lundi 7 mars 2011

A summary of the Illustrated Talk, 3rd March 2011

A new cultural place in Paris called the Gaîté Lyrique (previously known as Théâtre de la Gaîté in the 18th and 19th century) was officially reopened on March 1st 2011, then to the public on March 2nd 2011. It was closed twenty years ago due to bankruptcy, then became an amusement park. Now it’s a digital arts and modern music center with special exhibitions and concerts.
For its opening, the Gaîté Lyrique invited two close friends for an “Illustrated Talk” which started since their collaboration on the album “Fourth World, Vol.1: Possible Musics” in 1980: the multi-talented artist Brian Eno and the composer and trumpet player Jon Hassell...

The whole conference took place in the “grande salle” (big room) in English on March 3rd 2011 at 2:00pm. While people were coming into the room, these two artists were discussing and you could hear some ambient songs from the album "Fourth World: Vol.1: Possible Musics". The audience consisted of persons between 25 and 50 years old, French and not French people, including some curious ones or some real fans of the two guests speakers (as they seem to know well Eno's work and world when they asked him some questions). I had the chance to get a free ticket on the venue’s website when I heard about this conference a week before it. I noticed that musicians I like often mentioned Brian Eno in their interviews as one of their main influences and/or one of their favorite artists, so I was curious to know more about him. I’m too young to know well all his previous projects with Roxy Music, Talking Heads, for example. I wonder why this particular person who is a visual artist/musician/composer/producer/painter, sometimes gave conferences and why people on the Internet say that his conferences are kind of fascinating. All I had to do is to see it by myself.

I didn’t find any summary of this conference online. It was like assisting a talk between two old friends in the living room writing and drawing and commenting pictures. What follows is really a mix of some important ideas, quotations, what I understood from their talk and retranscriptions. There are of course missing parts of the conference. Honestly it was not easy to follow the whole talk, with random ideas from the two men. Sometimes you feel confused, sometimes their replies are well explained and you seem to finally understand something. I advise you to read this well-written article in French about that conference by Bester for Gonzai

Main subjects:
The North and the South
Abstraction sickness
Entertainment colonization
Making the world safe for pleasure
The scale effect

The pictures are only here to illustrate this summary (“illustrated talk”).

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The North and South

The North/South is to understand that we aren’t only on one side, but we tend to be one or the other side, depending of our behalf. We all come from the south.
Someone in the audience asked Eno where he could put machines on the North/South scale, with humans in the North side and animals in the South side. Eno answered that machines are more related to humans than animals. Machines are made by humans to extend their powers and energy. For example, you want to push a box, you simply push it with your arms. But if you want to push a bigger and heavy box, you have to use a machine which will push it for you.

Art of Music/Magic of Tone
Abstraction/Human reality
Formatted/Open to all input

Everyone knows about the reading experience at art galleries. For example, a painting in an art gallery. You could see people look at the painting, then to the description below it, then back to the painting, and again to the description. And all that ruined the appreciation of looking at the painting, the pleasure of contemplating it by yourself.

Everything is controlled from the top of a hierarchical pyramid in our societies.

“You might remember this phrase from John Cage : “Music is philosophy”. In different ways, we’ve been interested to be an artist, because we found a way to think about anything. So, it’s using the practice of being an artist as a way of philosophizing. Philosophizing is being a process of how to think about it, how we work.” Eno
“The Fourth World is the combination of the 1st world, technology and the 3rd world, spiritual. […] The first message that came of around the world was the message of struggle, the struggle against nature, the struggle against the cold.” Hassell

Abstraction sickness

Then he mentioned the word “format”.
“The fact that we allow things that can format.” Hassell
“Do you know this word ‘format’? What do you do with your computer when you want it to start again or with your camera, when you want your card to be clean? So "format" is a word we will probably use a lot.” Eno
“You have a certain direction which you can go to no limit.” Hassell
We want to be happy. We have to format that language. It’s not the content, it’s the rhythms. How we organize ourselves around this particular media that is language.

