Category Archives: Concepts

A lot of people chew up the scenery. I’m a firm believer in less is more…

The Alternative Advent: Day 2

alternative advent day 2bThe object of art is to give life shape & something to chew over—

It also works the other way…

Skill without imagination is craftsmanship. Just as, imagination without skill gives us modern art. Tom Stoppard made that observation, no doubt with, The Prudence and the Pill in mind: Nothing unites the English like war. Nothing divides them like Picasso.

Modern Art, it’s true— is considered with derision by many and as absurd by most, typified by nothing better than The Turner Prize. It is greeted each year with anticipation and enthusiasm, but for all the wrong reasons. With a glint in their eyes and half-baked chuckles wrestling in their throats, our newsreaders announce the short-list and their creators’ achievements, knowing full well that that we: the unenlightened ones, will be hooting and cursing in equal portions wondering what on Earth it’s all about?

Rachel Whiteread won the award in 1993, with her creation “House”. You may remember it: a Victorian Terrace was filled with concrete then its outsides were taken away, and so astonishing was its impact, the local council waited an entire year before tearing it down.

More recently though we had my personal favourite: Simon Starling, who ingeniously turned a boat into a shed, then back into a boat. Imaginatively titled: Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No 2). It was supposed represent the, slowing of things down, and about trying to retard the incredible speed with which we live.

The only thing I could tell was being slowed however, was the boat’s ability to float.

But of course it did. It made perfect sense. It made as much of it as being described ‘eccentric’ did to Mr Starling— which wasn’t a great deal, in fact he took great umbrage at the description— an act I found more bewildering than his former dinghy.

There’s little wrong with ‘form’ of any kind going hand-in-hand with hand and head, but when hands and bloockls become inseparable, even indistinguishable from the bullshit and bafflement which surrounds it; perhaps it’s worth trying to take the intellectual out of the art, or better still, away from it altogether.

How about bringing a little accessibility back? How about something like:

Bubble Gum Art?

I’d have galleries handing out different coloured gum upon entering, to be chewed; there’s a little ‘shaping’ for you right there, where it matters— on the building blocks. It’s contemporary, very pop; and like all art— not everyone’s cup of tea— so it’ll either be chewed over or not—  with verbals or mandibles, it doesn’t matter…

Towards the end of the gallery I would have a canvas for the used gum and a bin for that which was not. I like the irony but none of the significance which could easily be spun— but it’s as close as I can imagine, art for art’s sake, becoming more than a spectator sport, at least indoors anyway; and the kids would love it…

It’s clever—

But is it art?

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A quick introduction to The Alternative Advent, update on the monkeys & an animated tree…

The Alternative Advent: Day 1

day one of aaGreat ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds—

Constantly…

As true as this little ditty may be, I’m a great believer in giving the mediocre mind a voice so their ideas can be violently laughed at by greater ones, just so I can put these awful people in their place, instil a few manners and bring a little order and decorum to world. I would however prefer a little less barracking, a little more embracing; and positively no snootiness at all. Especially, when it is an ideas month.

It is because for the fourth time I have declared it so. Gone are the days once more of the advent countdown where we feast on miniature chocolates and welcome to the 21st Century count up, complete with animated tree. And as before, I intend to invent a brilliant idea per day until Christmas— as Linus Pauling said, the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and bollocks to the chocolate.

Update on the monkeys:

It’s been a while since I took leave with the many monkeys I had under my wing and allowed them room to flap into hat shops in search of the perfect fitting trilby. No mean feat— in fact it’s a deliberately assaulting one, since their heads are a little on the petite side.

And post hoc ergo propter hoc— they tend to require certain necessitations previously unheard of in respectable outfitters, as their clientèle are traditionally more evolved. Hat sizes in the 32th inch for instance are a curiosity that extends beyond their woolly bodies and into the vast canyons of their toothy grins. For they must ‘eek’ and ‘akk’ loquaciously and skittle mannequins before catching so much as a glimpse from a tape measure; and though they may hold out for a tickle up the inside-leg, they generally make do with some brand spanking head-wear.

So, with that cleared up and as we’re already on day one, I felt like warming up to the task with an idea that is far from warm but very, very cool…

We’ve had the book, the film and we’ve had the rock opera. But we haven’t had:

War of the Worldson ice

It’s such a novel concept— because we wouldn’t have to wait for the Martians to catch a cold. Just trick them into using the Heat Ray and wait for them to sink!

