Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 10)


There is something of being unhinged, or dislodged, in what David Greig mentioned in one of our exchanges about how he uses fragmentation: ‘I use fragmentation a lot. So I create a very secure logical story and then I fragment it. I tell it in the wrong order, for example. This gives the audience the sense that there is a story – so they feel secure – but they can’t quite piece it together – and so it creates a tension. They have to work.’75 This is purposeful unhinging to create doubt. How short or how expansive does the sense of time need to be in his work or the digestion of a duckrabbit?

Where the relationship between security and insecurity where uncertainty is concerned, creatives are divided. Boris Achour replied to my question about that relationship saying: ‘Not feeling secure, as an artist or as a viewer, means to me that I want and need to be surprised by the art I do or see. That is something very simple but quite rare to achieve as an artist (to me, at least) and quite rare to meet as a spectator.’76 But that might be different than what David Greig said later in conversation: ‘I don’t like people to feel doubt or uncertainly when they watch my work. I like them to feel secure. I am telling them a story. The story will have a logic and an inner consistency. They will be able to feel like they are in ‘good hands’ of a story teller. Once people feel secure you can then take them into very dark, uncertain places. You can offer ideas and images that are ‘beyond the pale’ in normal life.’77 Both those ideas have similarities but different textures that rub against each other a little. Since both creatives are storytellers, there isn’t a difference in medium that justifies that discrepancy. Those statements are similar enough that they look like they just boil down to timing. Where does all the temporality live with the public?

Even though it was hinted at within the concepts of affective labor, the question format itself, and in the prevalence of upspeak users, where does this doubt, uncertainty, and general unknowing fit within the tradition of feminist critique? We didn’t land on those squares doing our play, but that isn’t to say they weren’t on the board.78 The Interrobang might also be on this board sitting with its emphatic ambiguity.79 Choices and decisions had to be made during this play. And is Heidegger one of our players, or involved in this dialogue? Perhaps something like his thoughts on choice and decision are worth mentioning here. What is decision at all? In my eyes it certainly isn’t choice. Choosing always involves only what is pre-given and can be taken or rejected. Decision here means grounding and creating, disposing in advance and beyond oneself.’80 That idea could very well sit within this discussion. All those squares left unplayed this time, because of time. And like many artists in a social engagement project, we are without the benefit of this being a repeatable event.

Let’s take a final look at a section of the abstract for the Pleasure of Doubt conference.

Irritation, uncertainty, disbelief; distrust, skepticism, wariness – the spectrum of doubt is rich and diverse. But traditionally, philosophy and humanistic scholars tend to turn their back on it… To capture this transformative power, one has to look beyond purely intellectual changes – which is what our conference wants to do. Doubt can only exert its force because it engages the doubting subject as a whole: not just on the level of concepts and beliefs, but also on the aesthetic level of feeling and perception. The starting point of doubt is emotional, taking hold not only of the mind but also of the feeling and perceiving body. Doubt, in short, is not just a state of mind: it is a complex experience with irreducible aesthetic dimensions.81

The phrase ‘irreducible aesthetic dimensions’ has an elemental sound to it, as if doubt and uncertainty are atoms on the periodic chart of creative elements alongside beauty, sublime, dumpy or dainty; as if doubt truly has a primal nature that exists within human experience. Whether creatives use or reduce it in the production of work, or induce it in others, or experience it along with the public, it is a quality that is part of their toolbox. And like the bombed-out car, doubt has as many stories as those who experience it.

Should we conclude that what has transpired is unteachable and unlearnable? Or is it worth the time to start giving these tactics a try within contemporary art practice? Now that we know how these works could be constructed and the rules involved, is there any longer a reason to create work like these within contemporary art? Can we be certain of ways to produce uncertainty? Knowing that we can use tactics and rules like Eco’s ‘unhinging,’ pulling a card from the Oblique Strategies deck, or issuing surprise through more covert approach like Deller’s, might result in a paradox, but one that we can live with and use as a tool in the toolbox. Or is this analysis its own undoing, like asking: are you firing me? Is this a date? Are you breaking up with me? And beyond the undoing question, what is the value of not knowing? In the end, is it worth just not knowing?



75 Greig, David 2017, pers. comm., 25 Jan.

76 Achour, Boris 2017, pers. comm., 16 Jan.

77 Greig, David 2017, pers. comm., 25 Jan.

78 ‘Rachel Jones also considers what might constitute an ethics of not knowing, and calls on us to recognise its wider social and political resonance. Her essay [On the Value of Not Knowing: Wonder, Beginning Again and Letting Be] celebrates the transformative potential of not knowing, but hints at a darker side, citing examples where it has been deployed within “epistemologies of ignorance” to support and perpetuate unjust social structures such as those based on sexism or racism. Historically, even the knowing subject has traditionally been gendered as male, thus aligning not knowing and its negative connotations with the other, female.’ On Not Knowing (pg 12-13)

79 The interrobang (‽) conceived as punctuation in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter (often represented by ?! or !?), is a punctuation mark that functions as both the question mark and the exclamation point.

80 Heidegger, Martin, Contributions to Philosophy (pg 69)

81 http://pleasure-of-doubt.com/#2

Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 9)


Scratching in the dirt and yet we have only scratched the surface, conscious that throughout I’ve had to make decisions about the path we have taken to get here, mindful of the brief time we had to play which kept us from examining doubt and uncertainty in other work. I’m thinking of Bas Jan Ader and where his art might stand in relation to risk and failure or how in fighting the moment you succumb to gravity – accepting it might have its tactics of uncertainty. And how the texture of doubt in Ader’s work like Fall II where he rides a bicycle into an Amsterdam canal might be a good lens for looking at Simon Starling’s Autoxylopyrocycloboros. Or Cady Noland’s act of disavowing her artworks or refusing to work with galleries, and what that might bring into question.69 I’m also thinking particularly of Deller’s tactics in not wanting We’re Here Because We’re Here to be seen as a work of art at its performance, but not being worried about it being identified with him or as an artwork later, or indeed his bombed-out car not being viewed as a work of art in the Imperial War Museum.70

Does Walt Whitman’s constant revision of poems in his Leaves of Grass collection lead to a lack of real authority and perhaps create an open system of possibility, a living document? Is this related to The World’s First Collaborative Sentence, a work created by Douglas Davis? Could this be another possibility in creating uncertainty? Where does Andy Warhol’s Blue Door stand when he says “I like the door, because you go in and out and you never get anywhere.”71 We just walked around that free-standing door as well as many others. We can say we got somewhere. We started with a roll of the dice as if in a board game and normally you don’t land on every square when you play. We have just finished the first play of the game. I’m not sure if we have won but we know there are other possibilities out there, and it’s worth playing again. It is just the beginning of a dialogue.

Can we converse about the relationship of uncertainty in play, and in particular meaningful play, and games? We have examined artworks as an open system. But we still need to discuss whether all artworks are open systems and, if so, to what extent. Is Eco’s ‘unhinging’ a way of creating an open system for collaborators to create platforms of engagement? Is the duckrabbit enough of a paradox and visual ambiguity that we can use it as a shorthand to explain how doubt and uncertainty might work in less temporal works?

We might find some answer in what David Cross emailed to me about his use of a similar situation.

‘As an artist I have collaborated to make context-specific installations that critically engaged with particular situations and social moments. Starting from a position that ‘knowledge’ can be produced through the encounter of different subject positions and social groups (with class interests that can be in tension or conflict), I have focused on public places and conventional interactions which structure the relationship between them. What we are able to ‘know’ is a question of agency and power. Through art projects, I have tried to draw out the tensions underlying a situation by presenting paradox in aesthetic form, aiming to engage people beyond passive spectatorship, towards more active social agency. Hopefully, the aesthetic form might attract people’s attention, and maybe offer them some reward for the work of engaging with the paradox. Borrowing from the practice of ‘Socratic questioning’, if a paradox is well poised, then engaging with it should somehow mobilize rather than stabilize one’s thought processes.’72 Could we talk about that tactic as creating a duckrabbit desire?

My coffee is quickly growing cold. Maybe when I leave the cottage and get back to Rhenigidale clachan I’ll draw a hot bath, light some candles and incense to warm up and think about it? It’s not like I’m under deadline anytime soon.

Strong work, original work, doesn’t come through a menu or other set of established rules. Did I find myself agreeing with Lyotard? Lyotard asserts ‘Art is not a genre defined in terms of an end (the pleasure of the addressee), and still less is it a game whose rules have to be discovered; it accomplishes an ontological task, that is, a ‘chronological task.’73 That could be extended to have Lyotard asking, ‘Should art have rules? If there are rules one could follow does following them create art or once the rules are known is that something else?’ If I seem to contradict myself it is because of the subtleties between the definitions of rules, frameworks, recipes, and matrixes. The fact is, there are tools and whether it’s a platitude, truism, or cliché it is a poor craftsman who blames the tools. Besides, we also happen to be the ones who make those tools. We make new tools precisely because you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created them.74


69 Cady Noland has gained a reputation for the difficulty in exhibiting her works or working with curators, auctioneers, and interviewer’s. One exhibit in 2014 came with a disclaimer: “Because Ms. Noland have [has] not been involved with the chain of provenance with many of my [her] pieces there are more situations like this show which place demands on her time and the artist’s attention to ensure proper presentation of her artwork (including its representation in photographs), than she has time or capacity to be involved with. She reserves her attention for projects of her own choosing and declined to be involved in this exhibition. The artist, or C.N., hasn’t given her approval or blessing to this show.” (Is Cady Noland More Difficult to Work With Than Richard Prince?) And though it was the only interview Noland had given in 24 years, Noland refused to approve the chapter in 33 Artists in 3 Acts, requesting the author Sarah Thornton note, “would like it to be known that she has not approved.” (Is Cady Noland More Difficult to Work With Than Richard Prince?)