Entertainment colonization
“One of the things we talked about. What happens to the information when it comes to a media? There is a wonderful book by a woman Deborah Tannen, it’s called “The Argument Culture” where she discusses the perspectives of the American television for creating false arguments essentially.” Eno
Somebody for instance says: “I think it’s terrible that children should be killed in Africa“. Then they had to find somebody else who has this argument, find someone who supports this idea. So they dig around and find some crap party, who thinks that is a great idea. They present it as an argument.
"It’s a television technique, because it makes with fireworks, it’s made with dramatic television. So that every single point is equally debatable." Eno
[About an image] "It’s about the dense information coming from the world. What happens when it comes into a television in the living room and when you are sitting on your Ikea sofa." Eno
He recently had a problem when he tried to buy a sofa. And he realized that he hates sofas, that’s why he had trouble of buying one. He realized that he hates sofas because they are designed for televisions. That’s why a sofa is for, it’s a way of watching television. And he doesn’t have television, but a platform to watch television. So he thinks the most handsome to start the revolution is to get away from the sofa, because when you can get rid of your sofa, you will not watch television.
“What we were talking about, I think, is that the huge quantity of influents goes to a narrower and narrower tube basically, the modern media require very, very simple ideas, highly compressed. [...] "1984" is a good reference. Two books that really shape people’s ideas in the 20th century are: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell’s “1984”. Most of you know if you have read those books the proper messages of these books. It’s simple. “1984” is the picture of future society which is dominated by an extremely oppressive survivors’ culture, where everything is watched and everything is controlled. So we’re very alerted by this possibility, and we constantly fight against it. The other book “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley is a different kind of future. It’s a future where everybody actually voluntarily drops oneself. A future where you dissolve a weathier health(?) pleasure, a kind of self-hypnose. I’ve just been reading a book by this young Belarus writer called Evgeny Morozov, a book called “The Net Delusion”. He said that the future where we’re moving into is a perfect blend of “Brave New World” and “1984”. There is this other thing: the entertainment colonisation. There’s a book by Neil Postman called “Amusing Ourselves To Death”. Do you any of you know the books we’re talking about? The idea is giving the chance just like the little rats in an experiment who have a wire attached to their pleasure center which continue pressing the liver that sent the electric current(?) until they die of starvation. It seems that we do anything for pleasure, even starving to death. The danger is that we’re moving in that condition." Eno

“We are saturated by millions of representations showed on television.”  Hassell
How to avoid that? You can make art. […]
“Sampling is a thing that musicians have been using a lot for 25 years. Instead of using instruments and playing them, you’re making instruments effectively by recorded sounds. So you can bring the recording of the shot that killed the President Kennedy unto a snare drum beat.” Eno (for example)
Sampling is “échantillonnage” in French.

[Commenting a picture that I haven’t found back yet.] “This is a beautiful picture which to me says much about media as many home books have said. The way you interpret the scene depends of how much you see. On the TV [screen], the man on the left is attacking the man on the right. Outside the TV, the reverse is happening.” Eno

Making the world safe for pleasure

One of the important questions you have to ask yourself is:
"What is it that I really like? Thinking about? Doing? Imagining?” Eno
What I really really like and not what I’m told to like. It’s a simple question to ask yourself.
Eno also said that he once knew a beautiful woman but when she was taken in  picture, she was not that beautiful. "Not mediagenic" said Hassell. It was actually her energy, her voice, her good mood, the way she talked to people, her joyful behaviour, her smile that make her a beautiful person.

The scale effect

They talked about it very briefly due to the lack of time. They showed a sheet of paper with a list of expressions with the word “scale” to show that it's an important word that is actually comes often.

For example:
Scale and the incorporation
Steward Kyd / A Treatise on the Law of Corporations
Scale and personality
Scale by Jean-Luc Godard
Scale and prehistory
Scale and empathy
Scale and Stalin
Scale and “self-expression”

They also admitted that pornography and erotics are often mentioned in their discussions and that they are everywhere and are kind of very old notions. They commented pictures of an ancient statue with a little head and big breasts, and a half-nude manga feminine character. [...]

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As I didn't know much about these two talented and smart artists (or should I say "legends"), I found that "illustrated talk" interesting and given with great British humour. A kind of unforgettable moment actually. It was a great opportunity to listen to their points of views. At the end of the talk, they quickly kindly gave autographs to people. (I got one too !! They're very nice in person.)

More pictures on this blog.

Here are the books which were mentioned during this conference:
“The Argument Culture” by Deborah Tannen
 “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
“1984” by George Orwell
 “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of The Internet Freedom” by Evgeny Morozov
 “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman