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Gerry Smith
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OK, let's get controversial
« : 16.10.08 at 01:04 »
Quote

Hello Folks
 
Below is a quote from an email to me dated 08/09/02 from one of my partners in crime on the LL.B  course at UEA, Mike Hussellbee. I don't think he was ever a MV, despite being  a devoted fan of Pete and Clive's output (the only other devotee I knew at UEA).  He's  now been resident in the USA for many years. I remember forwarding him some posts from the old MV mailing list. His response at that time was: [snip]
 
More interesting to me on MV is the endless autopsy of the creative act of writing, and the recent discussion of rhyme as used by CJ.  Not to sound too cynical but It sounds to me like a lot of very sad people trying to live vicariously through someone else's' work.  
Writers bare their souls for brief and agonising bouts of creativity, and I would guess they want their work to be enjoyed and not dissected after 30 years."

 
Opinions on a postcard.
 
Best to all
 
Gerry
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Rob Spence
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #1: 16.10.08 at 17:56 »
Quote

on 16.10.08 at 01:04, Gerry Smith wrote:
Hello Folks
 
Below is a quote from an email to me dated 08/09/02 from one of my partners in crime on the LL.B  course at UEA, Mike Hussellbee. I don't think he was ever a MV, despite being  a devoted fan of Pete and Clive's output (the only other devotee I knew at UEA).  He's  now been resident in the USA for many years. I remember forwarding him some posts from the old MV mailing list. His response at that time was: [snip]
 
More interesting to me on MV is the endless autopsy of the creative act of writing, and the recent discussion of rhyme as used by CJ.  Not to sound too cynical but It sounds to me like a lot of very sad people trying to live vicariously through someone else's' work.  
Writers bare their souls for brief and agonising bouts of creativity, and I would guess they want their work to be enjoyed and not dissected after 30 years."

 
Opinions on a postcard.
 
Best to all
 
Gerry

Posted in the early hours, I note... Sleepless night, Gerry? Wink
I don't feel that I'm a very sad person. I earn a living "dissecting" the words of writers even older than Clive and Pete, and don't feel guilty about it. Writers don't necessarily bare their souls- many of them write for money, and Clive has often pointed out that the reason they stopped was because it wasn't paying. I can't think that a writer as prolific as CJ is agonising too much. I don't agree with the distinction between "dissecting" and "enjoying" either. I can enjoy the music by listening to it, obviously, but I can also enjoy it by thinking and writing about it. Doesn't mean I'm trying to live vicariously through them, no more than if I wrote about Shakespeare it would mean I'm a bard manque.  
This forum is, it seems to me, an example of one of the best uses of the interweb - a place where like-minded people can share their interests in a friendly atmosphere. Long may it continue to discuss this brilliant body of work for everybody's benefit- except Mr Hussellbee's obviously. Cheesy
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #2: 16.10.08 at 23:33 »
Quote

Hi Rob, well, yes, I tend to agree, and may I say what a fair and measured response you made. I haven't checked back over the archive but I seem to recall that some discussions back at that time did smack a bit of angels and pinheads and tempers and critical sensitivities sometimes got a bit frayed. Maybe that's what got up Mike's nose?
 
Gerry
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #3: 17.10.08 at 01:09 »
Quote

Talking of angels and pinheads, I saw this incredible story on the internet today:
 
http://www.anomalies-unlimited.com/Prayer.html
 
Gerry
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Rob Spence
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #4: 17.10.08 at 08:44 »
Quote

on 16.10.08 at 23:33, Gerry Smith wrote:
Hi Rob, well, yes, I tend to agree, and may I say what a fair and measured response you made. I haven't checked back over the archive but I seem to recall that some discussions back at that time did smack a bit of angels and pinheads and tempers and critical sensitivities sometimes got a bit frayed. Maybe that's what got up Mike's nose?
 
Gerry

Blimey - it's a long time since I've been called fair and measured...
I think any discussion about literature and/or music can get a little swamped in the detail, but the thing about the Atkin/James oeuvre is that it is so rich that discussion of it can be almost infinite, and infinitely rewarding. It's life-enhancing stuff.
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BogusTrumper
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #5: 17.10.08 at 14:34 »
Quote

on 17.10.08 at 08:44, Rob Spence wrote:

Blimey - it's a long time since I've been called fair and measured...
I think any discussion about literature and/or music can get a little swamped in the detail, but the thing about the Atkin/James oeuvre is that it is so rich that discussion of it can be almost infinite, and infinitely rewarding. It's life-enhancing stuff.

 
And can I throw in that more knowledge of the possible meaning of some of Clive's more obscure references can enhance my enjoyment of the songs?
 
And that the message board is fun and I enjoy it?
 
And I have been away a long, long time, so what is LLB and UEA?
 
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Rob Spence
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #6: 17.10.08 at 16:47 »
Quote

on 17.10.08 at 14:34, BogusTrumper wrote:

 
And can I throw in that more knowledge of the possible meaning of some of Clive's more obscure references can enhance my enjoyment of the songs?
 
And that the message board is fun and I enjoy it?
 