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas…

George Bernard Shaw

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The Hopefuel Range & the not unseens…

The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for…

Allan K. Chalmers

hopeI prefer to think in terms of the not-so-grand essentials that work just as well. We cannot put a quart in a pint glass after all, because abstractions of such can never agree and invariably come back to the same thing: something to hope for.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime. Therefore, we are saved by hope.”

Which is pretty gloomy stuff, but goes on to state that:

“Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith.”

Which is more or less exactly the same thing— all the while making a non-essential argument about ‘grand things’. It is however, more than likely that he’s saying— it can be no more separated from patience than from the form itself. You see, there will always be a little something along the way to chew.

Like the devil said to Noah, it’s bound to clear up.

A lack patience is the reason liquor was created; made in mind for those who wanted a hundred beers but only a small pocket to carry them in. It is the original vendible distilled— sometimes many, many times— in order to promote a little optimism in its users’ lives. There should however, be more— something that doesn’t consider one’s innards to be comestible.

The Hope Springs flavoured Waters range would be a step in the right direction, particularly for those with a more delicate sense of taste; preferring a cool and smooth beverage as opposed to something that thinks of you as foodwhich is why there should be a Hope-I-don’t-Bloat range of dietary snacks; or perhaps an educational device: The Hope-I-Float swimming trainer; an invaluable tool for first time paddlers.

But there should at least be something for those of us who are concerned that our child or childs will fall for the wrong ‘sort’: the I Hope they don’t Elope parental handbook, would deal with that, providing the reader with all those woes, a tender examination of possible solutions— and if all those fail; a how-to-guide composed of violent recriminatory advice entitled: Acrimony before Matrimony.

Personally, I’d prefer to see something on the lines of:

Hope on a Rope

It would be less retentive than water, with fewer calories than food; you’re less likely to get drunk and drown because you’ve forgotten your arm-bands; and no one’s father is going to shoot you. Instead, you can just lather up and rinse and drip-dry, safe in the knowledge that you need never hope you smell well, again. Or simply, wear your hope and make it real— we wear our hearts from time to time do we not?

Porro fides est rerum sperandarum substantia, demonstratio eorum quae non videntur—

Which is probably the most elegant of all definitions: the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…

Hebrew 11:1

It certainly has a better ring to it than Pope-soap.

 

Mootax & the mood-syntax button…

I never did very well in math—

I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn’t meant my answers literally

Calvin Trillin

IMG_2343Sometimes the answers lie in what we choose not to say:

The calendar is stricken and reversed; as such, much better counting down to something I fancy. It is a solution most ordinary, but alternative enough had I not known of the palindrome. But no ordinary one: the alternative palindrome.

I’d start at one and on to 12, halt and return forth-with; or perhaps a pattern based upon the alternative kaleidoscope, which unlike the original model, wasn’t random at all, but split into 4 alternating groups descending by a day at a time— in multiples of 6. The alternative ‘primes’ method was considered for a few minutes but disregarded for being too stupid— but it was the only one that was.

I quite liked it at first: the idea of making something, except when it fell on a day that was ‘prime’ in which case, I just ignored it; and why not? I happen to be prime too also: divisible by myself and one. It’s not something I’d care to try— I saw Braveheart, all stretched out and screaming. So no.

It was even suggested I take a look at the ISO 8601 Original date system, a system designed to prevent confusion and the misplace of time in the future. After all, we wouldn’t want to confuse my date of birth as the year 26111976 would we. Although it wouldn’t surprise me, I’ve met few who’d have to think about it for a while. Anyway, ISO was over-ruled, not just because it was bollocks, but also mean to imbeciles. It was a conscience call.

In any event, we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve needed to write something to someone about something and have struggled. Perhaps the page in mind was too ‘industrial’ or ‘salty’ to have resolved or conveyed what ever the message should have read. It does put a dampener on things, especially if you end up sending a load of ‘unfs’ and ‘ucks’ anyway. Help should be at hand— perhaps in the form of:

The Mood-Syntax Button

Or Mootax for short. It would be an ideal addition to future generations of Word. Not that I can imagine having much faith in it were it so.

Already this morning, it’s tried to persuade me that, ‘I am divisible by myself and one is I not?’ And that ISO 8601, is ‘a system designed to prevent confusion and misplace the time of the future.’ Perhaps it was just being alternative; wasn’t it Agent Mulder who coined the phrase, I believe Microsoft Works?

