Tuesday, May 9, 2017


So this is more or less my presentation - there are a lot more slides than this - i have not included some of the builds and letter transitions. In the script below, each double asterisk represents a slide change This hopefully will be a sufficient memory jogger if you have seen it.


**I’m starting with a quote from Daniel Miller, who is a professor in Material Culture, he’s had many books published. He writes:**

“My problem in seeking research grants is that invariably my only real hypothesis is that I really have very little idea of what i am actually going to find ……. this hypothesis has always proved correct ……I assume that the most important findings are going to be about things one didn’t even suspect existed …… In my experience an inconsistent, opportunistic research student tends to be far more original and productive than consistent research students, who achieve merely what they set out to do.”

So bear this in mind, particularly the idea of  ** ‘inconsistent, opportunistic research’

My question was this ** ‘in what ways does subversion help creativity in practice?’. ** Last September we had a series of lectures outlining a number of methodologies that we might like to adopt for this project ** …there they are.

It was then suggested that we should define our terms. I looked at my question, decided that the key terms were ** ’subversion’, ‘help’, ‘creativity’, and ‘practice’. This is going well, 

But if we look at ‘subversion’, ** this is where our problems begin. What’s subversive really depends upon which side of the fence you are on,
let me ask you a silly question ** which is subversive?

You might actually be silly enough to attempt to answer this question.

What if we take a slightly wider view? ** now which is subversive, 

still a silly question, but if we were to ask the peas…..

A wider view again ** , 

and we’re not going to ask the peas, because now they’re outsiders and we’re afraid to talk to them.

The point i am trying to make is that it is difficult to define subversion because it is culturally defined and not absolute. What do I mean by cultural definition, well, i call upon the DIAGRAM OF VENN. Cultural definition is a way of describing things, similar to a relativism, stuff that is culturally defined doesn't  have a fixed or absolute description, it’s defined by social consensus, so these definitions will vary from time to time and from place to place. 

So on the culturally defined side there is the stuff we argue about at dinner parties, we could probably put subversion in there, in the middle is stuff we argue about at dinner parties but sometimes go to war about, is it always wrong to kill or torture someone, and on the absolute side, is a load of stuff that is what it is and that’s that, we could probably debate where all these things should be, but that debate is part and parcel of cultural definition, and indeed, Venn diagrams.

Still on cultural definition, here’s another quote ** . This is talking about autism. This is not from a psychologist or a teacher, or even a parent, this is from that other side of the fence, from a 13 yr old, Luke Jackson who has Autism, he writes,

A big part of autistic spectrum disorders is a problem with communication. That is why language causes AS people so many problems. Non-AS people say things they don’t mean, miss out things that they do mean, do all sorts of strange things with their faces which apparently change the meaning of their words - and they 
say AS people are odd!

So they think we’re weird: we think they're weird: they seem to have a good argument, but we’re in the majority so we get to decide, and that, in a nutshell or I suppose, a seedpod, is cultural definition, it is the majority who get to decide who is mad, who is abnormal, and who, indeed is subversive.

I briefly looked at parody **, even did a few, here is James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ **

And Magritte’s ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ ** -

** This is ‘Hippopotamus’ by Mel Ramos, with the original in the background,

** This is my version of the three wise monkeys, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

and here’s one my son did ** ‘Mona Lisa.

** another Leonardo here, his “last Supper”, surrounded by some of the thousands of parodies it has spawned.

** And here are all the artists who created those parodies, if we look at this with the ** pea and the seed, in mind, we have to ask the question again ** which is subversive?  is it these guys with their lego and their photoshops, being irreverent, undermining an icon, or is it the bearded genius Leonardo ** who from beyond the grave has managed to ** plant this image so firmly in so many minds, where there’s really no supreme reason that it should be? - of course, we don’t subscribe to the idea of ‘genius’ - we know that Leonardo was helped by ** St Paul, and the ** Italian Postcard industry, and ** Sister Wendy, and indeed ** Jesus himself, and behind them all, ** God always has the last laugh, God of course the greatest subverter of them all, subverting the void, and turning it into ** creation in only ** six days.

where were we, ah yes, so which is subversive? ** 

let’s take a wider view again ** 

we have a culprit, let’s zoom in, ** 

there you have it - ** which doesn’t really help us much with our definition of subversion **. Let us say, for the sake of argument, with our differing cultural viewpoints, and our creative minds, that we can come up with ** six different definitions.