And I have been away a long, long time, so what is LLB and UEA?
 

LL.B = Bachelor of Law
UEA = University of East Anglia (alma mater of a good many contemporary novelists and pals of CJ via their Creative Writing MA)
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #7: 17.10.08 at 17:44 »
Quote

Robe Spence wrote:
 
Quote:
LL.B = Bachelor of Law

 
Well, Legum Baccalaureus, to be pedantic!
 
Gerry
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #8: 17.10.08 at 18:30 »
Quote

Mr B. Trumper wrote:
Quote:
And can I throw in that more knowledge of the possible meaning of some of Clive's more obscure references can enhance my enjoyment of the songs?

 
Whilst discussion of the lyrics is by no means uninteresting, I cannot say that it enhances my enjoyment of the songs. And while I admit that CJ's lyrics are the most significant of which I am aware, in general, I concur with Frank Zappa who maintained that lyrics are just a trick to get you to listen to the music, or words to that effect.  
 
I don't think that lyrics or poetry need to be 'understood' to be enjoyed. Take the work of Dylan Thomas, much of which is virtually meaningless at face value but still greatly enjoyable. The beauty is in the craftsmanship of the words themselves.
 
Gerry
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Rob Spence
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #9: 17.10.08 at 21:18 »
Quote

on 17.10.08 at 18:30, Gerry Smith wrote:
Mr B. Trumper wrote:
 
Whilst discussion of the lyrics is by no means uninteresting, I cannot say that it enhances my enjoyment of the songs. And while I admit that CJ's lyrics are the most significant of which I am aware, in general, I concur with Frank Zappa who maintained that lyrics are just a trick to get you to listen to the music, or words to that effect.  
 
I don't think that lyrics or poetry need to be 'understood' to be enjoyed. Take the work of Dylan Thomas, much of which is virtually meaningless at face value but still greatly enjoyable. The beauty is in the craftsmanship of the words themselves.
 
Gerry

I can't see how any creative artist's works can be "virtually meaningless"- even if, as the Dadaists tried to, one set out to create something meaningless, the brain tends to find connections. I can't say I'm a big fan of Dylan Thomas - though I'm struck by how apt it is that his initials are DT- but I think "virtually meaningless" is such a sweeping generalisation as to be, well, virtually meaningless. I liked Zappa's gag about rock journalism- 'people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read.' But he was wrong about that as well.
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #10: 18.10.08 at 02:07 »
Quote

Rob Spence wrote: Quote:
I can't see how any creative artist's works can be "virtually meaningless"

 
Piles of bricks? Cows in formaldehyde? Unmade beds? Running taps? Holes in the ground?  
 
And what exactly is a creative artist? Someone who apparently has little talent but justifies his output by some pseudo solopcistic nonsense? Sorry if that sounds intolerant but I think there is an objective standard. I don't think that if I turned up to a gig and farted into my sax on the basis of some pretentious tosh it would go down too well.  
 
With reference to DT (very funny!) I just mean that his writing style, superficially, makes little sense. His art is in the manipulation and juxtaposition of the words themselves.
 
Gerry
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Rob Spence
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #11: 18.10.08 at 11:40 »
Quote

on 18.10.08 at 02:07, Gerry Smith wrote:
Rob Spence wrote:
 
Piles of bricks? Cows in formaldehyde? Unmade beds? Running taps? Holes in the ground?  
 
And what exactly is a creative artist? Someone who apparently has little talent but justifies his output by some pseudo solopcistic nonsense? Sorry if that sounds intolerant but I think there is an objective standard. I don't think that if I turned up to a gig and farted into my sax on the basis of some pretentious tosh it would go down too well.  
 
With reference to DT (very funny!) I just mean that his writing style, superficially, makes little sense. His art is in the manipulation and juxtaposition of the words themselves.
 
Gerry

Gerry - I wouldn't for a moment claim that Damien Hurst or Tracey Emin have any real creative talent. I am supremely indifferent to their work. What I was getting at was the capacity we have to create meaning. So, when Duchamp exhibited a urinal, it became a work of art, because it was in an art gallery, and therefore elicited a different perspective from the viewer. The same with Tracey Emin's bed- it was, by all accounts, simply her bed, but putting it in an art gallery makes the viewer consider it in a different light. Don't get me wrong - it all seems incredibly trite to me, and the points that artists make through these sorts of installations, would, in my view, be much better made in words.
There's a story about the Black Mountain poets summer school, where students went to have masterclasses with poets. One class turned up to find their poet-teacher wasn't there, but there were some words on the board. They assumed this was a poem left by the poet, and happily discussed it, making informed choices about its connotations etc. Of course, it turned out that their poet was just late, and the words were just leftover from a previous class. (mostly about rivers and geographical features if I remember rightly- the students constructed a narrative about trade routes- The Road of Silk, maybe...) The students were exhibiting that human quality of seeing a pattern, deriving meaning, in almost anything.  So even your sax farts could have some, ahem, resonance in certain contexts. I can imagine a soundtrack where they might constitute the perfect accompaniment.
To go back to the point about the discussion of Pete and Clive's work: these are clearly highly crafted, highly allusive pieces, which generate lots of informed debate here and elsewhere. We are all making meaning, in concert with the artists, at a much higher level, I agree, than the allegedly avant-garde artists you refer to. But I would contend that art, so difficult to define satisfactorily, can be seen in its most basic terms as some sort of intervention in the world, and therefore has to include, at one end, the highly-wrought artistry of a Shakespeare sonnet or a Rembrandt, and at the other, a pile of bricks. At the top end, it will yield endless enjoyment and stimulation- at the other maybe a momentary flash of insight that is soon forgotten.
 
