November 24, 2011
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food for thought
I got that exact question recently. I was at a friend’s book launch party and she asked me if I wanted her to sign my copy of her book. Sure. It’s how it’s supposed to be, right? And it was a nice personalized message that made me happy, so in this case it kind of made sense. Kind of. But to be honest, I have actually never understood that whole singing deal. That desire to have your copy of a book or a CD singed by the maker. What is that all about? It’s their work, they actually made it, isn’t that enough? Does it make it more real to have a signature on it? Is that what it’s about? Authenticity?
I had an experience some years ago that lead me to believe that has something to do with it. For a few years in the yearly/mid 2000s Einstürzende Neubauten did a number of tours and at the concerts they would sell CDs with recordings of the show. Like a licensed bootleg. I went to quite a few of these concerts and I got the CDs at each one. A lot of people asked me why I didn’t get these signed. In fact, almost everyone asked me why I didn’t take the opportunity, that I actually had, to get them signed. Same question, repeated a lot of times. And my reaction was always one of complete bewilderment. Why would I have them signed? I got these CDs because Neubauten are great live and they do at least one improv piece every night, plus I suck at remembering the set list, so fantastic deal, right? What the added benefit of also having their signatures on the covers would add I had, and still have, great trouble understanding. Effort was made to enlighten me further: “To show you were there!” Uh, why?! I know I was there and I don’t think I’ll ever be in a situation where I will have to prove that to anyone. I do have a rather vivid imagination, but to think of a non science fiction scenario where that would actually happen, is quite the challenge even for me. Read more of this post
June 23, 2011
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I’m working on a text about art and creativity right now, and part of that text is about the holes in life. Those plunges one makes from time to time. Or at least I do. And I usually refer to these periods as being ‘in the hole’. A dark, lonely and very nasty place to be. These days I usually manage to keep these visits short, I’ve had enough practice climbing up to have developed a certain proficiency by now, but even a short stay is unpleasant enough.
The biggest problem with being in the hole though, are the distorted perspectives. Things just look really different from down there. Twisted and weird. And it’s almost as if logic isn’t able to reach you when you’re there. Everything takes on distorted proportions, becomes enormous, monstrous, unsurpassable hurdles and even simple household chores morph into Sisyphean tasks. It’s all just a big, gargantuan mess of shit piling up threatening to fall down and crush you. But on some level you still know it’s all because you’re in the hole, that it’s just the perspective fucking with your head. And that’s when shame sets in. Because if you know, you should be able to just shake it, right? But you can’t. And therefore, you suck. That’s the summary of how the whole situation looks from down there. You suck.
So obviously you have to shut up about it, because if you tell anyone, then they will also realize you suck and getting external confirmation on that would pretty much guarantee that the shit will indeed fall down and crush you. And that’s why you start pretending, putting on an act, but being in the hole with the whole perspective distortion going on, you’re not really able to pull it off. The performance as your preferred version of yourself doesn’t turn out very convincing. In fact, all you manage to pull off, is an unreliable, slightly erratic and rather grumpy version of your least preferred self. You don’t return calls, you don’t respond to emails and when people confront you with it you make up vague excuses about having “been busy”. Yeah, right… Read more of this post
I am working on this semi-fictional short story right now. I say semi-fictional because it’s based on a real event. Sort of. Actually it’s based on a person I saw at an opening. The rest is pure fiction. All made up by me. But the person exists. I don’t know him and I have never talked to him, but he does exist. I know his name, what he looks like and a little bit about what he does. That’s it. And it’s not like he’s one of these fascinating freaks or anything like that, he’s just a sort of regular guy in the creative scene. I made a few behavioral observations about him that night that for some reason triggered a story in my head. I’ve changed his name, for obvious reasons, but the character is him. Or is it? Not really. How could it be? I don’t even know him. So is the character based on him? Not sure. In order to base something on someone wouldn’t you need to know something about that person? Like I said, I really have a very minimal knowledge of this person, pretty much nothing apart from those few glimpses of pretty normal ‘being at an opening behavior’ I got that evening, so how could the character possibly be based on him? Does it matter? I suppose in the grand scheme of things it’s pretty inconsequential and irrelevant, but in my own head this raises several mildly interesting questions. Read more of this post
March 11, 2011
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On more occasions than one I have said that I would be a very happy hermit, and sometimes I actually think that’s true. I like solitude. I need solitude. I’m not one of those people who need, or even like, to always be surrounded by people. I crave my alone time. Writing obviously has a lot to do with that. But if I am to be perfectly honest, I don’t actually think I would be a good hermit. Or at least not a happy one. For the very simple reason that If I never saw other people I would miss out on all those life changing encounters. Those interactions that so fundamentally change who you are forever. And those have everything to do with a real face to face encounter. As much as I love books and ideas, and as much as those have also changed me, there is just something about the real world interaction, encounters in the flesh, that I actually wouldn’t want to live without. Moments of transformation.