That said, I do like the notion of the misplacement of time because of a computer error– not all that removed from yesterday is it?

In order for Mootax to work optimally, it would have to be used in conjunction with voice recognition software. A good barney on paper is nothing compared to one: au natural. The minute the fingers get involved there are too many rules; deflation ensues and that constant voice of reason’s forever telling you, ‘you can’t write that.’

So do not…

Switch on, log-in, ‘f’ and blind, cry, whinge, la, laugh, grit, snort or rabbit, ’til a voice you have no more. Convert it to text, highlight it and then select the appropriate mood. I think you’d have to have the option of selecting multiple moods for any passage, including an ‘and’ or ‘but’ variable. For example:

Soft but ‘pissy’ and ‘indifferent but sincere’ wouldn’t have the same ring to them were they both, and not at the expense of either. But that’s where the custom settings would come into play.

A simple questionnaire would suffice in order to capture a Mootax setting which could be pre-programmed and used whenever you felt like it.

I’d want the amnesia setting with the but of: a tendency to forget.

And for those who prefer to type: A pressure sensitive keyboard with an auto-correct facility included at no extra cost…

The who gives a #@%& pocket, more about cats & the dangers of hand-held fans…

A three piece discord—

And the cunning of the third person…

go to break earlyAs I enter the third day under the roof of ignominious, quasi-disharmony, I decided I ought best choose my words carefully in case my laptop is bugged. And though diligence is not something that comes naturally with a pen in hand, I feel it’s quite possible the being spied upon trope is not an over-reaction, and my house-guest has not gone shopping at all.

I actually considered writing this in the third person to induce ignoratio elenchi and befuddle my would-be observers, but not only would that’ve been far too weird, it would’ve contravened one of my personal laws. To describe my loathing of self-referential utterances in the third-person as rules, would be an affront to my very soul: rules are merely principals to be observed. Laws on the other hand: something to be obeyed. It is called illesim and it’s creepy. Salvador Dali did it once in a televised interview, but if you remember my piece on minimalism, he also once had to be rescued from a deep-sea divers suit with a pair of pliers…

Anyway, as I’ve accepted a luncheon invitation and’d found a suitable pause in my morning’s work, I thought I’d jot down some of my recent acquisitions, one of my old ones, skip the overture and play the second of three specially recorded: symphony of words:

I’ve discovered that it’s part of cats’ original sin to lure their owners into a down-pour wearing dressing-gowns only to be snubbed at the last moment; and playing with a hand-held-fan too close to close to someone’s hair can leave the blades entangled in it. The latter occurred last evening and I have been looking over my shoulder ever since, hence my spy-awareness.

Personally, I can’t really see what all the fuss is about, even my sister laughed, so it must’ve been a little bit funny, even though by then the turbine had actually begun to groan. There was no permanent damage and the marvellous fro-effect was upsettingly temporary.

And lastly, otherwise I’m really going to be late, is the who gives a @#$% pocket. I’d like to call it an invention, but I believe it to be a naturally occurring phenomena, something we all have; and just like addictions or imaginary friends: we just have to acknowledge it’s there. They are simple to use and needn’t be particularly large since they aren’t designed for non-specific items, as it will soon become clear.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been questioned unnecessarily, or had to endure the dribbling of an inferior; been put on the spot with the express intention to cause yourself embarrassment? Had to suffer the nonsensical ravings of a co-worker, family friend or house-guest?

If the answer is yes, then the who gives a @#$% pocket is like a vacuum for all these things and more. You see, for Baloney Detection Networks and Hemmingway’s bullshit detector to become something more performative, they need a Ghostbusters-like containment unit.

So the next time someone you know has been savaging your ears relentlessly for a month or more about the same old rubbish and you’ve reached the limits of all fissionable care, here’s what you say:

Wait a second, let me look in my who gives a @#$% pocket

You look, then you say: nope, the @#$%er’s empty…

You see the charm and size of your imaginary compartment is both infinitely variable and irreverent because not only is it yours and yours alone, but the @#$%er’s always empty. I discovered it quite by chance one day and have been smiling about it ever since.

Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating that intelligence. Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none…

Claude Chabrol
 

It’s a contentious issue, but I can’t help feeling the powers that be have missed a trick with their immigration policies…

It’s bows and arrows against the lightning

They ‘aven’t seen that fire-beam yet…

Herbert George Wells, War of the Worlds

394934_10150749353871041_1787771566_nIn the Telegraph today, Douglas Carswell writes:

“For years, the debate about immigration has been dominated by “experts”.

