during the meditation. I am thinking and stress is coming back. Fast back to the office. The computers are alive again, so let’s get back to work. I feel sticky, so I refresh myself with coffee.

Time: 18.30 p.m.
Stress units: 25 above norm
Tiredness units: 30 above norm
Cigarettes: 62

We are photocopying our newspaper. For a while, the Xerox machine is out of order. I have stopped reacting to such things. Coffee before the performance. Maybe I won’t fall asleep in the middle. Watch and remember, think and interpret. There is no pleasure from watching a performance if you are to be its critic. 

Time: 21.00 p.m.

After the performance. We are collecting opinions from the audience. The proportion between those who are polite to me and those who are not is 1:1. Sometimes you may be invited for coffee instead of getting an opinion.
Most of the reactions: very nice, super, I liked it much. Are we afraid of negative opinions? Asking questions is fascinating me more and more as a social phenomenon.

Time: 22.00 p.m.
Stress units: around 100
Tiredness units: 150, which means 50% over the limit
Cigarettes: after summing up 70

To the computer, divide up the work, schedule tasks. Who will give me a massage? No hands in the air, they are all at the keyboard. Hand-fetishists are typing, typing, typing. As Nosowska was singing: “coffee, cigarettes, coffee and me”. Temptation to get drunk, inspiration is not coming. Stormy discussions about what we saw. Those who don’t have a duty to write are deserting in the direction of sleeping bags or dancing parquet.

Time: midnight
Stress units: 0
Tiredness units: faaaaar too much
Cigarettes: as above

The highest point of creative passion and of computers’ destruction – it takes 35 min. to open the Onet website. I can hear the voice of somebody writing in a different room. At this hour we are all talking to ourselves. Dilemmas, banal during the day are growing bigger and bigger. Narcotic need of sweets!

Time: 2.00 a.m.

Night marathon across Bytom in search of a night shop with a wide range of chocolates. On the way “scary” views. Coffee, coffee, coffecoffecoffee... Pudding instead of brain. Night creatures are flying in the office. We are running away.

Time: 4.00 a.m.
Stress units: minus 20
Tiredness units: very close to the limit of what you can stand
Cigarettes: third pack

The computer screen has become black – the mouse has covered it up with a black curtain. When you touch it, the mouse articulates strange sounds. God, what is going on there? The mouse “is dancing” with a hard disc.
A small attack of panic, uncontrolled laughter. We manage to wake up a colleague, who is trying to calm the mouse.

Time: 6.00 a.m.

It’s bright. Bodies scarcely alive make their way to their coffins. They are carrying mysterious suitcases hiding laptops. Glassy eyes don’t see the door, which result in bruises. Sleepy stuffiness in the flat. Hairs in the sink. A stranger is lying in my place with my clothes under her head. I wonder if she has used my toothbrush. A cigarette, my only friend, is with me all the time. I manage not to kill the stranger. I am sleeping in the hall.


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