70 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’) and Deller, Jeremy 2017, pers. comm., 10 Jan.

71 Andy Warhol’s Circa 1780 Door from His Personal Collection

72 Cross, David 2017, pers. comm., 19 Jan.

73 The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (pg 88)

74 ‘Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.’ is attributed to Albert Einstein but it has become unhinged from its origin and brought into the public domain by the proliferation of image-based memes on the internet.

Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 8)


Let’s go down a hole briefly, and look at Sonia Boyce’s Gulp, where Sarah Cole retells a story she presented at the On Not Knowing conference. When she retold the story she used water as a prop that she drank, gurgled, and dribbled.66 Cole was working at a primary school and encountered a story while she was investigating play with the kids there. She was asking several questions, including “how do we understand play?” and “how can play offer risks and test the boundaries of what is allowed in a playground?” {dribble} but also to sort of respect and understand that there are boundaries for different reasons, to understand what they are and why they’re there.”67 What she found out was that the kids dug a hole in an area of the playground they weren’t normally allowed to play within. In order to do this, they smuggled mouthfuls of water from the drinking fountain to the bit of flowerbed during recess. After 8-10 mouthfuls the hard soil was soft enough to dig. These kids wanted the chance to get dirty. Whose idea was it for a hole? Who decided the hole was big enough? They took turns concealing their child-sized mouthfuls across the playground past those supervising them. Were they excited by the risks? Probably. It was a collaborative effort, a form of playing a game of us versus them. Perhaps one of them set up the framework of “let’s dig a hole” as a way to play in the dirt, but once that was established, it was cooperative play. Each, in turn, taking risks and uncertain of when, or why it would stop. Part of the play was rule-making and rule-breaking.

One of the themes that underlies the works we discussed is this testing of boundaries, risks, and play. This “making a game of it” comes from the artists themselves being unsure where the boundaries lie and noting that it is worth investigating. Unknown to those artists is whether or not society wants to play, or how they want to play and whether the ideas that the artists use to kick off the conversation are worth investigating. What happens when they push at the boundaries? Perhaps there is a space created for a fight to happen out on this playground. Is that part of the rule-making and rule-breaking activities of creation?

These artists create a playground of sorts outside more traditional spheres of exhibition. Are these playgrounds the worlds Deller talks about?68 Artists who participate in this specific type of social engagement are creating a game in the playground and asking us to play. Are Deller and Cross engaging us and asking: “Do you want to dig a hole?” If so they squat next to us scratching their uncertainty along with us in the dirt, wondering what defines a hole and whether we will discover that before someone outside steps in and makes us stop.


66 On Not Knowing (pg 146)

67 GULP is a video that came out of the On Not Knowing symposium. The story, told by Sarah Cole, is a recollection of a practice she encountered whilst working in a primary school. Having heard the story, Sonia Boyce asked Sarah to repeat the tale on video, some two years later, whilst standing [with water bottles that she drank, gurgled, and dribbled] on the roof tops of the former Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design building in Charing Cross Road. This [section] is a transcript of Sonia’s video, made with Sarah, Trish Scott and Dan Scott in 2011. On Not Knowing (pg 146-148)

68 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 7)


For a month, “the most amazing month of his life”, Jeremy Deller realized he was putting himself at risk traveling with a US soldier and Iraqi civilian, towing a wrecked heap around the US. This is one of the moments in Deller’s life where he asked himself, “what I have done; what am I doing here?”50 Let’s examine this instance in creative practice where both the artist and the public are in a state of doubt or uncertainty.

Frequently this is the case in a piece that uses temporality, especially those that exist in the moment. They work differently than those which rely on the concept of the creator having doubt or creating uncertainty in themselves, or the work, than the process of sharing that doubt through affective labor.51 They are perhaps best understood and examined when the artist is not the exclusive creator, but relies on the public to be a collaborator. Where is the work? Who are the creators? When a creator designs frameworks, matrixes or recipes are they removing themselves from an authority and allowing discovery and play in a space no longer directed by themselves? What roles do archives, documentation, and artifacts take in this process, and are they part of the piece, or something else? Where does failure lie? Is it useful to think about failure in such work?

These sensations aren’t exclusive to art and happen within game design as well. Playtesting is an important and time-consuming part of the game design process that is recommended to commence in the early conceptualization of a play experience and runs vigorously to the end, informing production through what is called the rapid iterative process.52 Unlike the benefits game designers receive during this approach to their outcomes, artists are frequently in the dark, and on the brink of failure. They face this risk because the play-based design process that generates games is very different to the one-off, often event-based aspect of art that involves an extended group of collaborators, and may also include the audience. Consequently, what artists sense during this process is unteachable and unlearnable. Yet the artist is similar to the game designer in that through enacting such a work the role shifts from designer to player, either suspending knowledge of the outcome or experiencing uncertainty.

In the establishment of the framework of his engagement projects, Deller focuses on projects that do things, instead of making things, by inviting people to collaborate through social engagement. When he deals with something like a strike or war his focus isn’t the social impact of war, or why it happened or even particular battles. Instead, Deller seeks to create a structure that becomes open research, bringing people together, and unlike more typical uses of social engagement, the purpose is to make people angry and investigate that anger.53

David Cross also has a similar approach, yet the work of Cornford and Cross is far less dynamic than the open system that Deller constructs. Cross summed up his process and goals when he admitted in our conversation: “I keep returning to art in the belief that although our perceptions — and therefore our choices — are ‘framed’ by ideology, the non-linear dynamic nature of cultural practices continually generate new possibilities for thought and action. The game is rigged, but it’s worth playing because it combines skill and chance, so the outcomes are never entirely certain. When the stakes are high and I don’t know what will happen, I feel more alive… I’m attracted to dynamic situations, so my approach as an artist is less strategic or directive than it is tactical and responsive. What I love about critical, socially engaged art projects is the chance to find an edge, like placing a bet on the limit of what is acceptable. I look for contact through projects that invite people to come forward as players in heightened and unpredictable situations.”54 Cross’s approach is different than Deller’s, but they both involve degrees of risk and uncertainty, and entertain the possibility of failure. Could failure be defined as ‘going wrong’? Or is no engagement the greater failure? Or what if the engagement was interpreted as farce?

Deller admits there is inherent difficulty in enacting a riot, in particular the possibility that it could ‘go horribly wrong quite easily with one wrong punch thrown for real’, sparking a real riot instead of a questioning.55 It is this questioning and this anger that are the real goals of what Deller wants to achieve. He ‘didn’t want to tick the engagement boxes, or have the goal of people feeling better for participating. That isn’t where his interest is.’56 The original concept of the exploded car was to sit atop the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. When that proposal was rejected, Deller created what game designers would call an open system that invites input for open discussion. As little or as much space as the Battle of Orgreave or the bombed-out car occupy in three-dimensions, they open an infinite space for discussion. The chosen route for the car was through US Southern states and Republican areas. In an attempt to keep the car from being framed as an anti-war piece, Deller set out to make a very clinical, descriptive introduction to the work by posting a sign on the trailer stating: This car was destroyed in a bomb attack in Baghdad marketplace March 5, 2007. Each of the passengers gave out flyers and exposed themselves to the consequences of this in the hope that the idea spoke for itself. Or you could say spoke enough for itself; an opening line or gesture of an idea to create a dialogue to invite people to respond, with the bland title and twisted heap resulting in a blank page for people to write their stories.

Deller later said they were, ‘terrified because we weren’t sure what would happen and that was the exciting thing about making art within the public realm’.57 The uncertainty of the unexpected. He followed with: ‘If you do something in a museum it is warm and dry, and in a sense, people know how to behave.’58 Does that change in the public realm? Does an artist have less control because it is outside the norms of more established art experiences? Maybe there is a similarity here between Deller’s public realm and Cross’s ‘placing a bet on the limit of what is acceptable.’

What was acceptable to the public Deller encountered on his road trip? Where did the public start their stories? The most commonly asked question was “what kind of car was it?” next to “did anyone die?” Beyond that, the trio was working with ‘their wits, lucky that at the end of the day they could still talk to each other.’59 Is this space that Deller and Cross construct any different than Umberto Eco’s ‘unhinging’? Is that what they are doing in the public realm? The bombed car ended up in the Imperial War Museum where it ceased to be an artwork, placed in a space where the public wouldn’t tend to think in aesthetic terms, where they wouldn’t refer to the rust as patina and compare it to a Richard Sera or John Chamberlin understanding. It rests on a short grey plinth archived but not preserved, permanently unhinged.

Knowing that the vehicle ended up displayed with the machines of war in a museum dedicated to wars of empire, is it now removed from the concept of that original artwork? Deller would say so and you could agree. That isn’t to say Imperial War Museum isn’t without art or aesthetics. The museum shows art and commissions new works in a bid to debate different conflicts around the world. The Spitfire that is suspended above the exploded car is a graceful design that appears to move fast even when standing still. Imagine if it was in British racing green with stripes. The V2 rocket that stands nearby could evoke Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space. Though the content of the museum is primarily objects of war, there is no certainty in whether the public will view Deller’s work aesthetically or not. A dialogue could evolve either way. That may just bring us back to the duckrabbit ambiguity inherent in Deller’s car. Some may see the picture-duck and others the picture-rabbit. ‘Unhinged’ among the machines of war and flight, it can sit framed as a significant work in the museum. But without that frame saying, in a heavy-handed way, this is art. Functionally it could also approximate to the parking-lot experience of the original tour or the WWI soldiers in Ikea.