** ‘help’? maybe ** thee definitions 

creativity ** this is a big one, most artists have their own take on where their ideas come from, so relativistically there are probably as many definitions of creativity as there are artists, if we put seven ** in there, we’re probably being conservative.

practice? ** Three types of practice? lets bung that in there ** 

and there’s the project, we can pick our methodology, pick our definitions, decide on a route through it ** of course we have choices ** a lot of choices **  and each of those routes can be represented by a series of coloured dots ** I’ve made a little visual aid here, to demonstrate just how many choices we actually have, I have drawn a dot series for each permutation of method and definition contained within the framework shown on the screen. 

If you’d just like to unwind this, &c (see separate blog entry for photos of visual aid)

How many is that? mathematics can help us, ** if we multiply ** all those numbers together, we get a total of  ** 2268 different ways of approaching this bit of homework, so thanks for that!
Well, subversion was confusing, lets see if we can do any better with ** creativity. I started a little more conventionally here, read a couple of books.

 The first of these was ** Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation’ by Bateson and Martin, the other was ** ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi, can’t really pronounce his name, so we’ll just refer to him as ‘Mr Flow”.

Let’s call on another Venn diagram ** to see how these two principles, play and flow relate to creativity.

So flow ** which is the feeling one has when one is totally absorbed in an activity - As a theory of creativity it is perhaps a little too general, one size fits all, it can apply to activities with very rigid standards, such as driving a car, ** playing a video game, ** playing sport, **  even working in a factory.

** if we look at play, and the authors of this book narrowed their attention to ** playfulness, really just looking at exploratory play and generally being the giddy goat.

This kind of play involves ** role- reversals, ** ‘what-ifs’, ** exaggeration, ** dissection and ** recombination. It tends to be ** flexible, ** spontaneous, and ** imaginative. Described thus, we can see why Bateson and Martin flag it as a ** ‘generator of novelty’ and a ** ‘driver for creativity’. 

Their central thesis is that ideas generated during play, are stored away, sometimes for years, providing a sort of problem-solving resource-bank. So when someone seems to come up with an original idea, almost spontaneously, it’s not because they have super-powers, it’s because they’ve spent a lot of time mucking about. i like this theory.

** heres a quote about play, from ** George Bernard Shaw, who has a quote about everything, he said ** “we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing”

 **  now let’s quickly look at some of features common to both play and flow, They can occur in both ** thought or action - relevant here as it suggests that they might apply to research as well as to making things. They both require a ** stress free environment, and they’re both enjoyable ** so wa hey **.

I read another book by Mr Flow, ** this one was about creativity, here he identifies four obstacles to creativity. ** we are exhausted by too many demands, ** we get easily distracted,  ** we are lazy and lack discipline, and ** we don’t know what to do.

well, hands up! that sounds like me, only for me these aren’t just obstacles to creativity, they are obstacles to ** having a thorough wash every day, 

they are obstacles to ftny everything - so once again, Mr Flow has come up with another one size fits all theory, but because it’s universal, in our favour here, it means that these are also ** obstacles to research.

Now pay attention here, because this is a pivotal moment - if David Lynch was watching this presentation, he would describe the next few seconds as “the eye of the duck” - weren’t we looking for a definition of subversion? and haven’t we just found one? ** these obstacles are the things that subvert our efforts to be creative. So can we answer the question now? ** In what ways does subversion help creativity in practice? Remember the ** pea and the seed,  cultural definition? Well I am the defining culture at the moment so i get to decide, and i say IT DOESN’T!

So, I’ve answered the question now, so we could all go home, but this would be quite a negative conclusion, so let’s see what we can do about it. Let’s consider a little ** counter-subversion.

Lets consider those obstacles again ** Let’s lose the last one for the moment ** - we’ll come back to that, we’re drifting into self-help territory here - should we try to change ourselves and our lives?

Another quote, this is from Michael Jackson ** “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways”.

Well, mixed results for Michael Jackson, and i think mixed results for me if i were to go down this road. Let’s look at those obstacles again ** what i have tried to do on this project is to look at the way that i work, and analyse the ways that i accommodate these obstacles, rather than trying to change them.

** so research first, bearing in mind the ** happy-go-lucky approach outlined by Daniel Miller, the ** tangled complexity of cultural definition, and the principles of ** play and flow, I have tried to do research that is ** ludic - Ludic from the latin Ludo - to play - playing - whose creative gain we’ve already discussed

So we have ludic research, and i’m also going to borrow Miller’s term - ** inconsistent, opportunistic, now opportunism works here, look at that tangled web - as soon as you focus on one of those strands, you subvert the possibility of noticing anything that might be happening on the others. Opportunism keeps that web alive, but in practice, you can’t be flaky all the time, so really i’ve veered between this approach, and it’s opposite, ** backwards ** and forwards ** , backwards ** and ** forwards, which really brings me to my old friends ** order and chaos - let’s talk quickly about them;

I looked at another book ** The Art Instinct, theres a bit in there about chimpanzees, if you get a bunch of chimps ** give them some ** paint and canvasses, they will produce ** abstract expressionist art.

