Being Original

Being Original

 

We are impressed by originality, but not by any originality. Pointless World Records are original, but they raise a smile, not Arts Council grants. Yes, you can safely say ‘I am the only person to have thrown 6,000 bottles of fortified wine at a pile of trench-coats’ but no-one will be impressed by this little permutation of possible acts.

 

 What’s the line between an impressive originality and a banal one?

 

We want someone to create a means of generating new permutations, not to simply explore currently possible ones. We are impressed by the invention of new systems, new mechanisms and new tools, not new outputs.
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Drone

Drone

 

A drone is an unpunctuated sound. It’s always a sound – it can be a complex of different sounds, but they must coalesce and adhere to form something with a certain aural unity. Too much complexity and it ceases to be a drone, a drone is one thing.

 

A drone has to be long; a drone with duration of less than 1 second is a note, not a drone. But if we slowed that same note down so that it was 10 minutes long, it would be a drone. A drone emerges at somewhere between 1 second and 10 minutes in length.

 

The word ‘drone’ suggests monotony, which implies dullness. Are we meant to endure a drone, or enjoy it? A drone’s lack of differentiation and the very slowness of its unfolding test us. A drone can change – our appreciation of drones usually hinges on the difference between the beginning and the end, but the drone challenges us not to notice. Eliane Radigue draws out sounds for hours, with subtle modulations that flirt with imperceptibility. Its machinations are hidden within its slowness and we are impressed because we recognise that a monumental transformation has occurred without us seeing it; like a drifting glacier or our own ageing.

 

The drone can be a spectacle – extremely quiet, extremely loud, extremely long, requiring extreme patience or requiring extreme levels of submission. It’s interesting because it asks of us something we can do, but that we don’t normally do when we hear music. It doesn’t expect to hold our attention, but it returns us to the world with a different sensibility (if only temporarily). In this way the drone is almost inherently Cageian. It adjusts musical parameters to those ends of the spectrum that bring its own musicality into question, and its real function is displaced: it’s a slow stroll from A to B that teaches us how to walk.

 

Genitals

Genitals
 
Genitals are funny, sexy, repellent and mysterious. We can look at them with embarrassment, with clinical curiosity or with lust. Look at them while you’re smiling and see the difference. Try and look angrily at a vagina.
 
We all know what each others’ look like, but they are jealously guarded by their owners. Penises are like money, you don’t think about it when you’ve got a fair amount. If you’ve got too much, you’re greedy and probably a bit of a twat. If you haven’t got enough, it gets you down and can cause problems in your relationships.
 
Phallic symbols are everywhere, vaginal ones less so. Maybe it’s because we have more use for protruding things that are longer than they are fat (the criteria for being phallic are pretty weak) but maybe it’s because we’ve been conditioned to not see every hole as a vagina (thank God). Although some people have sex with cars – exhaust pipes for boys, gear sticks for girls. Just as any configuration of two dots and a line looks to us like a face, every act of insertion reminds us of sex.
Genitals aren’t everything – they usually need to be attached to something attractive. A disembodied vagina is bad enough (although, apparently not for users of Fleshlights) but imagine a vagina attached to a bag of mince. Chances are, at least one of you is masturbating by now.

Hard Sentences

Hard Sentences

 

Hard sentences are good because they cause our intuition to falter.

 

Daniel Kahnemann divides our mental processing into ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’; System 1 is that intuitive aspect of our thinking that allows you to read the phrase ‘nut sack’ and instantaneously conjure up a whole series of images, associated words and emotional responses. System 2 is the more rational, conscious part of you that stops you from blurting it out at the planetarium, or all the time.

 

Easy sentences don’t tax System 2 – we experience ‘cognitive ease’ and System 1 un-reflexively assimilates the data. If a menu is written in a clear font, we’re more likely to make a more intuitive judgement than if we experience even a slightly jarring discomfort upon reading. In the latter case, the cognitive ease is disrupted and System 2 steps in to sort it out. Rational factors like price and calorie content will hold more sway. Meaning, like a font, can also be clear or obscure.

 

A hard sentence is one that is dense. A sentence with difficult words in it is not difficult to someone who knows the words but downright unintelligible to someone who doesn’t. A dense sentence, on the other hand, is always hard to read. A quick scan doesn’t deliver anything. Stop, read it again, slower.

 

We are forced to unpack the sentence, engage in a little dialectical effort, break it down and build it back up. When we do build it back up, we consciously reconstruct the process of sentence-forming that the writer engaged in when she wrote it. We replicate their effort. The sentence not only communicates information, it communicates understanding.

 

Painters have often talked about slowing the eye down; they want us to look at the painting for as long as they looked at it while making it. Hard sentences slow the mind down and make us think about it for as long as the author took to write it.

Shimmering

Shimmering

 

Soundtrack: Olivier Messiaen – Louange á L’Eternité de Jésus

 

Sounds can shimmer, and so can light. There are often parallels between sound and light – music and painting share terminology, sounds have colours (white noise, Kind of Blue), light can be loud, both carry information.

 

Shimmering is a perpetual oscillation, a subtle instability that never collapses into itself. The most beautiful kind of shimmering is that of a star or a quivering cello in Quartet for the End of Time; the object has some permanence (the note hangs, the star remains) but it is in constant flux and never sits still.
A Bridget Riley shimmers, a lot of post-war American paintings do too – they’re engineered to keep the eye moving, but in one place. The reciprocity of static and dynamic is what drives these paintings and it is a subset of a possible definition of Art: the reciprocity of being and not being (Badiou). Great paintings heighten their own fragility by various means. A thing that shimmers is fragile but paradoxically permanent; its fragility is intense and moves us.
When the eye fills with tears, everything shimmers.

 

 

Opinions

Opinions

 

Writing is a good way of forming opinions. Because writing is almost always about something (in a way that other art forms aren’t necessarily), we tend to forget that it has immanent qualities just like other mediums. That is, the very act of writing has ‘content’ and value. Writing things down is not just an aide memoire but an active process of idea formation.

 

Writing also externalises those opinions – which is good – but we have a habit of putting our names next to them – which is bad, because it undermines their autonomy as ideas and causes us to consider them our property. When we think we own ideas, we think we are being attacked when they are; we ascribe value to them (as possessions) that leads us to flinch when they are damaged by others.

 

Opinions, like children, should be birthed into the world and left to lead a life of their own. They can be corrupted by the wrong crowd and bitterly attacked by their enemies, but if you raised them well, they can withstand it. And if they’re a reprehensible little fucker then they should die anyway.

 

Opinions should be as rigorously constructed as sound scientific theories and abandoned as readily as superseded ones.

 

You are not important, but your opinions are.