A Collective Forgetting

“… Change in any one part of a system will have an impact on other parts regardless of administrative boundaries. Change needs to be considered in relation to the whole ecology, as a complex matrix of human and environmental factors. There are great challenges in these disjointed environments and how they relate to local and regional culture, and that is what makes them beguiling.

These are places that take time to appreciate. They are not immediately beautiful in a classical sense, although they can certainly be aesthetically appreciated, as unsentimental representations of an era of urban growth and urban agriculture seemingly unrestrained and unconcerned with creating any particular legacy of high quality open space.”

Report: East London Green Grid – Epping Forest and River Roding

“The text stands mute when we inquire of the meaning of the text. That is fundamentally what is wrong with it. Secondarily what is wrong with this process, and the process of writing in general, is that Socrates says writing has caused us to now forget. It is not an aid to memory, it is actually a vehicle for our collective forgetting. So, the texts don’t talk back and we forget. The forgetting is not a kind of passive unknowing due to the fact that the text is mute; the forgetting is a very active assault on the act of remembering.”

Paul Schroeder, Writing Places Out of History, from a draft transcript of a talk given at the American Society for Cybernetics International Workshop: “Design, Planning and Human Understanding,” in Santa Cruz, California, on April 3, 1998

John Cage, Empty Words (1973/1974-excerpt) + Music for piano (1952/1956), John Cage (Voice), Yvar Mikhashoff (Piano)

The Art of Concealment

“The perfection of art is to conceal art.”


“What is it we want from art that our belief in content works to hide from us?”

Allan McCollum

John Cage, Variations 1, for any number of players & any sound producing means (1958), Eberhard Blum (flute)

The Point Of Clowning

“I think that’s been a theme in my work: where does meaning come from, where is it located, is it in the viewer’s mind, is it in the community at large? Is it dialectical or inherent in the object?”

“I’m interested in locating the meaning of my work—and the emotional content of my work—somewhere within those transactions which occur between the various someones who are involved in the artworks circulation. To do this I have to try to dislocate the objects so-called content. When we speak of a content as residing somehow within the art object, we disregard the objects meaning as an item in the real, social world, and replace this with all sorts of imaginary constructs.”

Allan McCollum

“The un-naive thinker knows how far he remains from the object of his thinking, and yet he must always talk as if he had it entirely. This brings him to the point of clowning. He must not deny his clownish traits, least of all since they alone can give him hope for what is denied him.”

Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics

John Cage, Music for Amplified Toy Pianos, Juan Hidalgo, Walter Marchetti, Gianni-Emilio Simonetti (Toy Pianos)

A Glimpse Of Something Very Tiny

“Content, if you want to say, is a glimpse of something, an encounter, you know, like a flash. It’s very tiny – very tiny, content.”

Willem De Kooning

“No color… There is something wrong, irresponsible and mindless about color.”

Ad Reinhardt, Rule 6: Twelve Rules for a New Academy (1953)

John Cage, Litany for the Whale, Recitation and 32 responses for 2 equal voices without vibrato, Paul Hillier & The Theatre of Voices, Alan Bennett and Paul Elliott (Voices)

Degrees Of Separation

“Naming things has something to do with human awareness, with the separation of the entire world from you.”

Hiroshi Sugimoto

“Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.”

Paul Valery

Maki Ishii, Aphorisms, Aki Takahashi (piano)

Summer Day Out 2012

“What has interested me all along is not the pronouncement of meaning but pointing toward the way meaning is formed.

I think everything is available as subject matter and I really mean everything. I concern myself with time, space, and things that are going on in the world, and everything. Not with a sense of trying to restate or interpret or express something, but to take something out of the world just long enough and use just enough of that to throw something out, bring something back, that I can call an image.

The essential quality of existence concerns where one is at any instant in time: that locates everything else. Location, as a phenomenon of space and time, has been transposed by most art forms into manifestations of visual equivalence: that is, as an experience located at the ends of the eyeballs. I am interested in transposing location directly into “present” time by eliminating things, the appearance of things, and appearance itself. The documents carry out that role using language, photographs and systems in time and location.”

Douglas Huebler

Hardstyle 2012 SUMMER MIX, JohnnyTwice

Where The Art Is

“Looking at the Large Glass, the thing that I like so much is that I can focus my attention wherever I wish. It helps me to blur the distinction between art and life and produces a kind of silence in the work itself. There is nothing in it that requires me to look in one place or another or, in fact, requires me to look at all.”

John Cage

John Cage, Music For Marcel Duchamp for prepared piano (1947), Boris Berman (piano)

Better Without It

“Art is possible without artistic intention and can be better without it.”

Hiroshi Sugimato

John Cage, In A Landscape, Stephen Drury (piano)

Feeling In The Deepest Sense

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”

Ansel Adams

“I don’t give a shit but I care quite a lot.”

Richard Serra

Thirteen Harmonies, John Cage

Art/Not Art

“Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.”

Ambrose Bierce

“The business of art is to reveal the relation between man and his environment.”

David Herbert Lawrence

Snippets of a conversation

Me: “Photograph something on the ground and it’s just a photograph. Photograph a few different things on the ground and it’s art.”
Marc: “It’s only art if it’s in black and white.”
Me: “This business of making art… it’s hard to take it seriously sometimes.”

Over the last few days my wife Des and I had the pleasure of entertaining two of my closest and dearest friends, composer/painter (and, OK, now photographer too, I suppose!) Marc Yeats and his partner, Mark (or as I refer to them, the Mar©ks) on one of their always much anticipated visits. Along with the usual eating and drinking (especially the latter…) the also usual intense art discussions ensued, eventually getting around to the oft engaged subject of complexity vs. minimalism in art, with me, as I am accustomed to doing, assuming the role of expounding the virtues of the latter tendency.

For “minimalism” here I suppose you could substitute “simple” (or even “simple minded”, which possibly explains my enthusiasm for it…) but that would be a mistake as, though Marc and I have our differences here, on the virtues of “simplicity” (or “economy of means”) we find ourselves much more in agreement I believe. Be that as it may, last Friday we all had occasion to visit an “environmental” multi-(well, two; sound and sculpture)-media art installation in a water park near our home in Walthamstow, north-east London. On arrival we discovered one of the “media” (to whit, sound) wasn’t actually working but as someone was attempting to fix it we decided to wait nearby on a bench with the merciless sun beating down on us while the unfortunate technician sweated manfully (but ultimately unsuccessfully) at his task.

Up to this point I had noticed that, for a public area, the park was remarkably litter free (this is unusual, trust me. Londoners notice stuff like that…) Apart from the dog/horse/waterfowl shit, that is. However, I did notice that around the bench where we sat there was some discarded litter (though by no means a great amount) in spite of there being a large waste basket adjacent to us. Whether or not this was related to the aforementioned merciless sun I cannot say for sure, but I decided there and then, on the spot as it were, to document said articles of detritus with the tiny digicam I had brought along with me no doubt for just such a purpose (for a possible explanation of my motivation see “Snippets of a conversation” above). Naturally my innate aesthetic tastes prevented me previously from documenting the shit. But I digress… I actually found eight discrete pieces of litter. Though here I tell a lie; there was actually one other somewhat larger “blot on the landscape” but I knew that Marc would eventually have to rise from his prone position and accompany us back home (he was driving…) Besides I had no intention of taking the rather broad hint and photographing him. I believe it’s called “the withholding of gratification”…

Well, anyway, on Saturday morning, sadly, the Mar©ks had to leave us to return to Somerset and home. At this point the images I made had remained unviewed and unedited. With peace and quiet at last I took the opportunity to peruse my handiwork whereupon the notion struck me that in some strange way these images of detritus forced their way on my attention not because I am inordinately observant (which I am not…) but more as a function of time (our pausing in that environment) and furthermore that these small pieces of (not that prominent) detritus could be seen as a partial metaphor for our experience of that environment and also a record of those who had preceded us. All of which brought to mind Marc and his “SATSYMPH: on a theme of Hermes” project (created in collaboration with another two friends, poet, Ralph Hoyte and recording engineer and programmer, Phill Phelps). You can read the details of this extraordinary piece of work from the link below, but, briefly, SATYSMPH consists of an App one can download (free) to one’s smartphone (once again, link below for details…) and which, in use, delivers an ever-changing soundscape (both verbal and musical) to one’s headphones dependent on one’s location in the environment. As I say, that’s a shamefully brief description but, yes, once again… link below.

The kind of experience offered by SATSYMPH rather than being a distraction actually has the effect of heightening awareness of one’s surrounding environment, especially one’s visual awareness, the one sense that the piece does not engage. Who knows… you may even be more likely to notice the tiny pieces of detritus that your fellow human beings no longer find any use for. And that thought is my gift to you. No need to thank me…

One last word… I doubt this will be the last you will see of these eight images. As is my wont I shall doubtless attempt to wring every last possible use from them (“economy of means”, remember?) as an ongoing project where I hope to bring to bear the cool/intense, playful/serious dichotomy that I like to bring to every project I undertake.

One further “last word”… the preceding text is intended to be only partially facetious. I shall leave it up to the reader to glean which parts are and which parts are, in fact, deadly serious…

SATSYMPH (website)

Extracts from SATSYMPH: on a theme of Hermes, Marc Yeats