You Are Here: The Biography of a Moment – Matthew Watkins
In the first and final second of forever, I thought of the long past that had led to now and never… never… never… never…
Robert Calvert: Ten Seconds of Forever
Matthew Watkins uses this quote as an epigraph to his You Are Here: The Biography of a Moment. On 30th December 1972 I see Bob Calvert and Hawkwind take to the stage at the Liverpool Stadium and perform their Space Ritual. I bare my chest and dance. Almost at the same moment, in Cambridge Massachusetts, Edward Lorenz delivers his Butterfly Effect paper to the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. On the following day two leap seconds are added to the year, making 1972 the longest in human history. This may have very little to do with Watkins’ book, but it does help me to find a personal starting point for reviewing this satisfyingly strange volume. He describes You Are Here as ‘an accelerating history of Canterbury from the Big Bang tonoon August 15th 2014’. It is, indeed, a book about time and place. The place is very small and specific: Canterbury in the county of Kent where Watkins currently lives and works. His temporal scope, however, is infinite: he encompasses the dawn of time right through to the (almost) present day. But what happens on 14th August 2014? The answer is small, specific and infinite, not to mention genuinely unsettling. Time is strange, we learn. It does not progress in a strictly linear fashion. Watkins is a mathematician and an exponent of the concept of retrocausality. And in his incessant patrolling of Canterbury’s streets he has seemingly joined the psychogeographic club too. In You Are Here, with barely an equation in sight, Watkins succeeds in conjuring up the poetry of mathematics.