Tuesday, 14 September 2010


We were chasing the sky to change the colour of a star, through the velvet depths of a late summer night, until we catch one, for one single moment. Only for it to be just as suddenly swallowed whole by the hedgerows and curves and bends of the road.

‘You can only change the colour of the star when you are in line with it,’ you say. ‘When you can really see it in the sky. Try again. Now.’

It seems so impossible. It will never happen. The gyrating geography and slip-slide geometry of the road seem to defy catching the star in my sight for anything more than a nano-second. And there are our twin purposes, too, on this crazy roadtrip:

You – driving at breckneck speed to get me on the last train back to Geneva. But also wanting to show me your art.
I – dialling the telephone number of the star but desperately wanting to catch my last train home.

The number is engaged.

A momentary relaxation of the hedges and the curves and bends in the road suddenly gives way again to a forest which tears down the sky, and the star disappears behind clawing branches. More numbers punched in. The number is now vacant. We are lost again. Reduced again to one pursuit – devil-may-care-speed – with now not a single star in sight. Not even a real one.

It seems an impossible mission. And part of me thinks, do I even want to catch this star? Because if I do, will the change in its colour disappoint? The possibility of changing the colour of a star is so much more poetic, that I feel I want to keep that with me, rather than see the reality.

And as the thought comes, it is replaced by that bright star again. Straight ahead. Just there. No doubt about it.

“Here. Let me.” And you take the mobile with your right hand, whilst steering with your left, and punch in the numbers. I think we will crash. Your concentration is more on the phone than the road, your speed doesn’t diminish, and the wheels hit the banks at the side of the road and then veer into the lines which run like knives beneath us. We are on a collision mission - with what I do not know. It is terrifying.

‘Tiens. Ecoute. Has the star replied? It should say Etoile d’Ai.’ And suddenly I hear the voice of a speaking star. Female. Assured. Conspiratorial. But welcoming. 3, 8, 9, 2 , 1 – I punch in a galaxy of numbers, and sure enough, the star changes colour. Just like that. Honestly it does. Orange. Red, Purple. Green. Yellow and then White again. To change the colour of a star by chasing it in the sky – even the reality turns out to be poetic.

`Originally Etoile d’Ai was set up with a telephone company. But they stopped sponsoring the star when the project ended. Just like that. They turned it off.’ You explain.

Sponsoring a star…

“People would try and ring the star from their homes. Or when they were driving by and it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t let the star die. People were so upset.”

A dying star…

“I knew I had a responsibility to the people who could see it. For them, it had become their friend. Their anchor in the world. Which listened – and responded. They could see it from their gardens. Whisper it their dreams.”

Wishing on a star…

“I even got letters saying your star is the only thing which makes me not feel alone in the world. It gives me a real sense of belonging. It also made me feel so small.”

We all bring stars down to earth the moment we are born.
Stars lodge in our bones and shine in the light in our eyes…
For we are made of stardust and hold whole galaxies within
Perhaps that’s why we love them so much
We are all made of stars

“So I found a way round it. The digital world. It opens up even the heavens to all of us. Even artists. Now anyone can call up the star and change its colour. Just as long as you can see it. It’s free.”

I catch my train. You have shown me your work. All our wishes are fulfilled. The magic. The poetry. The practicality. The reality of it all. Existence in one 20 minute drive. All when we were chasing stars through the deep blue of night that late summer’s evening. Flying across the earth – in a vertigo of stars.

Etoile d’Ai

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