I have had a few of those in my life by now. People I’ve met that changed my life forever, who lead me on to new paths and showed me new horizons, new ways to relate to the world. People without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I am not talking about lovers or friends, I am talking about people who just made a brief visit in my world, people who I didn’t necessarily have a close relationship with, but who through that moment when our paths crossed, made such an impact that I walked away from that meeting a different person. Read more of this post
March 2, 2011
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A while ago someone asked me why I write. I have been asked that question many times. The simple answer is because I have to. If I don’t write I go insane. And as melodramatic as that sounds, it’s never the less true. I write to sort out my own head, to organize my thoughts. And that applies to anything I write, regardless of whether it’s fact or fiction. I do it to sort out my own head, to understand. This time that answer wasn’t really appropriate though, the situation called for a bit more discretion than saying it was for mental health reasons. So I had to loop it in my head one more time and when I did the other side of it became clear. I write because I believe that story telling can change the world. And that statement actually applies to the mental health aspect too. I want to understand and that’s why I write, that how my brain works. But the products of my efforts, the texts, those are just as much about getting other people to understand. By sharing what I think I hope to get other people to embrace the same thoughts, to see the same patterns. Because I really do want to change the world.
We live in an age and a culture where this ambition is somewhat frowned upon. It’s not really the hip thing to do. It’s too pretentious, too serious, not cynical enough. And at a first glance it may also seem to lack that essential element of immediate satisfaction that we seem to crave more than anything. But I don’t really have a choice. I have to keep on trying. And there is massive satisfaction in doing so. Immediate and long-term. Because it’s all about passion, about actually caring so much that you just can’t help yourself. Of course I write because I love it, I love words and I love stories, I always have. That’s one side of it. The other is the hope of actually making a difference. And I think that’s the two elements of passion: love and actually giving a shit. That’s why you do it, what ever it is you do. Read more of this post
February 21, 2011
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I’m sitting in the dark of a movie theatre, immersed in images, a depiction of a life lived in the century before this. Paintings, the talk of art and of life. Faded photographs mixed with images of paintings radiating with color. It’s a movie about Otto Modersohn, a German painter, made by his great-grandson*. A movie about his art, but just as much about his wives and their art. These women, their stories, they resound in me, touch me to the core of my being. Their desire, their longing, I can feel it. Their journal entries reach out from across the oceans of time and grab me. I am mesmerized. The past becomes alive. These women become alive.
His second wife, Paula Modersohn-Becker, a brilliant artist, more significant than her husband as the judgement of posterity would show. She wants to be free, she wants to live without the ties of a marriage, and he tries to meet her half-way. He let’s her go to Paris, let’s her leave their life behind. In 1906 that decision must have been more than radical, for both of them. But then he goes after her. Maybe it was a mutual agreement as stated in the movie, but when I hear the lines from her diary about her burning desire to be free and then the later realization that “she wasn’t made to stand alone” I can’t help but wonder. Was it resignation or maybe pity, or a combination of both, that made her ask him to come and join her? She gets pregnant and they leave Paris to go back home. She gives birth to a daughter and then passes away. What does that mean? I don’t know. But I know what it’s like to want to be free, to want to get rid of the emotional ties, the shackles of love that hold you prisoner in a life you don’t want to live. It hurts so bad. And sitting there in the movie theatre I can really feel her pain. The movie has me in a firm grip. I’m enchanted by all these stories, these women and their struggle to maintain the balance between society’s expectations and their own dreams. Read more of this post
January 12, 2011
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A while ago I was at a street art fair. With an ambition to not only have a look at the art but to also write something about it I brought along my camera and a note pad. I walked around in the big hall taking pictures and making random notes trying to figure out what the hell I was going to write about all of this. What I was going to do with all of these impressions. Writing something about all of the artists was so obviously impossible, so what then? I kept thinking “what do I want to write about all of this?” And I am still not sure.
Art fairs are difficult. Just like music festivals are difficult. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the impressions. At least for me. It’s at times like that I realize just how difficult it is to stay in the moment, to really process what you are actually experiencing as you are experiencing it. Even though it’s all so amazing and inspiring it just turns into a big blur of awe.
Afterwards I saw a friend of mine:
“So how was it?”
“It was rad!”
Very descriptive, huh? But that’s the problem, I find it hard to say something beyond that. Because it was rad. Obviously there were things that I liked more, pieces that I spent more time with, but as far as an overall impression goes, rad is pretty much all I can come up with. Pitiful, isn’t it?
But the plan was to write about it, so I feel I should honor the commitment I made to myself and try to come up with something more to say about it than ‘rad’. Read more of this post
January 6, 2011
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I have spent the past 5 hours reading. Not leisurely browsing various online articles or skimming through a magazine but reading. Passionately. The kind of reading where you all of a sudden realize that the room is completely dark apart from your reading lamp and that you desperately need to go to the bathroom and haven’t had a cigarette for hours. That kind of reading. As a child I used to do this all the time, but the older I get the less I do it. Time issues I suppose. When you are a kid you have more time to get devoured by books. Or if it’s the other way around, I am not sure. Probably both. I also think there’s an element of sin to it as you get older. Like it would somehow be a waste of time. You are neglecting not only your bodily functions, but also your other tasks and duties when you dive into a book for hours on end. But seriously, so what? Considering all the time that’s wasted on watching TV in this world it seems strange that getting sucked in by a book for a couple of hours should be a bad thing. Reading is almost never a waste of time. I say almost, because I have wasted a number of hours on books in my days. Not many, but there have been times when I have felt like writing to the publisher to demand a warning text on the cover of the book. But mostly it’s not a waste of time.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but in my world there is nothing that can capture me as a book can. Nothing. When I watch movies either my thoughts will start to wander or I will start improving the plot in my mind. I will do this either by just thinking about how the story could get better, or I will really think that the story is better than it actually is and get all excited. That’s when my best friend will usually shake his head and tell me that “no you’re just making the story better again. It’s not that complex”. And he’s always right. It never is that complex. But the reason I’m doing this is because I am bored. Read more of this post
November 7, 2010
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Why do some musicians get worse instead of better? I have stated this as one of the great mysteries in life, and in a way it actually is. At least it’s something that I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about and discussing with my friends. It really puzzles me. How can you have a downward curve in your development as a musician? It just seems bizarre. I mean skills should improve with practice – practice makes perfect, right? Well in some cases, wrong. And why is that?
In a lot of those discussions we have come to the conclusion that it has to do with guts, bravery, staying true to yourself. And I think we’re actually on to something here. If you have a certain amount of success with an album you naturally want to repeat that success with the next album and in some cases musicians then decide to play it safe and just deliver more of the same. But art isn’t really about producing more of the same. Art is about exploration. And when you opt for the same approach the likelihood of creating something interesting drastically diminishes. Art has an evolutionary aspect in that sense, it has to keep developing in order to not grow stale and superfluous. Sticking with the known is rarely a good idea when it comes to art. Read more of this post
October 20, 2010
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I am greedy when it comes to art. Very greedy and very curious. If I like something I always want more. This presents itself in what can only be described as gluttony. I will devour everything the artist has done. Be it paintings, books or songs. I want to take it all in. I am not a collector in the sense that I need to own it all, for me it’s all about the experience. I don’t mind if I only have the music as mp3 or if I borrow the book from a friend or see a painting at a gallery. The important thing is that I do get to experience it somehow. All of it. Particularly when it comes to music and literature, my two biggest passions. There I will get completely obsessive. I will read all the books and listen to all the recordings that exist. I will dig my way through the entire body of work. Passionately. But not blindly. When it comes to art I don’t believe in unconditional love. Even the most talented people will do things that aren’t brilliant. And people develop. Sometimes in a good way, other times in a not so good way. Very few people manage to present a body of work that’s amazing all the way through. There are some, but they are not many. And of those, most are dead. Read more of this post