There was little if any documentation of those daily events of Deller’s on the road experiment. Did that make the experience more human, more natural, or importantly more unexpected? Every day on this trip these three cooks followed their recipe. Every day they played the game, and each time it was a new moment of play. During these repeated interactions not only did they hear multiple stories and experience multiple interactions about this lump of oxidizing iron, but they probably learned about themselves. If they were approaching the scenario in the same way every day, it is doubtful that they would consider themselves ‘lucky’ to be able to be still able to talk to each other that evening.60

Elsewhere, Sol Lewitt’s work is created even after his death following his instructions. Yoko Ono tweets out ideas for work for others to complete. These frameworks are directive and limited and outside the meaningful play that Deller and Cross create and emerge themselves in. We can imagine Ono and Lewitt rarely see themselves in doubt or experiencing uncertainty mostly because they aren’t looking for collaborators, they are exclusively looking
for fabricators.

A strong wind whistles in the window and hums through the drainage vent pipe. Harris sheep must eat rocks, or be rock; otherwise they would be Newfoundland sheep.

Brian Eno doesn’t think art bursts out into reality by some unstoppable divine force. He defines his way of working not as setting a goal and trying to reach it, but seeing what he does anyway and how he can make use of it in a different way of working.62 He studied as a painter and sees his ideas in music coming from looking at painting and wondering how you could make music about that.63 The idea of ambient music came from the idea to make music that existed in a steady state like a painting or a sculpture. No longer does he use Oblique Strategies because he feels that he can call upon them from his memory if needed and use creative adventurous mind games to be able to understand things. I doubt whether James Gardner or David Greig would disagree.

I follow the two writers down the steps through the kitchen, past the French butcher block island, the knives, and forks, pots, and pans. We put our dry boots on and brace against the world. We sit on the cold concrete base at the top of the trolley rail structure. My legs are cold and are growing wet. I am the first to drink from the flask of coffee, and the dogs are ecstatic at the appearance of digestives. Their muddy paws leave prints on anything not dirt.

Eno said, “children learn through play, adults play through art.”64 Perhaps he casts art as unteachable and unlearnable, in that once you find the tools to solve the problem you only have them stolen when you need them next.65 That could be a projection on my part. He certainly didn’t say that adults learn through art, though. Whether faced with an empty house, a blank page, a freshly primed canvas, or working on a sculpture, or any other creation that you don’t know how to finish, creatives and creators face doubt and uncertainty during the creation of work. Often they find a way out through establishing gridworks of abstractions, platitudes, metaphors, and imaginary inventions to induce or reduce those feelings of doubt till they achieve the result they are looking for. Maybe Nietzsche was also right about the will to endure. Who defines the ‘mistake’ or the ‘intention’ in Eno’s suggestion?



50 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

51 Thinking of David Greig earlier quote in the introduction section I, around how he approaches doubt and uncertainty and expresses that within his work.

52 Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (pg 11)

53 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

54 Cross, David 2017, pers. comm., 19 Jan.

55 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

56 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

57 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

58 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

59 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

60 (Deller, Jeremy; ‘Situations Bristol’)

61 Here is a bit of an ‘Easter egg’ that fits within the gaming framework as well as the ‘picture-rabbit.’ There is an essay that might be worth a read if you are interested in redaction. London Fieldworks and The Office of Experiments contributed to On being overt: secrecy and covert culture in On Not Knowing. Two investigations feature in the paper: Gustav Metzger thinking about nothing in an EEG machine and the resulting sculpture London Fieldworks made from that image, paired with the hiding in plain sight of military secrets.

62 2015 sample played during the introduction to Brian Eno’s John Peel Lecture

63 2001 Jools Holland interview.

64 2015 John Peel Lecture

65 Unteachable and Unlearnable: The Ignorance of Artists, an essay in On not Knowing Atkinson Warstat considers the difficulties of finding room for not knowing within a pedagogic framework using a mix of James Elkin’s Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students, Kafka, and a good dose of Blanchot. On not Knowing (pg 42-52)

My Dog Has Jumping Fleas

In the heat of a July summer sun, a plastic human figure with its translucent plastic grass skirt sways on the dashboard with every bump and turn watching the world roll by. You have probably seen this particular piece of kitsch. Typically, it is used to sell car related items, the cars themselves, air fresheners, insurance, and toy cars to children. It is the dashboard doll hula girl. When the hula girl isn’t enough, you can see a tiki or two thrown in to prop up the island lifestyle message. Though there were hula dolls made in Hawaii by Hawaiians since 1900, the dashboard hula doll was created and popularized among soldiers post-WWII and was mostly manufactured in postwar Japan. Two types exist: one is where the hula girls hands are in her hair, and the other features her strategically holding a ukulele to cover what otherwise would be a bare chest.1

I would like to say I don’t understand why companies, and their marketing departments, use a misogynistic, colonial, exploitive lens to sell products to consumers as young as 8, but I know because I have.2 That being said let’s stick with the two poses for a moment if just to say that hula is an interpretive dance in which the motion and gesture of the hands are the most significant aspect of the communication. To remove the hands or to otherwise occupy them is to remove the voice of the dancer. The rhythm of hula comes from traditional and contemporary chanting rhythms and their original Polynesian beats. You could further conclude that occupying the hands of a hula dancer is a denial of the cultural memory of the Kanaka Maoli, who for thousands of years without a written language communicated the values, memories, and stories through dance and chant. Many never ask how the ukulele ended up in this dashboard hula doll’s otherwise silent hands or used by companies on its own to symbolically “inspire customers to relax in style.”

Where did a string instrument come from in a culture that uses chants, percussion, and performance to communicate its oral history? Before we begin that answer, I want to say that I will use two spellings of Hawai’i/Hawaii, but will not use them interchangeably. I will try to keep Hawaii to mean the United States protectorate and state, and Hawai’i to mean the sovereign nation and traditional culture of the Kanaka Maoli.3 Using the diacritical mark as a wayfinding symbol of native versus alien. As we go, we will find how easy it gets confused and could have the same and more productive conversation as “native AND alien” instead. We will start to tell this story through two island chains across the world from each other and in separate oceans. It is a fitting start since we just talked about hula gestures whose bulk are for geographic features that help with the wayfinding in Hawai’ian story tradition.

These two archipelagoes are linked in exploitation, colonization, questionable farming practices, and the introduction of disease. By 1840, Hawai’i had radically changed because of the arrival of Captain James Cook in the late 1770s.4 Once great explorers themselves, around 300 AD the first colonizers of what would become Hawaii set off on a 3,760 km journey from the Marquesas Islands with chickens, bananas, coconut, taro root, and sweet potatoes with the expectation of finding land.5 Around the twelfth century, Hawaii was again colonized by Tahitians.6 The Tahitian priest Pa’ao was instrumental in establishing a caste system that oppressed the current inhabitants’ culture and instituted kapu.7 The arrival of Cook set off a chain of events that within 50 years lead to the rapid decline in population, loss of sovereignty for the Kanaka Maoli, the ending of kapu, the exportation and deforestation of the sandalwood trees, and the first sugar plantation. Shortly after the end of kapu, Christian missionaries arrive in Hawai’i and quickly fill the religious vacuum. Hula and other traditions were banned.

The 60 years after Cook saw the population drop through war and disease from around 400,000 to 40,000 decimating the Kanaka Maoli. In 1848-1850 faster ships made the travel of smallpox and influenza possible with the influx of missionaries and international commerce. Oahu lost half its population, and thousands died of influenza compounding the population crisis.

Kapu had determined how land was distributed among the Kanaka Maoli. But in 1845 Kamehameha III issued the Great Mehele, which allowed foreigners to own land. The population drop fed into the growth of foreign landowners. When the American Civil War started the new landowners profited greatly from their sugar exports to the North, who no longer imported the commodity from the South. Plantations grew and required labor. The sources for this workforce came from, Mexico, China, Filipinos, Japan and eventually the Portuguese islands of Madeira.

I am conscious that a human timescale has been compressed to function more like a geological timeframe. What I have mentioned about the political and cultural history of Hawai’i is just an outline of the forces that pushed the ukulele into creation. Similar forces both geologically and politically acted across the world on Madeira. Around 800 AD the Iberian peninsula is conquered by the Moors. During the next 400 years, there is a blending of musical instruments, tuning, and composition. Most notably for our purposes the introduction to Spanish and Portuguese cultures of reentrant tuning.8 When the Portuguese achieved independence in 1249 from the Moors and Spain by 1385, they began their age of exploration leading to the rediscovery of Madeira.

Land was cleared through burning and exportation of timber and two crops were planted grapes and sugar cane. The Braga settlers also brought the machete de Braga or braguinha. This instrument would be the basis for the musical ensembles in Madeira and led to the creation of accompanying instruments and notably for us the rajao. By 1500, Madeira was the world’s largest sugar producer. Unable to compete with the less expensive sugar from Brazil, and the West Indies, Madeiran sugar production waned, and wine production filled the economic gap.

