Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Answering anticant

After much deliberation (and a little coercion) I finally decided on volunteering to answer five of anticant's questions for the Interview Meme. Here they are.

You hail from the Peak District, I believe. Do you feel an exile in the city? Are those wide open spaces and delectable views a comforting influence in your urban life?

I hail from almost, but not quite, the Peak District - from somewhere semi-rural but altogether less pretty. I love the Peak District, and being so close to it did make it part of the fabric of my upbringing. I would say that more closed, intimate, potentially secret little pockets of countryside (like those described in Home) have a much more raw, direct kind of resonance for me though, which hasn't really dimmed over time. Paths enclosed by hedgerows or trees. Spaces in which to hide and think - or not think, as the case may be. I'm not sure how articulate I can be about why that is, without (say) re-reading The Poetics of Space first....

Do I feel like an exile in the city? Yes if I'm here for a long uninterrupted spell. I need my fix of rural space. Luckily these days (when it's not constantly raining) I can cycle out to charming areas of countryside within a short space of time, and that does me a hell of a lot of good. Listening to silence being punctuated by sounds of near-silence. I don't always want to be a city dweller, and it can at times be isolating in its own way - but some of the time I think I've got the best of both worlds.

You've sometimes expressed dissatisfaction, and even frustration, with some aspects of your work. Do you have any plans for moving into more congenial spheres?

Work is taking on an increasingly Kafkaesque sense of freakishness, and is doing my head in. This week, it seems, especially so - though I wouldn't go into any detail here. If nothing else it perhaps proves a certain level of resilience, though moaning but doing nothing about it is surely an example of the worst, most annoying kind of comfort zone.

So yes I want, need and would really welcome a change. Regardless of the efforts I've made so far though, I'm still having trouble answering rather basic, crucial questions, such as: so what do I actually want to DO? At present I'm not sure how happy I'll ever really be in any kind of structured, conventional employment (though I do have a very calming, peaceful image of working in a clearing in a forest spending my days chopping logs with an axe).

You have wide artistic and musical interests. Please tell us something about these.

Now this could really be a nightmare question to answer, being so open-ended as to allow me to wrap myself in knots of incoherent pretentious twaddle, or at least the blogging equivalent of eating spaghetti.

However, I'll begin with an example which I hope might shed at least some light onto such territory:

When I began my MA course in Fine Art (oooohhh, X years ago) I had the strange but strong assumption that my work had to be big and clever. I was doing an MA (gasp) course after all. Everything Would Be Very Earnest And Serious And Require A Lot Of Thought And Intellectual Rigour. Needless to say, when I tried to apply such principles to my work, the result was that it was a Load Of Shit.

My final show, which was my best, most playful, free, often bizarre work, was collectively entitled "Neither Big Nor Clever." Having scrapped my previous approach about a third of the way through the course I started afresh with a new modus operandi which could be summed up as "No Idea is Too Stupid."

Which didn't mean I was solely engaged in the pursuit of stupid ideas, rather that it opened me up to all sorts of possibilities which I might previously have dismissed. This proved to very liberating, enriching and exciting, and hopefully sums up much of my mindset in this respect.

The relevance of this (I hope) to anticant's question, is that it reflects on my approach to other people's work of whatever form in the sense that:

It helps me to constructively dismiss or question my assumptions towards works of art or music, especially assumptions as to what is "good" or "bad", "acceptable" or "unacceptable" for example. The framework of (even dumb) ideas seems to be the key.

What may seem stupid, surprising, ugly, brutal, violent, shocking, twee, scattershot (insert other adjectives at random) and therefore seem to detract from my appreciation of something, may actually be the key to my appreciation of it.

I also think John Peel has a lot to answer for. It was nice to listen to a radio show and frequently hear, say, a prime piece of 1940's jazz played back-to-back with a monolithic slab of white noise or some other such extreme, and not see anything inherently odd in that.

Right, I've wrapped myself in knots after all. Next question...

If you could be granted one wish that you believe would improve the plight of humanity, what would it be?

That everyone go and see The Fall in concert at least once. I tried to think of a more weighty answer to this one, I really did...

How has the internet, and blogging, changed your life?

