Coales' Notes: Decisions, decisions: Gordon Coales hesitates on the brink of a new career in cultural management

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY Could I conceivably work for this organisation? I have been carefully studying the Ars Longa brochure, but these documents are always pretty unrevealing - bright photographs, and an obsession with the letter 'C' (Co-ordination, Creativity, Connections). 'Ars Longa, a name for excellence', 'Ars Longa - Art that lasts longer', etc.

They seem to promote new artists of all sorts, will do you a festival at the drop of a hat or anything from a quartet at a reception to massive (and notably hideous) public sculptures. But I think it could be me. And Alan seems to be thriving on it.

TUESDAY In all my excitement, Fiona's fake 'art event' fiasco has slipped my attention. But now Dave Curley has written another piece in the Herald, furiously denouncing 'the Wormwood Centre's irresponsible art hoax - only the latest in a long line of outrages perpetrated in the name of art.' And I have had another summons from the Leisure Committee, which can only mean the end. But by then, I rather hope to have some news of my own.

WEDNESDAY Well, this is it. Mr Silver's secretary rang up this afternoon, inviting me to aninterview at the Ars Longa offices next Tuesday. I said there was a point she could perhaps help me on, namely: what precisely was the job I was being interviewed for? She replied she was on the computer side of things and couldn't say. Silver himself was abroad. 'But the way Richard usually does it, is kind of - What have we got we can offer you? And what have you got you can offer us?'

I asked: 'Well, what did the last chap do then?' She didn't know. She only gathered there had been health problems. So I'm still rather in the dark.

Clearly it is a method guaranteed not to put the candidate at his ease, and clearly this is deliberate. I noted a certain ruthlessness in the man at our meeting last week - unnerving at the time, but now I feel rather invigorating. This is the private sector we're talking about, not the essentially cosseted world I am used to. And a certain ruthlessness is what one must develop. I will of course not disclose the news to anyone at this stage.

THURSDAY Fiona seems to have finally come to her senses, and it's rather pathetic. She dropped in today, conceding that her whole plan had backfired. I replied that I would refrain from saying I had told her so. She said: 'Well, you've washed your hands of us anyway, so I suppose you'll be OK.' I told her it would be safer to presume that none of us would be OK, and she said 'You're pretty cool about it though. Got plans then?' I said, no, not really.

Then she started talking about the importance of us all still sticking together. She lives in a total dream world.

I changed the subject, and asked very casually if she knew what old Alan was up to these days. She replied they weren't really in touch, but he was now with the Ars Longa agency. I said, oh really, what kind of body was that? She was vague, but intimated it had a slightly dodgy reputation. I left it there. Typical public sector resentment of success.

FRIDAY Is this worrying? Fiona rang again, new friendliness much to the fore: 'What I was saying about Ars Longa. It came back to me - and knowing you never got on with Alan, I thought it might amuse you.'

She couldn't quite remember the place or the name of the artist in question, but they had been doing a festival last Autumn. And they had arranged an installation which consisted of thousands of life-jackets (supplied by a sponsoring airline) being inflated so as to fill the gallery space. It was called Life.

I remarked it seemed exactly her cup of tea. She said: 'I know, it sounded a really interesting piece of work. Something that was made entirely of air - the breath of life, right? The jackets were kind of lung-surrogates. But of course the space was filled literally from floor to ceiling, so it was impossible to get in. So there was a . . '

She paused. I suggested: ' . . . a tension?' She went on: 'That's right, a tension between those two aspects. And apparently they had this mechanism by which all the rip- cords could be pulled simultaneously.' I agreed it must have been very spectacular.

She said: 'Well, that's it with Ars Longa, they're good at these very spectacular things. But the point is, any responsible organiser would have provided - I don't know - some kind of escape tunnel for the artist.'

A terrible accident had ensued. The artist had found himself trapped in a corner of the gallery, and was 'tragically asphyxiated by the life-jackets'. People went in with pen-knives, but by the time they got to him it was all too late.

She concluded: 'The thing is, they're basically not very good with artists. They cut corners. It's a kind of ruthlessness. And I think they lost one of their other people there too.'

I said: Yes, good story, hence the name presumably. Ars Longa - Vita Brevis. Fiona said: 'Actually, I'm a bit worried for Alan. He does tend to let himself in for these things.'

But it's not hard to guess who the other person was. I will raise this point on Tuesday.

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