Again winning their independence from Spain, Portugal signs a protection treaty with England in 1640 that gives the English the economic upper hand. The Marquis of Pombal, the current Prime Minister of Portugal, remarked in 1755, that the British,” conquered us without the inconvenience of a conquest.”9 After the Napoleonic Wars, England removed its garrison from Madeira, but the wars themselves found Portugal burdened with debt further exacerbating the already fragile economy. Madeira became a vacation spot for the Brittish, who enjoyed the mild weather, and English money became the used currency for the area. The majority use of the land was for the cash crop of wine, and the bulk of food for the people had to be imported. Consequently, in the 1840s a series of crop failures met with international recession that when coupled with a Brittish dominated monoculture agriculture and overpopulation caused famine to sweep the land.10 Mass emigration began when Brittish needed cheap labor in the wake of the abolition of slavery.

With starvation, and exploitation facing them at home, there should be no surprise that three Portuguese cabinet makers would join the thousand already working and living in underpopulated Hawai’i. What did come as a surprise to many arriving in Honolulu was the vista of a large American-style city in contrast to the expectation of tropical nature and wild savages. In fact, these three would have left one of the most illiterate European countries for the most literate country in the world. One of the most valuable things the missionaries brought with them was writing and using the latin alphabet the Hawai’ians codified the Kanaka Maoli language into a written form.

After the five months long British occupation of Hawai’i and the restoration of the monarchy by the US Navy, Hawai’i and the United States of America entered into several diplomatic agreements. US currency was the currency used throughout the islands. Eventually, these agreements led to the 1875 Reciprocity Treaty, which removed any tariffs on the import of Hawai’ian sugar to the USA and gave the US Navy the use of Pearl Harbor.

Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose Espirito Santo, the three Portagues cabinet makers, found themselves living in another society where music making was an essential part of everyday life. King David Kalakaua had inspired the continuation of Hawai’ian arts, the reinstatement of the hula, and played several instruments including the Spanish guitar. There was also “tarro-patch” music, music that was played in the fields of the plantations. None of these three cabinet makers came to Hawai’i to create a musical instrument, but they could see the opportunity for an easy to learn, easy to play instrument to accompany short structured songs.

The year they landed, 1879, they produced the first ukulele. The scale was similar to the braguinha, but the tuning came from the rajao. They took the DGCEA strings of the five-string rajao and used four for the ukulele GCEA.11 The braguinha used four different dimensioned strings; the rajao can get by with three; the ukulele uses two and cheaper versions of the ukulele use just one. The marketing plan kicked off with an introduction of the ukulele to the royal family who enjoyed it. King Kalakaua gave Manuel Nunes the right to use the royal seal on the ukuleles he manufactured. Both poor and wealthy bought the instrument, and it was played throughout Hawai’i. And the ukulele and hula appeared together for the first time as part of Kalakaua’s Jubilee celebration in 1886.

Debates continue on the origin of the name of the ukulele. The explanations vary from jumping fleas to the cat flea, it could reference the ukulele as a “gift that came here” or a pun on a previous Hawai’ian instrument and to sing and dance. The royal family was known to utilize the limited consonants of the Kanaka Maoli language to make double or triple meanings within their everyday speech. It is recorded that Queen Lili’uokalani preferred the meaning “the gift that came here.”12

The descendants of the Christian missionaries had grown wealthy, powerful and influential within Hawai’ian society and the US government.13 Two coup attempts were made. The first in 1887 after an armed rebellion installed a constitution that stripped the elected monarchy of much of its power. And the second came as a result of the monarchy abrogation of the 1887 Bayonet Constitution in 1893 with the idea of preserving Hawai’ian sovereignty. On January 17, 1893, the grandson of missionaries Lorrin Thurston and the rest of the Committee of Saftey took control of the government building, Aliʻiōlani Hale. With Thurston’s connections to the US government, the Committee was recognized as the de facto government of the new Republic of Hawai’i, which was annexed by the United States as the Territory of Hawaii in 1898. Despite formal protest by the former Queen Lili’uokalani, the Kanaka Maoli and immigrated people of Hawai’i.

Hawai’ian culture was exhibited at the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, a celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The most popular pavilion by far was the one that featured the hula and ukuleles performances. Two of Manuel Nunes’ granddaughters were among those who taught ukulele lessons during the exhibition.14 The ukulele crossed as one of the latest fads, spreading through vaudeville acts and jazz music. When Manuel Nunes died in 1922, his obituary was picked up by wire services and printed in newspapers nationwide as the death of the inventor of the ukulele. The instrument was so entrenched within US society as a Hawai’ian instrument that when the anthropologist Helen Robert published her 400-page report on the ancient chants and songs of the Hawai’ian Islands in 1924 that the small blip the ukulele was not “native” eclipsed the rest of the documentation. This revelation satisfied beliefs at the time that a non-white mind wouldn’t be capable of making such a creation. Between 1915 and 1924 over 4 million ukuleles had been sold on the mainland. By the late thirties, the first wave of the ukulele had come to a close and musicians sought to de-Hawaiianize the sound.

The next wave was coupled with plastic ukulele production in post-WWII Japan. The inexpensive nature of the production helped place a ukulele in almost every child’s hands. In mainstream music at the time even the more traditionally manufactured ukulele was seen as a background sound or novelty instrument (even just a prop) especially when featured on the popular variety shows at the time. There was a movement to take the ukulele seriously on its own as an instrument which failed to get traction. The ukulele was saved from being only a novelty and disappearing after this was in many ways itself and the importance of music in education.

Unlike the recorder, and penny whistle the ukulele lends itself to the study of harmony. As an instrument, the ukulele has found its place in the world appreciated for the same reasons it was created: ease of play, inexpensive to manufacture, and capable of being played solo as well as in ensembles. The world is following Hawaii’s and Canada’s example in utilizing it for musical education. Consequently, you see its use growing among bands, at home with users of youtube, and protest and peace rallies.

Though the ukulele has found its ecological nitch, Hawaii swims in the ocean of new discussions of how Hawaiian is defined in an ever-shrinking globalized world. Hula itself is open to contemporary practices as much as traditional, and a hula competition called the Merrie Monarch happens every year, but versions that satisfy the tourist expectation of hula are still performed nightly.15 As a series of islands, Hawaii has become the poster child for ecological areas suffering from invasive species. Airplanes bringing tourist and ballast water from cruise ships and cargo vessels have brought disease and competitive species to the otherwise isolated archipelago.16

Within the political sphere, the term “native species” could mean something that has always geographically Hawai’ian or something the Polynesians brought with them, which included over thirty species of plants. Unique to the Hawai’ian islands is the concept whether or not something that is culturally introduced is necessarily alien. As the Hawaiians observe the front lines of their ecology one of the first test whether or not something is alien or native is if it has a Hawai’ian name. That discussion continues to grow as well as who defines what is truly Hawai’ian. There is even still debate of the island chain again becoming a sovereign nation. Most importantly for our discussion is the question if these islands will see the same ecological and commercial effects that Madeira saw little over 150 years ago and the similar unfortunate consequences.

Off the coast of Hawaii, a new island forms and will appear in ten thousand years. The islands that exist now will continue their march towards Alaska joining their predecessors in the mountain chain and will sink below the waves in a million years. The aloha this new island receives, and the aloha the old islands get is uncertain. It is necessary that every member of the human race understand the political, economic and ecological implications of our actions. And through open, honest exchange coupled with recognition of our past successes and mistakes, we can learn to harmonize together and be here on earth to witness these geological processes while in peace with ourselves.


End Notes

1 Ukulele is pronounced “OOH-kuh-leh-leh” by those speak the Kanaka Maoli language. The most common pronunciation is “You-koo-ley-lee” and some people call it the uke, but that can be used as a derogatory term for the instrument. Occasionally in the UK you see it spelled Ukelele.

2 From January of 2012 till August of 2015 I worked the ecommerce division of the retail company Tommy Bahama. It considers itself to be a purveyor of the island lifestyle creating floral printed camp shirts and other products that are positioned to inspire our customers to relax in style. There I worked with many Hawaiians particularly within the “Live the Life” section of the website. An area where Tommy Bahama creates the feeling of authenticity by utilizing its employees’ legitimate culture as its own. Notably for this paper is the sections on the ukulele and hula which are pages that I designed.

3 When I mention the island of Hawaii I will say the “big island” as it is referred to in Hawaii.

4 Kamehameha was impressed by much of what Captain Cook had to offer especially guns and cannon. After the encounter, Kamehameha changed the way he dressed adopting the English style and learned English. He began trading the sandalwood trees for guns and cannon with anyone who was willing and with these arms united through conquest first the Big Island and the rest of the archipelago.

5 Current theory is that it took the Polynesians about 400 years to calculate where Hawaii was. Through a feat of persistence and cultural memory year after year they followed the migration of the pacific golden plover. Rowing their canoes to keep up with the birds as long as they could and then navigating back to that spot and waiting for the birds again trying to keep up with the migration. Eventually being the first humans reaching the island chain.

6Depending on the source the Tahitians are second wave of settlers or the first conquers of Hawaii. They marked a radical change in the current culture bringing new gods and social structure to the land.

7 Kapu is a rule system similar to taboo which ruled the activity of daily life. Including laws of who could eat what, what was planted and when. The punishment for violating almost every kapu was death.

8 Reentrant tuning is a way of tuning an string instrument without maintaining an ascending or descending order.

9 (the Brittish had) “conquered [us] without the inconvenience of a conquest. . . . England has become mistress of the entire commerce of Portugal.”

