Oberto and Esperide in London
An action-packed and most interesting four days in October as Oberto Airaudi and Esperide Ananas visited London. Staying at the October Gallery, a project associated with the same group of people who built the Biosphere 2 complex in Oracle, Arizona, they met with John Allen, the inspiration behind Biosphere and many other ecological, artistic and philosophical projects. Videos were watched and exchanged of the Biosphere and Damanhur, after which it was agreed that John Allen would visit Damanhur early in November, along with some of the Biospherians who had lived for two years in their newly-created enclosed system. This could lead to some interesting collaborative developments.
At the October Gallery, they also met with biologist Jack Cohen, co-author with Ian Stewart of "The Collapse of Chaos", and had a very fruitful discussion on ideas surrounding the possibilities of Time Travel, theoretical and practical. An incisive meeting of minds.
Accompanied by Jeff Merrifield and Jan Turvey, Oberto and Esperide also travelled to Oxford to meet with Dr David Deutsch, of Oxford University, one of the world’s most foremost experts on the theory of time. David Deutsch has formulated a mathematical theory of multiverses, which postulates that time travel in theoretically possible, without the usually perceived obstacle of paradox. He and Oberto had a most interesting meeting, where theories were explained and examined. Those fortunate enough to observe this meeting saw a dynamic exchange of ideas and a mutual respect growing between the two. There is little doubt that the meeting will influence the work of both men and that further contact will be inevitable.
One of the people at the meeting was Ken Campbell. Esperide and Oberto were guests at the opening of his new show, Violin Time, at the Royal National Theatre. The show features Thieu-Hoa Vuong, better known as our Teo-Wa, both as a performer and in its story-line, including a section about her visit to Damanhur. There is quite a bit about Damanhur in the show, about the Temple of Mankind being the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, about the people of Damanhur and about how Oberto had discovered ‘the Self’, that illusive part of humanity that philosophers had been searching for over centuries. And he had found it by ‘astounding’ it into being - the only way! The review of Ken’s show in the The Times of London is reproduced below:
The funniest man on the planet Venus, that is
One man, one girl and a ferret
KEN CAMPBELL has concluded that, as he says in his latest foray into genial lunacy, "one-man shows might be improved by having more people in them". Hence the presence of Thieu-Hoa Vuong, a young violinist who plays her instrument first in the wings, then onstage, and does a lot of smiling and a little giggling and talking. And hence, of course, the show's title.
How did he meet her? In what, Campbell being Campbell, was the most everyday way. He put out a psychic call from Newfoundland, where he was on creative furlough, for a pretty, violin-playing Oriental woman with a weird sense of humour and a feeling for ferrets. Back in England he found himself playing a sex-mad chicken-farmer in a public-service film warning children about the dangers of talking to strange men. And who should appear in the meadow as he tottered about, eyes and false teeth bulging? Why, Thieu-Hoa of course.
Richard Eyre once speculated that Campbell had been sent from another planet, possibly Venus, to create anarchic fun and "shake up our ideas about the theatre". Clearly he is on the Earth, but equally clearly he is not of the Earth. Maybe he was magicked into being by the Brothers Grimm, a paunchy goblin with eyebrows, bald pate and grin that are themselves enough to prove his Scots name an outrageous deception. Certainly he inhabits worlds where eccentricity is the norm and the ordinary takes on a bizarre feel.
That said, I must admit that Campbell is right to recall Eyre's warning when he commissioned Violin Time: "Your next show is going to have to be better than they said your last one was." Jamais Vu struck this critic as so brilliantly funny that its sequel seems the tiniest bit disappointing. Even a visit to the proud town of Dildo does not prevent his reminiscences of Newfoundland becoming a mite protracted. I also got slightly lost towards the end, when troubadours, ferrets and the Holy Grail became intertwined; but I suspect that was because Campbell's wits can do the pole vault, the 100-yard dash and the egg-and-spoon race while yours and mine are chugging doggedly along.
Still, he takes us to Damanhur, a "temple of mankind" and eighth wonder of the world, being built underground without planning permission by a New Age guru. He remembers disrupting a grimly earnest EST weekend by announcing the formation of JEST, a cult dedicated to empowering people's absurdities. He produces surprising objects, among them toy ferrets and a scholarly work describing the influence of the Three Stooges on the Papacy. He also celebrates the Boogers, a 13th-century sect apparently anathematised by the Inquisition for seeing life as a priapic romp.
By the end it seems safe to sum up Campbell as a ferret-obsessed Booger probably researching the impact of Donald Duck on the late Lord Reith, or, as he drily puts it, "a bald-headed witty geezer who is not quite sure what this growing-up business is". All power to his elbow, especially when it is digging us in the ribs.
The show was a great success with other critics also. Several pieces about Damanhur were written in the programme for the National Theatre show, which continued into November.
Oberto and Esperide also met with representatives of Amora International, a new film production company who want to make a film about Damanhur, or possibly even two films, as their first production for British television, to tie in with the launch of Jeff Merrifield’s book next September. This was another productive meeting and justified the long trek from Oxford, after meeting David Deutsch, to Burley, near Southampton on the south coast, and a return to London at way past three o’clock in the morning.
Oberto’s comment whilst returning to the airport: “If all the projects that we have talked about on this trip come off there will be an explosion of activity at Damanhur over the next few years...” Let’s hope that the seeds sawn here do flourish.
JEFF MERRIFIELD October 1996