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #12: 18.10.08 at 23:25 »
Quote

Rob Spence wrote:
Quote:
and the points that artists make through these sorts of installations, would, in my view, be much better made in words

 
Exactly and I intended to say as much but omitted to do so in my last post - these people should be writers, not artists.
 
Great story about the students. Reminds me of a sign that was on each of the tables in the UEA refectory which read "Please replace your tray in the racks provided and return used plates and cutlery to the counter." Some wag appended "Discuss"!
 
Gerry
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Pete Atkin
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #13: 24.10.08 at 14:24 »
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Aha, always a good one, this.  One problem - mistake, even - is that we tend to use the phrase "work of art" as a term of approval, as a kind of badge of merit.  Once you can call Damien Hurst's cow or Tracey Emin's bed or Carl Andre's bricks a "work of art" while simultaneously expressing disapproval, this particular problem is largely removed.  The only workable definitions of a "work of art" are the most general ones, e.g. something that leaves you seeing the world slightly differently.  
 
John Carey's brilliantly entertaining book 'What Good Are The Arts?' investigates the thinking behind most of the main claims for artistic status and concludes that none of them - none of them - stands up.  You cannot justifiably claim, he concludes, that great art makes you a better person, for instance, or that one form of art (e.g. opera) is in any way "superior" to any other (e.g. pop songs).  One of the great things about the book is that you don't have to have read or seen or heard any of the examples he talks about; he tells you everything you need to know.  His final conclusion, by the way, is that the only workable definition is that "a work of art is anything that anyone has ever considered to be a work of art." If that seems a bit anti-climactic, it isn't, believe me.   Do give it a go.  It's an easy read, funny and wise, and it'll have you cheering at several points, guaranteed.
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #14: 25.10.08 at 15:34 »
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Pete Atkin wrote
Quote:
Aha, always a good one, this.  One problem - mistake, even - is that we tend to use the phrase "work of art" as a term of approval, as a kind of badge of merit.

 
"When sunsets are unlovely and dawns are coldly calculated light?"
 
Quote:
John Carey's brilliantly entertaining book 'What Good Are The Arts?' investigates the thinking behind most of the main claims for artistic status

 
The book sounds extremely interesting, although I think the conclusion that something is a work simply because it is declared to be so is just wrong. But it's on my wish list.
 
Gerry
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #15: 25.10.08 at 16:31 »
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OK, Gerry, but it's a challenge to come up with something better that's universally applicable.  Humbly and modestly, I do think mine works reasonably well, one useful test being that it does work for things that you don't much like or admire.
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #16: 26.10.08 at 23:52 »
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The debate about what is art is unlikely to ever be resolved - my favourite definition is 'an activity through which people express particular ideas' (Cambridge on-line dictionary), although this could, I suppose,  be applied to a technical manual.  My favourite art-form is music, but this also has its' controversies eg John Cage's 4'33" Symphony.
 
The problem with music is that it is a performance art and lasts only for the duration of the performance.  Generally we do not judge it by the score (a list of instructions), although this is where the skill/art of the writer becomes apparent.  Music also relies upon the art of the performer to deliver. Similarly, a Shakespeare play is not attended for the written word but for the performance of actors born many centuries after the writer has died.  And this is what the writer intended, and also to reach a wide audience, not to become an elitist pursuit or remain the subject of academics.  A parallel, I think, with Pete and Clive, whose audience (MVs and many more) appreciate that their art has many facets.
 
I also feel that Hurst's art is more akin to sculpture and is more appropriately compared to Moore's Pig than the Mona Lisa.
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Ian Chippett
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #17: 13.11.08 at 20:04 »
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I don't know much about Art etc etc but for what it's worth there's a comic book version of "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" now available (in French) from local newsagents over here in Paree.  
 
For myself, I always think that Art is what you should be listening to/reading/watching/looking at rather than what you actually are listening to, etc etc. There are some exceptions like Jane Austen, Vermeer,  Mozart, French Classical music, Pete 'n Clive and others.
 
Ian C
 
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Gerry Smith
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #18: 14.11.08 at 16:13 »
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IC (the joker) wrote:
Quote:
For myself, I always think that Art is what you should be listening to/reading/watching/looking at rather than what you actually are listening to

 
Or as Mark Twain said, a classic is something everyone wants to have read but no-one wants to read.
 
Gerry
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Re: OK, let's get controversial
« Reply #19: 15.11.08 at 16:13 »
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Ian, can you please point me in the right direction of where I  can find the definitive list of art I should be consuming.  I already know that Pete and Clive are on the list. Smiley
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