Photography and Short Story > Singto Gauvain > Bournemouth

Creating illusions through the convergence of everyday rituals and memory.

When Kai opened his eyes for the first time, he knew exactly what to do. Preparing himself for the day ahead, Kai puts his pants on one leg at a time then brushes each of his 32 teeth with precisely 76 brush strokes.


Kai is escorted from the room by a sudden indescribable sense of urgency. Without realising what had happened, he finds himself in a white wall room reminiscent of the time he went to the invisible show at the Hayward Gallery with his mother. At the centre of the room was a leather armchair and a coffee table on which sat a red telephone. With the door closed behind him Kai stood alone in this room with little pretence of what to do. He started walking around looking at the walls as if he were back at the Hayward Gallery.


After several minutes of circling the room appreciating the artworks, the red telephone rings. Kai picks up, ‘hello?’


‘Good morning Kai’, said the voice on the other side. ‘We’re just going to ask you a couple questions.’


Kai didn’t respond, but the first question came anyway, ‘what are the full names of your mother and father?’


Kai answered, ‘Alan and Evelyne’ he didn’t intend to leave out their surnames.


‘How many times should you brush your teeth per day?’, Kai answered, ’I brush my teeth 38 times from side to side and 38 times up and down.’


The voice on the other side then asked, ‘What is the 19th character in the English alphabet?’


There was a long pause before Kai answered, ‘R.’


The next question was, ‘Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?’


‘Uhhh’, Kai made a whirring noise thinking about the question. He then answered, ‘no, the simulation economy has yet to reach a singularity.’


There was quite a long pause before the voice said, ‘thanks Kai! That was the first section of questions, now onto the next.’


Although Kai had been in the room answering questions for some time, he only just started to become frustrated. It was completely intuitive for him to comply with the questioning process but having answered those questions, he started to wonder what they were for and was baffled by his presence in the white cube. He started to become confused about his identity; his memories became hazy and what he considers to be mundane day to day automation became nonsense and abstract.


‘Kai? Kai? Are you still there?’


‘Yes, still here’, he had been silent for almost a minute.


‘Alright Kai, the next question is ‘can you keep a secret?”


He didn’t understand the question and again remained silent.


‘Kai, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ said the voice on the other side.


Immediately enthused, he answered, ‘I’d really like to spend my life painting.’


‘A follow up question Kai, do you consider yourself creative?’ to which he replied, ‘I enjoy painting.’


‘Next question Kai. How do you think other people perceive you?’


He didn’t understand the question and remained silent.


‘Alright Kai, can you tell us the key traits of your identity?’ again, he didn’t understand the question and remained silent.


‘Alright Kai, final question. What does the smell of cut grass remind you of?’


Having not answered quite a few questions, Kai panicked and said, ‘a lawn mower.’


There was a short silence during which Kai could hear scribbles on paper down the phone. In the distance he heard a faint conversation, the sounds were muttered and incomprehensible but he managed to hear one thing through the cluster of ambient noise over the phone.


‘I don’t think Kai is human’.


Finally, the voice on the other side said, ‘Thanks, Kai, please return to your room.’


Kai put down the phone in silence with a singular tear running down his cheek. He got up out of the leather armchair and left the room to return to his own.


He sat down at his easel and started painting Manet’s Portrait of Emile Zola. He made 32 exact copies of the painting that day. His hands moved across the canvas like an inkjet printer.