Tranquada, Jim; King, John, ‘The Ukulele: A History’, (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012) pp. 18-19

11 The mnemonic frequently taught for ukulele tuning is “my dog has fleas.” It should also be pointed out that the research of the origins of the ukulele evolution through its anatomy comes from the research of Dan Scanlan, and Gisa Jähnichen. Both of these researchers reference each other, but seem to be the only ones talking about it. The other resources trace it to the machete mostly through the similarity of size.

12 ‘The gift that came here’ has grown in popularity since the 1980 publication of Ukulele, a gift of the Portuguese. “Leslie Nunes, a great-grandson of Manuel (Nunes), gave some acknowledgement to this meaning when he titled his book on the history of the ukulele Ukulele, the Gift of the Portuguese”

Scanlan, Dan, ‘Extended History of the Ukulele’, (2012) pp. 10

13 At the time US citizens could serve in the Hawai’ian government without giving up their US citizenship.

14 It was one of these granddaughters that started the research that replaced the machete with the rajao as the origin instrument in a 1989 interview with Dan Scanlan on her 104th birthday.

““Flora Fox: “I have that ukulele… but a bigger one. My grandfather was the originator of the ukulele. He made the rajaos [rezzaos]. And then from there he went to Honolulu. And the Hawaiians couldn’t play that big guitar, so, he made a small one. That was his idea.”

Jähnichen, Gisa, ‘Lies in Music: A Case Study on Qualitative Research in Ethnomusicology’, Observing – Analysing – Contextualising MUSIC. Edited by Gisa Jähnichen & Chan Cheong 2nd edition (Serdang: UPM Press, 2015 [2008])pp. 10

It should be noted that the decedents of all three cabinet makers still debate origins and level of involvement, but by 1900 Nunes was the only one who’s shop was still open and producing ukuleles.

15 The Merrie Monarch is named for King David Kalākaua was called the Merrie Monarch.

“Merrie Monarch festival” Merrie Monarch festival website.
URL: http://www.merriemonarch.com (23/03/16)

16 This is a prime example of a literal consequence of the fluid nature and flow of globalization.


Appadurai, Arjun, ‘The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective’, (Cambridge University Press, 1988)

Barthes, Rolland, ‘Mythologies’, translated by Dr. Annette Lavers (Vintage 2000, London, 2009)

Dean, Paul: Ritzer, George, ‘Globalization: A Basic Text’, 2nd Edition, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)

Helmreich, Stefan, ‘Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas’, (University of California Press, 2009)

Jähnichen, Gisa, ‘Lies in Music: A Case Study on Qualitative Research in Ethnomusicology’, Observing – Analysing – Contextualising MUSIC. Edited by Gisa Jähnichen & Chan Cheong 2nd edition (Serdang: UPM Press, 2015 [2008])

Scanlan, Dan, ‘Extended History of the Ukulele’, (2012)

Tranquada, Jim; King, John, ‘The Ukulele: A History’, (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012)

“The Art & History of Hula” Tommy Bahama website.
URL: http://www.tommybahama.com/live-the-life/sports-and-culture/art-and-culture/the-art-andhistory-
of-hula.html (23/03/16)

“Island Life 101: Ukulele Basics” Tommy Bahama website.
URL: http://www.tommybahama.com/live-the-life/sports-and-culture/art-and-culture/ukulelebasics.html (23/03/16)

“Merrie Monarch festival” Merrie Monarch festival website.
URL: http://www.merriemonarch.com (23/03/16)

“Merrie Monarch 2016 – Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua – Wahine Kahiko 1st Place” youtube.com website.
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Thzoe8Yhx4 (15/04/16)

“R.E.V. Robotic Enhanced Vehicles TV Spot, ‘Hula Girl’” www.ispot.tv website.
URL: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/A7BQ/rev-robotic-enhanced-vehicles-hula-girl (15/04/16)

Thank you Secret Santa

Yesterday, I was a little confused about this new object in my life. Easily understood as a consumable of some sort, his hand raised in a welcoming “hello!”, my feeling moved from confusion to joy as I walked from my flat to the studio this morning and realized how much of a contribution he makes in my life. And, quite simply, how much I love him.

Since he is an eraser he isn’t saying hello, he is saying goodbye. In the world, he acts as a foil to me. I create; he removes. Together we are in balance. Ultimately, he behaves as a mushroom or other fungi, transforming existence. Simultaneously he becomes a non-object as he fulfills his duties. He doesn’t simply say goodbye to things – he completes their journey to a different realm. And he does so not by an abstract gesture, but by a final caress, while slowly moving towards that realm himself.

How fitting he has taken the form of a garden gnome, an image and symbolic shorthand for travel, journey, and the general qualities of transience given to us by pop culture. Is he black as an acknowledgment of death or is the purpose practical? Or maybe it is more like in China, where he is a stand-in for water and flow, cycles and exchange within an esoteric ether. He was made in China after all.

There he stands in my studio, symbolic of the transience of being while also being the action completing his transmutation. I love him; I will miss him.

Over coffee, I ask him questions. Can we say that he destroys? What lies beyond for him? On the other side of existence does his image look the same? In this new realm is he welcoming and saying hello? What things exist in that imagined plain we will never come to know? He stands there mute not revealing his secrets.

Thank you Secret Santa,


Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 6)


In a time period a few months longer than the Allies took to plan D-Day, Jeremy Deller planned his invasion of the United Kingdom. July 1, 2016, was the deployment date when he, the National Theatre, and 1600 volunteers based in 27 locations converged on 17 transport hubs and marched through 30 communities across the UK.32 The campaign, called We’re Here Because We’re Here, was aimed at creating a living memorial to those who lost their lives at the Somme, 100 years before.33

One of the tactics that Deller felt made this successful was his ‘no prior press release’ approach.34 Stating that, “like any battle that has to be kept a secret, this project had to be kept a secret as well,”35 Deller made a very conscious decision in the early stages of the project to employ shock, visual jolts and uncertainty in what the audience was witnessing. Does shock at that instant invoke a moment of doubt and uncertainty in a viewer? One of the artist’s initial goals was to make something which would ‘make children cry.’36

Were the soldiers at the Battle of the Somme prepared? Were they shocked? The volunteer army selected for We’re Here Because We’re Here had agreed to take on a task bigger and more protracted than they were aware of in the beginning, but stuck with the project to the end. In an interesting parallel, it wasn’t until they were fully committed that the scope of the full plan was revealed.

Deller wanted to disrupt, dislodge, and, one could say, unhinge the rituals he saw in society for honoring or commemorating its dead warriors. His goals were to create something that didn’t conform to the established acts of mourning and the paying of respects. He sees annual Armistice Day visits to the Cenotaph in Whitehall as creating both a sense of peace within the public and a ‘sentimentality’ that makes the deaths of the hundreds of thousands appear heroic.37

Deller wanted to make a human memorial that wasn’t comforting, had a random quality, and was decentralized; one that confronts or disrupts the audience. To avoid sentimentality Deller’s army was to avoid religious buildings, memorials and cemeteries. Instead they were ordered to deploy to shopping centers, bus stations, parks and Ikeas, places where they would be incongruent, a visual disruption. Places that didn’t exist in 1916. Ikea was specifically highlighted as a target because of the sense of ‘purposelessness’ and ‘soullessness’ the space has to Deller.38 The planned marches were in public partially because it was a public work, but more than that he wanted to confront the public. Deller said: “if people didn’t want to see it they would have to see it.”39

What keeps it from being street theater instead of an artwork? If you come across something that you aren’t prepared for is it more unexpected than anything else that happens within daily life? It seems these are the questions we could be asking. But our mission here is to examine the tactics used by contemporary artists to create doubt and uncertainty. The title of Deller’s memorial work was taken from a battle song sung during the Great War. We’re Here Because We’re Here were the repetitive lyrics sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, which spoke to Deller. He heard: “we don’t know why we are here, we don’t know what’s going on. No one is telling us anything. What is the point of this?”40 Is this the secret message Deller is transmitting to the public? The campaign ended in a purposeless ‘vortex’ of human beings as the soldiers congregated in the transport hubs where they were originally deployed and ceased linear marching, and instead synchronizing in concentric circles, each group in step but headed in opposite rotations.41 With one final rendition of the battle song, then the work stopped with a cry. The planned push ended Deller’s tactics and left the troops exhausted. Two pre-planed tactics were later awarded for leading to the success of that day: surprise and the wish to unhinge.42 Both of these were covert.

Much of the major work Deller has done is based around conflict. It is as if Deller has to push the limits of acceptability and the way he does that is by serving up conflict. Now, however, he is also a veteran at working with open systems and creating a platform for engagement. Losing control, he says, was something he used to be concerned about, but with We’re Here Because We’re Here he expected such a loss, certainly in terms of social media, that this battle plan wouldn’t survive the first bullet, or first tweet, in a digitally networked world. In the end, it would be a battle, he would lose, and the public would finally take control of the project. It was for the public; it would be documented by them, talked about by them.

