On my way into OVADA this morning, I saw the tragic sight of a young man lying dead in the road. Evidently he’d been the victim of a traffic accident, a cyclist. What had happened isn’t clear, but it seems he was in collision with a dustbin lorry. Covered by a sheet, his feet sticking out from underneath, he lay in the road as paramedics and policemen stood around him. I have never seen a dead body before, and the sight was one both shocking and very, very sad. After these last months, working with themes such as life and death, and in particular the deaths of hundreds upon thousands of people, it was only at that moment, on seeing this poor man, that I saw just what death was. ‘A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic’ – how very true this is.
As I left the scene and made my way to the gallery, everything around me seemed heightened; colours, sounds – life in general. The everyday was for a moment rather otherworldly. People still smiled, shops were open for business, buses left the bus station. The sun shone, buildings all around remained standing: life carried on as normal, just as it always does. I suppose, this morning, I saw mortality for the first time – that, and the resilience of the city.
It was later in the day, that I became aware of something else: eternity. Just as imagining the deaths of millions of people is – to say the least – difficult, so contemplating eternity is quite impossible. However, I have always considered that the only way to contemplate the mass deaths of the Holocaust or the carnage of the battlefields of World War One, is to find the individuals caught up in the horror. In effect, one must try and break things down into smaller pieces. The same could be said of eternity, the infinite, and as I walked around town this afternoon, I was aware of the time that had passed since this morning’s tragic events, the minutes and the hours – the first minutes and hours of the dead man’s eternal rest.