The world is full of other people...

Tattoo on an arm of the number 108 repeated four times in alternate red and green ink

During the early months of 2016 I had been making pictures in red and green ink, often made up of numbers. I decided I wanted to make a picture using the number 108.

It is the number of suitors who are coveting Penelope's hand on the island of Ithaca in Homer's Odyssey; an important number in all Dharmic religions; the internal angle of a regular Pentagon; the collective number of labourers in the employment of Boggis, Bunce and Bean in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, and many other things besides.

So I drew a grid pattern on a piece of card and wrote the number 108 in alternating red and green ink 108 times. I made myself laugh out loud at the thought of producing 108 cards and placing them in a box.

Soon I had ordered 108 boxes and 11,664 pieces of card and I embarked upon this enormous task.

The first box was completed in a week. Each card took approximately 30 minutes so I must have worked at nothing else for 54 hours that week. After that I would mark out and complete either 3, 6 or 9 cards a day. Unlike the first box it didn't get in the way of my life because I had begun to wake up very early.

I decided to call the project 'Ithaca', the home and destination of Odysseus.

I was unaware at this time that I had entered into a very extreme hypomanic state. Whilst about 2/3 of the way through the 4th box I woke up, set out my cards and then laughed so much I spat a mouthful of tea all over them. I abandoned the project for the remainder of my high.

The inevitable low that followed was almost completely debilitating, but I forced myself to complete the 4th box which I had abandoned in my manic state.

Since then I have been giving out the remaining boxes of cards to other people to complete in any way they choose.

My project had started out as something very solitary, even with the intention that the boxes would forever remain closed and only I would know what I had done. But my high had taken me out into the world again, and the world is full of other people. I hope by giving out the remaining boxes that the project acknowledges this in the way it has evolved.

There was a long period of coming to terms with this evolution though. The idea that I had somehow failed still lingered sometimes.

So eventually I had the number 108, in alternating red and green, tattooed onto my shoulder 4 times in a column to represent the 4 boxes I completed. To say to myself that 4 boxes was enough. That I'd done enough and that 'Ithaca' has a life of its own now.

I have continued to experience highs and lows since that time and continue to go through the arduous system of mental health services. I remain undiagnosed.

written by hywel