“Complex and inaccessible data was used by remote academics. They crunched the numbers and were left to draw the conclusions. The rest of us had to take it on trust that the facts sustained what they told us.”

The Guardian’s Mary Dejevsky agrees somewhat and tells us [the] immigration debate is not just about numbers … We have to consider people’s daily experience too:

“[The] Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London, found arrivals from the European economic area (EEA) since 1995 to have been even more of an asset to the UK economy than previously thought. They had, it calculated, contributed £8.8bn over the 15 years between 1995 and 2011, and if you considered only the past 10 years, the balance was even more positive.”

However Steve Doughty from The Daily Mail, read the same report and interpreted it slightly differently, claiming that :

“Immigrants from outside Europe have taken £100billion more in benefits and services than they paid back in taxes, a major study revealed yesterday.

“Over a 16-year period, the bill to the taxpayer of providing them with welfare, health and education was 14 per cent higher than the money they put in the national purse.”

This is a problem— when our source material is provided by unimpeachable sources but the conclusions drawn from it are wildly disparate, I’m afraid either the nature of the data or the conclusions must be rendered as lacking validity. At least in a usable, practicable way. Studies ought to inform, not divide in such a binary manner.

This is not a new problem. In an article in Scientific American, Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise, Michael Shermer writes about the mechanisms that allow us to see such differences; it also alows us to see bunny rabbits in fluffy clouds— the same mechanism which results in ‘complex and inaccessible data’ being summarised and presented as fact, while ignoring that:

Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns.”

It is describing a form of apophenia: the ability we have to see what we want to see; or more simply, the ability to make sense when there is none.  In fact, the irony is, I too could be doing just that, but I’ll be describing how I perceive the opinion process in another post, I just wanted to get the Baloney Detection Network out there because I love it, just as much as Hemmingway’s bullshit detector. It’s more or less the same thing.

Anyway, no amount of numbers can alter the fact that immigration is simply someone moving from one place to another. So I ask you, simply

Why not just employ nightclub doormen as immigration officials?

Have you ever tried getting into a club if your name wasn’t on the list?

It’s just a thought…

There’s not a great deal to minimalism— otherwise, what’d be the point?

It looks like you can write a minimalist piece without much bleeding—

And you can. But not a good one…

David Foster Wallace

iuSo with that in mind: I’d like to begin with an idea I had about using stray cats as temporary ‘cats-eyes’. They might not be as hardy as the real thing, but at least you could run over them nine times before replacing them— that said, I am in no way condoning the use of animals as traffic signals or road signs: I love cats, and with any luck the rest’ll be a little less cruel.

*

Minimalism is very much like dance— ballet to be exactI am utterly baffled by it. It seems to demand a rather off-putting level of technical knowledge, knowledge I’m afraid would require me to slip into a pair of tights to fully gather. For instance, unless the performer actually falls over, it’s hard to know whether they were dancing moderately or spectacularly.

The same is true of classical music and art— where only an expert can really detect a wrong note or incompetent brush stroke— but with those forms we have the compensations of emotion, colour and story— except, admittedly, in the case of atonal music and art of the blank or practically-blank variety. And it seems that dance, whether classical or contemporary, shares with minimalist symphonies and abstract painting, a problem of narrative.

While great art can contain no story and bad art can consist of nothing but plots, our natural instinct when faced with entertainment is to try to extract a tale or meaning. When watching ballet, I was never sure whether to think he’s pissed with her or she’s trying to stab him or he’s asking the gods for, I don’t know— something?

The problem is that we’re most comfortable with art that achieves its effects verbally. It’s no coincidence that the mass art-forms are literature, cinema, pop, television and theatre. Even with a Beethoven or Mozart symphony, it’s comforting to have a programme or sleeve note revealing what the piece is about.

With dance I always felt as if the audience had to provide mental subtitles for what is essentially a silent film. Some choreographers compensate for this with the use of mime, but this just repels me further— mime being the only art form lower on my list than ballet.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve found that learning about anything, not only improves your understanding of it, but also your ability make fun of it; should you need to lighten the mood in the the company of over-bearing pretentiousness of course. As such, I think it’s a point that should be hammered home in schools: if the class clowns think they’re funny now, imagine how funny they could be if they could read. The country that does will top the world’s league tables for achievement.