Knowing or recognizing this beforehand, Deller included game plans around the public having no forewarning of the work, and while the work was shared on social media there would be no reference to it as an artwork; any such reference would be deleted or removed, and the soldiers would be on unexpected fronts.43 Those fronts, meanwhile, were temporarily incongruent to the period costumes of the volunteers. There is a rhyming of sentiment between this and Eco’s ‘unhinging’. The mute soldiers walking through Ikea looks like an excerpt of a book, with the soldiers being only part of a story visibly dislodged from the contained and restrained ritual of the cenotaph. On that day, the limited reconnaissance available to the public through the internet and subsequent social media denied an association to classify the experience and understanding where it fitted within cultural production. Deller left the public with only the experience itself and, if they had an ‘encounter’, they received a card with a particular soldier’s name, regiment and – if known – his age the day he died at the Somme.44 This mute exchange was as close to an explanation as possible at the time. Does the card function as two things at once – both an explanation and a tombstone? Could that card be the duckrabbit of that excursion?

Does unhinging a work from context, or creating visual ambiguities, or contradictions do more than work to dislodge our expectation? These are tactics that have worked and continue to satisfy when looking to create something that results in doubt and uncertainty. They are easier to accomplish within works that have some temporality. Works that function in a more static time, or a narrower existence for the public’s examination, seem to be more limited to suspending the time by ambiguity. On that can we be sure? Only in the continued march of time, that inevitable journey we must all thole, will we tell.

Let’s allow time to continue its endless march and rest ourselves while we rejoin Ilsa Lund in her romantic, soft-focus, upper-story flat in Paris and return to her question: ‘“Was that artillery fire, or is it my heart pounding?” Now, with our refreshed eyes, we ask a similar question we could apply to works that we are in doubt about, or uncertain of: Is our expectation of reality, or our everyday existence, at risk of being challenged by an outside force, or are we excited by the prospect of the sublime?

Back in the Harris gale, I’m struggling to focus on finding an outline for my dissertation. And I’m beating myself up about it. David Greig described having writer’s block as not getting the feeling of losing himself in the work, like he feels he used to or should. You could see this as an extension of the romanticization of the artist, or even the individual, that leads to the multi-billion dollar self-help industry.45 James Garner’s view, meanwhile, is more of a Will to Power argument, like Jasper Johns’ ‘Do something, do something to that, and then do something to that.’46

Could it be that both ways are a door for stepping outside to look into what you have done to see if it’s working? Like hoping a sculpture falls in the middle of the night so you can rebuild it.47 I’m tempted to agree, but can the strategy of this be distilled to establishing gridwork, platitudes, metaphors, and imaginary inventions? Can this remove uncertainty and doubt within the creator and even be used to induce doubt or at least a healthy skepticism as a personal Anxiety of Influence? In Harold Bloom’s mid-seventies book The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry he sees creatives as struggling against their knowledge of the historic cannon. Bloom then outlines ways in which that struggle can be reduced by reinterpretation of the past. A creative could misquote/misread to find room for themselves, by sharpening the point of their predecessor. As preposterous as it might seem, the creative could also invite the predecessor to read his work. In doing so no matter how distant in the past the predecessor existed in, he could rationalize that the predecessor was the successor operating in a non-linear time. Or, the creative could see that history has taken a certain route and choose an antithetical path. Does Bloom’s book even work as he asserts, or is it just a version of the self-help book? What other creative lanes exist? There is an accepted mythology in the music industry that all the best studios have Brian Eno’s and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies within them.48 One of those cards comes to mind: ‘Honor thy mistake as a hidden intention.’49 Is that a line from Hamlet? Did I misremember that?


32 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

33 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

34 Deller, Jeremy 2017, pers. comm., 10 Jan.

35 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

36 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016) and (Meet the creatives behind ‘we’re here because we’re here’, 2016)

37 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

38 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

39 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

40 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

41 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

42 There were two social media teams in the We’re Here Because We’re here project: one dedicated to getting the word out, the other to stopping anyone from believing it was an artwork by removing references to Jeremy Deller, the National Theatre, Birmingham Rep, anything that might suggest that, by requesting they remove posts that ‘would give the game away.’ (Meet the creatives behind ‘we’re here because we’re here’, 2016)

43 (Meet the creatives behind ‘we’re here because we’re here’, 2016)

44 (Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here, 2016)

45 Stats from Huffington Post

46 Jasper Johns’ now famous 1964 sketchbook quote and The Will to Power refers to a selection of Friedrich Nietzsche notebook writings that is translated as “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that they can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.”

47 Phyllida Barlow talks about pushing sculptures over and being disappointed if they didn’t fall over in the night in Unidentified Foreign Objects: Phyllida Barlow in conversation with Elizabeth Fisher in the transcript of the On not Knowing conference within On Not Knowing (pg 108)

48 Jools Holland asserted this during his 2001 interview of Brian Eno. (Later…)

49 The actual line from the card is “Honor thy error as a hidden intention.” It was misremembered.

Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 5)


Now that we have marched a bit further perhaps there should be a bit of rest, and we join back with, if not Ilsa, at least Casablanca and the idea of holding more than one idea; or, more fittingly, holding only a couple of ideas within a complex and contradictory many. In the essay Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage, Umberto Eco explores systems for creating a cult movie. A cult movie, he argues, ‘must display some organic imperfections.’17 Even beyond that, he says, ‘one must be able to break, dislocate, unhinge it so that one can remember only parts of it, irrespective of their original relationship with the whole.’18

Though you could perhaps do this to a written text by reducing it to a series of excerpts, the tactic he proposes for time-based media is that ‘[a movie] must be already ramshackle, rickety, unhinged in itself.’19 He continues ‘an unhinged movie survives as a disconnected series of images’.20 And a cult movie should ‘display not one central idea but many. It should not reveal a coherent philosophy of composition.’21

Eco argues that Casablanca was ‘ramshackle’ in its production because nobody knew what was going to happen next, citing one of its stars, Ingrid Bergman.22 He further argues that it uses all the cinematic and narrative archetypes, counting 24 sometimes conflicting, at other times genre-bending, within the first 20 minutes. ‘It even [contains] memories of movies made after Casablanca’ listing the work of Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, which might appear something of a leap, but perhaps only temporally.23 Marcel Duchamp once said, ‘art is a game between all people of all periods’ and you can see at least one echo of that argument in Eco’s work as set out above, and also later in Harold Bloom’s book The Anxiety of Influence where he examines the concept of the ‘predecessor/successor swap’.24

If one way in which a film could be ‘unhinged’ and become ‘ramshackle’ is through its production, then a similar argument can be made for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. Eco could have talked about its use of archetypes from pantomime tropes, to B-movie horror clichés, musicals and even in Rocky’s birth tank, which reminds one of Damien Hirst’s work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Hirst’s formaldehyde suspended shark has similar coloring and proportion to the wrapped, neutrally buoyant body of Dr. Frank N. Furter’s monster.

We will recoil from the correlation of a moneymaking children’s theater, genres of the worst movies ever made and a dead shark on the indeterminate shores of reality for now, and maybe some beachcomber or romantically beach strolling couple will find it interesting. Let’s move on to other animals at the beach, ducks and rabbits, or the interrelated duckrabbit, a drawn illusion of either duck or a rabbit, in which it is impossible to see both simultaneously. Without being able to say which the drawing truly is, we find ourselves in, if not doubt, then a flux of uncertainty. This visually ambiguous linear creation has the possibility of being seen as three things: duck, rabbit, or duckrabbit and in time the relationship between your eye and your mind can transition through all of them. And unlike Schrödinger’s cat, simply looking at the image doesn’t resolve this uncertainty – in fact, it only aggravates it.25 So, within Eco’s essay are we seeing something new, or perhaps a re-envisioning of the duckrabbit argument?26 Are Eco’s argument of the possibility of unhinging in a film and the duckrabbit examples of two different ways of creating doubt or uncertainty in the viewer? Do we see a tactic emerging? Is creating something complex, something that is two things at the same time, like the duckrabbit, something that is large and contains its contradictions like a cult movie, a useful tactic for inducing uncertainty within the audience? Even Wittgenstein had his doubts.

Wittgenstein considers the duckrabbit a temporal idea tied to its paradox and ambiguity, and in a thought experiment he explored the temporality of seeing, but came to no defined conclusion. When pondering the difference between duck or rabbit he questioned, ‘But what is different: my impression? My point of view? Can I say? I describe the alteration like a perception; quite as if the object had altered before my eyes.’ Following further investigations, he mused: ‘Imagine the duck-rabbit hidden in a tangle of lines. Now I suddenly notice it in the picture, and notice it simply as the head of a rabbit. At some later time I look at the same picture and notice the same figure, but see it as the duck, without necessarily realizing that it was the same figure both times.—If I later see the aspect change—can I say that the duck and rabbit aspects are now seen quite differently from when I recognized them separately in the tangle of lines? No. But the change produces a surprise not produced by the recognition.’ In his language, he tries to fix the image in a time with words like ‘now,’ ‘then’ and ‘suddenly’ the ‘picture-rabbit’ and picture-duck’ but the outmaneuvering duckrabbit escapes him.

Within this frame, it is possible to see ties between this and Eco’s ‘unhinging’, the duckrabbit as an imperfect rabbit, and an imperfect duck not ‘reveal[ing] a coherent philosophy of composition’ and whether duck, rabbit or duckrabbit, it is seemingly a ‘rashackle’ construction in our minds. And if we now look back at Wittgenstein ‘then is… the figure an incomplete description of my visual experience? No.—But the circumstances decide whether, and what, more detailed specifications are necessary.—It may be an incomplete description; if there is still something to ask.’ Is Wittgenstein’s duckrabbit with its visual ambiguity a more static, and notably less temporal, but temporal none-the-less ‘unhinging’ within two dimensions? Is an ‘unhinging’ one of the rules, or more aptly a tactic one can use to certainly induce uncertainty, if that isn’t a paradox?

I’m thinking about butchers in Stornoway and it is inducing doubt in my mind. Was that Macleod & Macleod or Charles Macleod black pudding we ate before the hike? Was Charles Macleod the one who died this spring leaving 3.3 million pounds in his will? The conversation in the cottage piques my interest.27 How long was I away? Did they say, shaman? I’m still in the doorway half on the tiles.

David Greig talked about shamans in his BBC radio piece about dealing with his writer’s block.28 How many shamans are there in Scotland, or the UK for that matter?

When Greig can write he says he has the sensation of bridging the world between the imaginary world he created and the real world. On an occasion when he was blocked and unable to feel that connection, he tried drink, jogging, and beating his head off the desk as if some sort of brain damage would unlock or knock loose the writer’s block like a stopped up pipe. When he envisions a shaman, he also sees a person who bridges the gap between worlds. The Fife shaman he visits during the piece in a bid to beat the writer’s block runs a school of creative shamanism and induces a visionary state of being by using a drum and other tools.

As a writer, Greig feels that every time he makes a play he has to ‘confront part of himself’ and must ‘dig into the darkness’ of his soul.29 He is quick to say he has doubts about the concept of having a soul at all, that perhaps he does not understand existence in that way. But he doesn’t discount how that abstraction is a tool for people in understanding their own personal universes. Is the beating drum of a shaman a tool for sharpening Greig’s tools?

Months later, after going for a ‘soul retrieval’ with the shaman, his creativity, his mojo, is back.30 He has ‘recovered a sense of play’ and a ‘series of new metaphors and imaginary interventions [have entered] into his interior world’, concluding that ‘shamanism, religion, psychotherapy are all ways of finding new metaphors to guide us through the world.’31

Is he asking the audience to suspend their disbelief? I’m not sure James Garner, my former Creative Director at clothing brand Tommy Bahama, would agree. He would say that work isn’t the type of place you could light a couple of candles and some incense to solve your creative problems. Most of the time he’d recommend taking 15 or 45 minutes to solve the problem with pencil and paper, or a sharpie if he hadn’t stolen it from you and absent-mindedly left a cooling coffee cup behind on your desk. On a big project maybe I would get 8 hours. I’m sure the writers I’m with now in the dreich Outer Hebrides would understand James’ view. It must be a matter of creative perception.



17 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 3)

18 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 4)

19 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 4)

20 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 4)

21 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 4)

22 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 4)

23 ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage (pg 5)

24 Though it seems unlikely, in physics time isn’t as linear as we experience it. But Eco and Bloom are discussing a different thing. If you are interested in further investigating how the past is being shaped by the present, I hear you should look at Mieke Bal’s Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History. It explores ‘preposterous history’ and how the meaning of the past can never be fixed in place and is cast into doubt by the present.

25 Schrödinger’s cat is a 1935 thought experiment, or paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The conclusion of this experiment was that you would not know if the cat was alive or dead till you looked within the box. Until then the cat was both alive and dead hence the paradox.

26Wittgenstein considers the duckrabbit issue to be its paradox and ambiguity and the experiment resolution explores the temporality of seeing, but came to no defined solution.

27 Mr. Macleod was instrumental in getting European protection for the pudding, putting it on the same level as Parma ham and Cornish pasties. The status – Protected Geographical Indication – means it can be described as Stornoway black pudding, or marag dubh in Gaelic, only if it is produced in the town or parish of Stornoway. It has now emerged that Mr Macleod had an estate valued at £3,334,072 at the time of his death. His wealth included his £2.4m share in the family butcher business, Charles Macleod Ltd.

28 Butterfly Mind, BBC Radio 4. David Greig goes on a personal quest to find out if a Fife shaman can cure his writer’s block in a first person documentary radio broadcast.

29 Quotes from Butterfly Mind

30 Described in Butterfly Mind

31 Concluded in Butterfly Mind

Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 4)


‘Was that artillery fire, or is it my heart pounding?12 Ilsa Lund’s question in the movie Casablanca typifies the confusion one could feel over very different but mistakenly similar things. You could also see it as two contradictory yet interchangeable things. Her heart could be pounding due to the proximity of the artillery fire. She could also say something like, ‘Is that artillery fire? Now, is that my heart pounding?’ But let’s part with that idea for now and not rob her situation of its archetypal romance. We will continue with something that is even more in step with artillery: conflict.

With a slightly more militaristic mind, let us think of strategies. Tactics and situations exist within a work to induce a sensation of unknowing within the audience. But can we assume that such a feeling of uncertainty is intentionally induced? That is, how can we assume that the audience is experiencing doubt or uncertainty within a work, and that an artist could purposely generate such sensations?

Are there situations where we can prove an audience not only senses unknowing but seeks it out? All we have to do is look to the gaming industry. Through creating situations of meaningful play, this industry sells the sensations of doubt and uncertainty to those who want to experience unknowing.13 Indeed, uncertainty has been given as part of the definition of a game.14 Furthermore, note how central this aspect is to every game when you consider the following, written by Bernard Dekoven in The Well-Played Game: ‘Imagine how incomplete you would feel if, before the game, you were already declared the winner, imagine how purposeless the game would feel.’15 Without free will and choice, if the outcome is predetermined, why even bother to play? With this in mind we ask, how do artists create layers of doubt within their work?

My other two companions at the cottage certainly didn’t decorate this way. Their homes are full of personal style. Fiona, a writer, journalist and translator, and Marianne, also a writer and journalist, and a lover of music culture, can both do better than flipping through a catalog selecting style like one selects suggested wine pairings off a restaurant menu. They may not be as conscious of their style as I am – theirs may have come from a life worth living – a behavior similar to the vocabulary of personal accumulation, like an artist who collects found objects to discover the relationships later.16 But because of its recentness, I know how I developed my style. Shortly after I arrived in Glasgow, I put my house under construction for what should have been a couple of weeks, at best a month. The contractor I hired either didn’t understand the job or was incompetent because he started refinishing all the floors when only the kitchen that was needed. The dust he kicked up while running the heater destroyed my climate control system. After I had spent over ten thousand dollars more for a new system, he ignored my calls and never returned to complete the job he shouldn’t have started.

In the spring I finally got another contractor on site, a man who turned out to be a heroin user and billed me for work he didn’t do, and work I later had to pay others to redo, simultaneously systematically robbing my house. I lost every bit of furniture, plumbing, light fixtures, kitchenware, tools, my artwork (which he sold for $5 for the small ones, $10 for the big ones), bicycle, a 1963 Mercury Monterey car, and things I’ll never remember I owned. All this was sold in garage sales from my front yard while he should have been working, prompting me to fly back to Memphis for a week to oversee completion and go through the house to provide a list to the police. One night, when I couldn’t sleep for the time change and stress I left the house late for a twenty-four-hour drugstore to pick up a kettle to make coffee in the French presses I brought from Glasgow.

While I was in the kitchen aisle, I decided to pick up a set of dishware that was on sale to have something to eat off of the next few days; as an added bonus it came with a set of mugs for the coffee. As I sat at a chair and table I found in the street, drinking fresh coffee in the early hours in the morning and not able to do any actual construction work for lack of tools, which were the first things to go in the theft, I thought about the blank canvas of the house and began to write the brand guidelines for my new home decor on the back of the paper bag. The plan was to refurnish the home based on the dishware set I just bought, my life experiences, and the history of the city of Memphis.



12 (Casablanca, 1942)

13 French sociologist Roger Caillois published Man, Play, and Games, a book that is in many ways a direct response to Homo Ludens [Huizinga, 1955]. Building on Huizinga’s work, Caillois also presents a definition of play, describing including ‘uncertainty: the course of which cannot be determined, nor the result attained beforehand, and some latitude for innovations being left to the player’s initiative’ Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (pg 75-76)

14 ‘Imagine how incomplete you would feel if, before the game, you were already declared the winner. Imagine how purposeless the game would feel.—Bernard DeKoven, The Well-Played Game. Uncertainty is a central feature of every game. That’s right: every single game. As game designer and philosopher Bernard DeKoven points out, uncertainty about the outcome of a game is a necessary ingredient in giving a game a feeling of purpose.’ Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (pg 174)

15 Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (pg 174)

16 Jyrki Siukonen writes about the idea of discovering the relationship between found objects in the conference and the later constructed essay Made in Silence: On Words and Bricolage within On Not Knowing page (pg 91-92) ‘Let us take as an example a recent work: Tripod, 2012, is as simple as it gets, its materials are sparingly used and found to hand in my studio. The three steel rods that form the frugal freestanding structure are recycled parts from a large museum installation from 1992, and have not only lain dormant for 20 years but have also survived five moves from one studio location to another. The rope-shaped bundle of papyrus for its part has been on the shelf awaiting its first deployment since summer 2006. The smaller parts of the work (nut, bolt, metal wire) are ubiquitous detritus. Depending on the viewpoint, the making of Tripod took anything from 15 minutes to six years of my time. Judging by the result one can hardly call it a muscular affair. How to unravel such a project?’

It’s #Tasty

What we have covered within the Pop Culture course in my MFA was mostly based on a Marxist material perspective and results in an analysis of a culture through the objects it produces and otherwise consumes. Furthermore, we, much like Barthes, critiqued the structure of that society, by the divisions within consumption, and the frustration of those divisions by a cross-class consumption especially when the intended result is to align an individual with another part of the social strata. This can include Barack Obama drinking Bud Light, hipsters drinking Pabst, or Glaswegians drinking Buckfast.1

The creative work submitted for exploring this material and social perspective is a white cube and operates from adapted mechanics of the white elephant gift exchange.2 The requested instructions are as follows: 1) Remove the lid. 2) Photograph the object inside. 3) Share the photo on any social media with #taste. 4) Take the object. 5) Place any object of yours. 6) Replace the lid.

One of the questions that immediately comes to mind is, “where should this work be placed?” And it is a good question. In order to frustrate culture hierarchies the work needs to be placed outside art institutional structures, such as galleries or museums, so it is without the perception of either ‘high’ or ‘low’ culture, or matters of taste.3 Unfortunately, with only a few participants, or users of the machine, in two locations within Glasgow City Center (Sauchiehall Street, and outside GoMA) I ended up moving it within the J D Kelly Building on the Glasgow School of Art campus and placing a call for participation on Facebook. The call to action was placed on a private group available to all current MFA students with the added instruction ‘some things you can think about, the capitalistic economy, the gift or sharing economy, cultural appropriation, the assimilation of subcultures.’4

The intent in creating this platform was for individuals to create their own art and have the ability to raise any object to a ‘high culture status’ through it passing through the white cube and simultaneously lowering the status of a previous object through social media dissemination, yet they hold onto the physical original lower status object as a sculpture. Therefore the co-creator retains both ‘high’ and ‘low culture’ within one object whether they are conscious of the consequence or not.

Instead of content creators one can more aptly talk about content curators. My unintended consequence through encouraging the documentation of this material exchange by sharing of photos on social media the documenter is allowed to show their ‘taste’ of social media.5 And is also subject to an implied social scrutiny through the object they leave behind.6

As participants shared their photos on social media they made a series of choices. They could share on snapchat and share their taste in participating in an art project in a short-lived share to intimate friends mostly of similar age, sex, education and income. Facebook acts more like a walled garden with that result only likely seen by those identified as friends even if it was selected as a public share giving a wider range of the previously mentioned metrics. Instagram and Twitter would fair better with the idea of sharing an image with the world and would be more permanently archived presumably the widest range of metrics. There is also a blending of social media that can be inferred and one image may have been seen on multiple platforms.7

Individuals also shared their ideas of what they could do. Sharing their ideas not only showed their imagination and what they would of like to be perceived to do with such an opportunity, but also what they find valuable in the exchange. During the exchanges several ideas can be inferred.8

People expressed anxiety over opening the lid with the idea they will have to complete the exchange with the result of getting an item of less commercial value than what they were going to provide. And in a similar group, those going for a capitalistic exchange, were individuals who were very pleased that they got something of greater or equal value to the item they provided. Another type of user might be either an optimist, or have buyers regret and justify the experience by finding value in a bit of string, an empty container, or a hairpin.

A different type of user saw more value in a gift, or share economy. They were excited to provide what they either happened to have on them or had specifically brought to share. One co-creator even went on a thought experiment placing tickets to an upcoming event and spoke of ‘paying it forward.’9 This group was ultimately more pleased with what they placed within the box and the surprise, or entertainment, the next person would receive than concerned with the social media sharing, or object they obtained. There is much in common with how this person perceived the exchange and the values within the white elephant gifting game.

There is a similarity with individuals who participated in a capitalistic economy, and those who envisioned a share economy to how individuals approach competitive or cooperative games respectively because the white elephant gift exchange is essentially a game.10 Removing authorship and thinning out authenticity, more accurately creating an inauthentic desire, for others to empower themselves created a vacuum and allowed in game theory and politics.11 One can say these things; or more accurately say that these things are true within those that interacted with the work. What is left out though is individuals without access. Individuals who do not feel they have enough education to interact with this project, or not having smartphones, or phones with cameras, or even internet access. They are not without the ability to participate in the simple material exchange, but due to reasons of class/economic, ethnic, and geographic prejudice have an ingrained perception that participation does not belong to them.

1Beer summit between President Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. Joseph Crowley… (For Obama: Bud Light, owned by Belgian beverage giant InBev; for Gates, Red Stripe, Jamaica-brewed and owned by premium drink behemoth Diageo; and for Crowley, Blue Moon, owned by MillerCoors.)” Liz Halloran, ‘”Obama Beer Summit Choices Make For A Happy Hour” – Interview with Matt Simpson. NPR website. URL: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111373030. (31/07/09)

“Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clichés of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.”

Douglas Haddow, ‘”Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization” The Rag Blog website.
URL: http://theragblog.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/hipster-dead-end-of-western.html (10/08/08)

2White cube is a common expression for a commercial contemporary art gallery. With the origin of that type of gallery attributed to James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The white cube described here is 311 mm3 containing 305 mm3 of space. The white comes from the structural material itself, white acrylic. White acrylic is used in commercial photography to give a sleek, clean, and high tech feel to the object being photographed frequently used for objects like cell phones and sneakers. The white acrylic commercial photography association comes from my own experience as an art director and associate creative director in the fashion industry dealing with Seattle ecommerce.

A History of Art in Three Colours (Episode 3: White: the darkest colour of all). BBC4 (BBC4, 25/07/12)

White Elephant Gift Exchange is a Christmas holiday practice frequently used in place of secret santa gifting in offices and corporate teams. The main goal not being of getting a valuable object but in the entertainment within the exchange.

Kelly Roberson, ‘”White Elephant Christmas Game” Better Homes and Gardens website. URL: http://www.bhg.com/christmas/games/white-elephant-christmas-game/ (07/10/14)

3 The distinction of cultural hierarchy and the legitimization of taste comes from Cultural Capital theory of Pierre Bourdieu. ‘Low’ and ‘high’ refer to amount of educational capital. And he defines ‘taste’ as one of ‘deepest level of the habitus’ and the higher one gets in the social hierarchy ‘the more one’s tastes are shaped by the organization and operation of the educational system.’

Bouraieu, Pierre, ‘DIstInctIon A social Critique of the Judgement of Taste ’, translated. by Richard Nice (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984), pp. 1-96

4 It should be noted that not all currently enrolled Master of Fine Art students are on Facebook. Until recently 3 were not. One has conceded to join the social media platform, but add no friends. The justification was to alleviate the anxiety of missing out on something. Or in social media terms the FOMO. The objections of the others were not expressed as aligning with or not wanting to align with a demographic, instead a wish to maintain control of their personal information. You could read that wish as a maintenance of authenticity.

5 Though self reported data of social media use show a wide variety of use with 24% of adults using at least two social sites and 8% using four social sites. There is some ties with a particular social platform and education, income level and gender. i.e. 42% of the women who participated in the survey use Pinterest 34% of them make over $75k, have some college, and are between 18-29 years of age, while SnapChat users are 70% female, 71% younger than 25, and earn less than $50k. There is a perception that Facebook is trending older but 18-24 age range is still the largest demographic. ‘Facebook is losing some traction among a younger audience, causing it to skew a bit older. While this trend may be true, Facebook’s youthful base remains strong.’

Michael Patterson, ‘”Social Media Demographics to Inform a Better Segmentation Strategy” sproutsocial website. URL: http://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/#facebook (04/05/15)

What is left out of this observation of Facebook is the particular social influences of why a youth would join Facebook, i.e. to keep in touch with parents. Or the inflation of the demographic by multiple accounts, one for friends, one for family. (I will admit that Van Grove’s article is anecdotal, and perhaps cherrypicked data, even using data from a CNET editors daughter for part of the under-13 data. Gathering such data is problematic due to age and consent. But it does confirm the perception of social media usage.) Jennifer Van Grove, ‘”Why teens are tiring of Facebook” CNET website. URL: http://www.cnet.com/news/why-teens-are-tiring-of-facebook/ (02/03/13)

6 To delve more into public scrutiny, shame and social media check out “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life” Jon Ronson, “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life” The New York Times Magazine website. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupidtweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0 (12/02/15)

7 Here ‘one image may have been seen on multiple platforms’ refers to Instagram’s ability to simultaneously share an image on six or more other platforms. “How do I share from Instagram to other social networks?” Instagram website. URL: https://help.instagram.com/365696916849749 (10/12/15)

8 Exchanges is a purposely loaded term and covers a variety of the exchanges throughout the project, the material exchanges, thought experiment dialogues, and social sharing.

9 Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.’ “Pay it forward” Wikipedia website. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_it_forward (10/12/15)

10 My knowledge of cooperative and competitive game theory comes from years of playing games and working in the game industry. I worked in the Research and Development Department for Sabertooth Games, a division of Games Workshop, as a designer/producer for Fantasy Flight Games, and finally a designer with Microsoft’s Entertainment and Media Division for Xbox. You can get a survey of the idea from the article “Cooperative and Competitive Games” and social evolvement in “The Effects of Cooperative and Competitive Games on Classroom Interaction Frequencies” Kai Guenster, “Cooperative and Competitive Games” Meeple Magazine website. URL: http://www.meoplesmagazine.com/2013/02/12/cooperative-and-competitive-games/ (12/02/13)

Susan Creighton, Andrea Szymkowiak, “The Effects of Cooperative and Competitive Games on Classroom Interaction Frequencies” ScienceDirect website. URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187704281403328X (22/08/14)

11 The action of creating an inauthentic desire comes from the request ‘4) Take the object.’ since the desire comes from completing gameplay and is without desire for the object. The underlying assertion that the removal of the authentic increasing the input of politics follows Walter Benjamin’s similar assertion in ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’