A while ago I was listening to a podcast on technology and the presenter recounted something that has really stuck with me. It was about the invention of television and response from some critics at the time. Apparently, while widely applauded, there were those who truely believed that television in the home would never be successful because here, unlike in the darkened cinema, the audience could clearly see outside of the frame to the real world (albeit that of their living room wall).
Aside from how spectacularly wrong this perspective proved to be, one thing that intrigues me about this anecdote is that it alludes to the way we experience the world (both physically and mentally). It emphasises an understanding of reality in sensual, physical terms, but underestimates the significance of comprehension and understanding of the world, through stories, ideas and fantasies.
A couple of days ago I rewatched the Nick Cave film 20 000 days on earth and was reminded of this again – the idea that fact and fiction are interwoven in the narrative of our lives. In the documentary Cave treads the fine line between cliche and irony with a mixture of planned and seemingly more candid footage, threaded together by voiceovers – ‘We all want to be somebody else’ he says to his psychotherapist played by Alain de Botton. Towards the end the band practice, record, and play, where we glimpse something that feels more authentic – it’s about the performance.
This is affirmed in the closing sequence which ends with the following quote:
‘In the end, I’m not interested in that which I fully understand. The words I have written over the years are just a veneer. There are truths that lie beneath the surface of words. Truths that rise up without warning like the humps of a sea monster, and then disappear. What performance and song is to me is finding a way to tempt the monster to the surface. To create a space where the creature can break through what is real and what is known to us. This shimmering space – where imagination and reality intersect -this is where all love, and tears, and joy exists. This is the place. This is where we live.’
In a roundabout, more pragmatic way, I have been thinking about how all this relates back to the everyday practice of being a maker or artist. This relates to an earlier post on narratives but also to a comment made by Hilde (I think) at HS3 jewellery boot camp – ‘conceptual hooks’. Stories, ideas and fantasies, it would seem, are things we are drawn to. They are part of our everyday lives, and are part of what we offer when we communicate with others. Perhaps part of an artist/makers challenge is to unravel these?
Side note: During my Nick Cave googling I was excited to see a few images from journals he kept, including his handwritten dictionary. The personal ‘notation’* of the world that a notebook enables is so immediate and interesting, and this has a connection to the book collaboration that Nichola and I have worked on. I’m sure this will work its way into my next post.