Minimalism is one of those things that needs to be snickered at I think, if not openly mocked— not just because it’s crap and because of the people it attracts— but for a combination of the two. There’s nothing better than observing the complete abandonment of reason that stalk those who follow it.

It just doesn’t have the stories. No matter how you attempt to roll it off the tongue, minimalism is dull:

A 20th century art movement stressing the reduction of work into a minimum number of colours, shapes, lines and texture with no attempt to represent or symbolise anything. It is sometimes called ABC art, minimal art, reductivism, and rejective art.

Now that just about sums it up for me: no attempt to represent or symbolise anything… For example:

Frank Stella, whose pin-striped paintings feature nothing but straight lines running parallel to the edges of the canvas for instance, delivered the ultimate sound-bite of minimalist philosophy, when he declared there was nothing besides the paint on the canvas and what you see is what you see. Wow!

Salvador Dali once gave a lecture in a deep-sea diving suit but had to be extracted from his metal helmet with pliers after becoming asphyxiated. Hilarious, but to a minimalist? I can imagine them either turning up their noses or suggesting he should have done it behind a screen, silently, with no audience— in darkness. What you cannot see therefore, is something you simply cannot see. A kind of Minimalism without the effort.

And what greater expression of minimalism could there be than not turning up to give a lecture no one would be present for anyway? I can imagine them patting themselves on the backs and marvelling at their brilliance and how triumphantly clever they are and wondering why no one had thought of it before.

That said, they must make wonderful house-guests, providing your plates are the right shade of white and the food is all the same colour. Quite…

The Minimalist sedulously eschew obfuscatory hyper verbosity and prolixity, in the smallest possible way of course— and therein is its charm.

As for me, I think I’m far too simple to really get it, beyond the facile syllogism it is what it is, but perhaps that’s the point. I like simple things, like carrier bags, no doubt for similar reasons: every time I go to the cinema there always seems to be hordes of children running about with them over their shoes. I don’t know why and I don’t particularly want to know. I won’t think less of them for their fashion choices and it’s not as if I will take a camera crew to their house and get the neighbours to re-decorate it.

But some people would; and decorators are as culpable as any for the proliferation of minimalistic lexis:

  • Share space between different uses

  • Remove formal spaces

  • Add double-height space

  • Reduce circulation paths

  • Build furniture into rooms

  • Use bedrooms for sleeping

  • Add a focal point

  • Bring in the outdoors

  • Invite natural light

  • Tie spaces together

  • Reveal the structure

  • Be playful and imaginative

  • Separate spaces

  • Plan for flexibility

And all these things appear quite normal until you actually start to combine a couple of them— and then you get to the bottom of what they really mean. These are not scholars of the English language, otherwise they’d not’ve bothered. This is ‘verbosity’ merely posing as minimalism: bob-a-jobbers posing as intellectuals or stylists or whatever the professional nomenclature is these days…

The tying of spaces together to separate spaces make for endless hours of shuffling, especially once any formality of space has been withdrawn. But then again, what you see is what you see, so let us reveal the structure by bringing the inside out, whilst bringing the outside, inside-in; inviting ‘in’ the natural light to accompany the focal point. Hell, why not an indoor water feature?

Perhaps then we could entice raccoons to dinner; the sun past the zenith; sing a one word hymn to the dribble of damp bamboo; and find a way to squeeze through the space that was once formal.

I am curious though, as to how one actually reduces circulation paths unless you‘re actually tying spaces together: wouldn’t that cause asphyxiation and require evacuation with pliers? And how does one share space between different uses unless the different uses are in fact the separation and binding of spaceis it prior to them being de-formed? Surely this taints the principal behind it somewhat.

If it is what it is— it must surely and can only mean, that it is and wants to be a de-form of some kind. Or perhaps it has no choice? Anti-art for no-one’s sake whatsoever.

And this is before we’ve been playful and imaginative by building our furniture into rooms. I know I can do it— especially after adding a double height ceiling; but how this would squeeze into the minimalist ethos, I’m not entirely sure.

As for extreme minimalism, I suppose less truly does mean more and to hell with ceilings altogether.

Thinking about it now though leaves me strangely depressed. Perhaps I should have stuck to thinking about:

  1. aubergine juggling and

  2. novelty uses for children as expressions of style;

  3. all the other all important questions I haven’t addressed, including:

  4. Is there room for growth in minimalism?

  5. What do they really call themselves?

And if so, where does it go next?

I value little my own opinions but I value just as little those of others…

Michel de Montaigne