I'm a lot paler, since I go outdoors less. As regards the internet, fairly common factors: its much easier to keep in touch with people on the other side of the world; much easier to have access to information of whatever form generally. I don't think this is completely a good thing, since it is also very easy to take so much of it for granted. I'm glad to remember the thrill of getting letters through the post, for example.

Blogging has, I think, been a more generally positive thing for me. Getting involved in talking with interesting if not always like-minded people. There's a definite charm in participating in conversations and debates with people from very different places, circumstances, experience and (maybe) status. Blogging has made me think about a lot of themes and topics which I might not have otherwise have been exposed to.

My own blog has, in terms of process, felt like a good thing for me to have set up, at least so far. It feels like it helps me to order my thinking much more again. Rather than "just" thinking about things, I'm finding that I'm trying much more to find a way to adequately express those thoughts: to develop the language again. Getting a response to those thoughts is also quite a marvellous thing.

Directions for the interview meme:

1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


Pixie said...

oooo, first reaction was, me please, then I can feel special. Then I thought, uumm, am I ready for soul searching questions that I have no control over.
So now i just want to think about it, but would like to reserve a place on the quetionaires team later, if that's ok.

anticant said...

Thanks for peeling off a few leaves of the onion at my behest!

I'm glad that you gave up the vain endeavour to be Desperately Serious. That crowd are such a bore! Much better go with the flow and give your inner genius free rein.

And then you'll find out what you REALLY want to do when you are already doing it....

trousers said...

Absolutely fine pixie. I spent enough time deliberating about it in the first place. If you do decide to, then just post the words "interview me" on this thread - whenever you choose.

I enjoyed answering the questions, but I haven't half gone on....

trousers said...

No problem anti - I enjoyed the experience, and I appreciate you spending the time thinking up those questions for me!

ario said...

Yes, that good old perennial question: what should i do with my life? There are answers in a book (no, not that book). It basically tells you that everything you have done has not been wasted. But there are no right answers or right ways. You will just have to figure it out by yourself. But that is half the fun. In the end, it's not about your destination, it's about the journey there.

Yes, I have had one too many (one in fact). And, yes, that comes from the guy whose blog is called altering labyrinth.

Otherwise, nice to get to know a little bit better, Mr T.

trousers said...

Thanks ario for those very succinct-but-wise observations. I like the sound of that first book you mention.

anticant said...

Because of triple anniversaries this year, I am pondering whether, if I had my time over again, and with foresight, I would do what I did fifty years ago [i.e. take on the task of spearheading the campaign for the Wolfenden reforms].

My conclusion is that if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be me - but that if I had known the bucketloads of garbage that would be poured over me - often from supposedly 'friendly' sources - I would much have preferred not to, and might have thought twice.

So all we can really do is what feels right at the time, and damn the possible consequences!

As RLS said, to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.

zola a social thing said...

Admire your courage Trousers.
Enjoyed your post too.

lavenderblue said...

ok.trousers..........wonderful answers.....and seriously, Well Done for taking the chance and the time and trouble to do them........
well worth reading again and again.....xx

trousers said...

Anticant - exactly. Thank goodness, though, you can look back and be proud of what you did?

And thank you zola and lav. Worth reading again and again? I'm just pleased you read them at all :) xx

Anna MR said...

Hei housut, since this comes to you so easily, I am tagging you. Sorry.

(visit mine for details, in about five minutes after the time stamp of this comment)


trousers said...

Oh bugger - you mean I have to try and come up with ANOTHER eight? Well since its you Anna my dear, I shall do my best - but it will be at some point over the weekend since this will require some serious thought x

zola a social thing said...

Ole tug-boat Anna is after us all.

zola a social thing said...

Smoke sauna anyone?

Anna MR said...

Thanks Zola, I'm trying to give them up.

(Ole tug boat indeed, I'll see you, pal)


(housut - kiitos)

trousers said...


Anna MR said...

Ole hyvä.

(Think on the lines of "thank you - you're welcome")


trousers said...

Bitte schon x

Pixie said...

ok i'm ready!!! And I'm bored thinking of things to write so answering some questions might be fun
email me on
but will you let me know on my blog that you have emailed me as I hardly ever look at my hotmail
There's no rush, just when you're ready.