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.