Except they don’t ** because this process relies on zookeepers whipping the canvasses away at the right moment - left to their own devices, the chimps will just black them out, and then probably start throwing their poo at each other.

So the author of this book is a little dismissive of chimps - they’re kind of a footnote - he’s much more interested in bower birds, he does however mention that the philosopher  ** Thierry Lenain has said that the chimps are motivated by a ** joy in disruption, which sounds very similar to ** subversion

 - find that exciting - there’s a part of our brain called the amygdala, which produces animal instincts, we share it with monkeys.

** Now this isn’t anatomically correct, but the ** amygdala’s somewhere down there near the brain-stem. So there’s the animal instincts **  there’s the mad monkey ** , but there’s another part of the brain, the ** frontal lobe, uniquely large and complex in humans, it does planning, decision making, suppresses animal instincts, so we also have a  ** zookeeper in our heads. This is ** order and chaos, Nietzsche famously referred to these forces as ** Apollo and Dionysus, but we could call them ** Bert and Ernie  ** Bob Carolgees and Spit the dog, because they are ** subversion and control, and from their union, perhaps from their struggle ** emerges creativity and we can have ** abstract expressionist art, and ** anything else we want.

** So what about creative practice, what is the ** counter-subversion here? I looked at a methodology that I am calling ** quick-fix creativity, ** we’ve already seen some results of this- I’ve used this project (research in practice)  to give it a bit of a test drive - it’s handled fairly well, bit dodgy on a few corners -  and i’ve attempted a definition ** so this is 

seeking fast solutions, using quick methods of recording ideas and whatever materials are to hand, relying on first instincts

So ** first instincts - we had four obstacles to creativity, and if there is a fifth, it is that little voice inside your head telling you you’re crap - do NOT listen to that voice, first instincts - ** trust yourself.

I even did a ** motivational poster for quick-fix -

I did some research on motivational posters, found out that 87.9% of them (i just made that up) feature either a celebrity, a kitten, or a baby - i adjusted this one accordingly - ** 

and succeeded in totally subverting my own poster, which under the circumstances, was ironically pleasing. You’ll realise that i’m on a bit of a campaign here, so i’m going to run through some more advantages of the quick-fix counter subversion approach. 

Firstly, ** it’s fast, and ** sometimes speed matters

** it  also connects with the subconscious - 

relies on quick reactions, it functions like an inkblot test - there’s a strong element of your basic personality in the ideas and pictures that it produces - very useful if you are following a self-reflective path.

it also puts you in touch with a ** readymade aesthetic, readymade partially like Duchamp and his pissoir, but mainly because it puts you in touch with a style that has been readymade for you, and ** that is your own style.

** Look around your house or flat,

 **  the things which you collect, **  the things you covet, ** 

the things you can’t bring yourself to throw away, ** look everywhere ** next to your telephone, ** in the attic. ** on your computer monitor, ** 

think about the way that you dress ** 

you already have a style ** and that style ** is a means of communication, 

and quick-fix will put you in touch with that style.

Another bonus is you’re working quickly, you’re having fun, you generate more work 

**Here’s something, it’s weird, I don’t know what it means, I barely know what it is, but I do more, quick-fixing, playing, I sort them into groups ** . I see links ** between the groups, **  links between the links, and ** strange patterns, ** even stranger patterns, ** and whatever that is,

But then something magical may happen, 

an uber-category may emerge ** or a way of looking at this system so that everything begins to make sense. Do you remember Mr Flow’s  ** 4th obstacle to creativity - the fourth subversion , I said let’s not bother about that for the time being, it was ** not knowing what to do. What did i do about this? Well, with regard to this project, and research methodology, my counter-subversion has been to not to bother about it, **  just quick-fix, opportunism, play, flow, mad monkey, bit more zookeeper towards the end, looking for links and ordering things to create the illusion of a plausible journey, and hey presto here’s the presentation, 

now of course it’s not this simple, but in another way it IS THAT SIMPLE, and I honestly believe that using these approaches, and not taking things too seriously all the time, we can subvert the forces which are subverting us, and that we can achieve a little wisdom ** that is a very little wisdom, and ** self-knowledge, and even ** a mission statement. **  ** .