Thought: Excessive Knowledge and Serendipity

In my experience, there is absolutely no such thing as too much, wasted, or unnecessary knowledge. Everything connects, through metaphorical explanations of one topic using instances from another (think squares and rectangles; a square fulfils all the criteria to be a rectangle, but the opposite is not true), to more holistic and imaginative links, everything is connected.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it, but I recently found out that ‘speculative job applications’ are a common and accepted practice in France. A mere few days later, a half-French girl came to the desk of the Learning Zone where I work and asked me for what you might call it if you send a company your CV without them officially posting a position. I then not only knew the word – speculative – but also the cultural context to be able to tell her that is a far less common practice in the UK.

As an aside, there is also knowledge in the form of the sheer number of encounters with the particular issue at hand, perhaps succinctly known as experience, or expertise. I fitted a pair of new wheels to my bike the other day, with the help of a friend and only one small injury.

The next day when I was in a bike shop for an unrelated purpose, and just about to leave, the guy said “just before you go” and came and switched the quick release lever to the other side, as, he said, on the side I had it could get in the way of the rear derailleur. It was an excellent point, but of course, if you see dozens of bikes go through your shop every day, it becomes easier to spot irregularities and correct them, because you have more experience of the variety of ‘correct’ ways different bikes can be assembled

Image result for quick release lever bicycle

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Thought: The Art of the Workaround

Working at the Learning Zone I have also been able to deploy and improve my problem-solving skills, especially workarounds.

From a recent example:

  • A student comes with a PDF file that will not print on the computers and the ‘media is not supported’.
  • I open the file in Adobe Acrobat and lo and behold it is entirely blank.
  • Open the same file in Photoshop and the assets are all there but in front of a transparent background.
  • I create a new plain white layer underneath for both files, save as PDFs.
  • Open in Acrobat to combine the two and save the final, two page PDF with all the elements correctly showing in Acrobat.
  • Place this file on the USB stick and send the student on his way.

There may have been other ways to do this, but this seemed the most logical to me, and I go by the theory of ‘If it works, it works’.

Workarounds are an invaluable approach to problems, as it often involves approaching the issue from a whole new perspective and trying very unconventional routes to try and get things to work. And, well, if it works, it works.

 

Similarly, I was once working on a Premiere Pro File where the soundtrack that someone in the group had painstakingly created and matched with the video clips across multiple channels, suddenly was not making any sound. The eventual technique that worked, select every single video and audio clip in the timeline with cmd+a and copy and paste them into a new project file. It worked a charm.

Knowing how to achieve the desired result quickly is often better than working out how to do it correctly in time-sensitive cases. Working with the tools more and more will allow for eventual working quickly and correctly but while I’m gathering enough knowledge to make that happen, getting the best result possible will work just fine.

Thought: On History and Perspective

I enjoy and am rather good at tasks requiring precision and problem-solving.

I particularly enjoy the precision of language; strict definition, objective and legally enforceable meanings. Moreover, I enjoy analysis that uses precise language but has a scope that is able to holistically link seemingly disparate subjects. Economics and politics seem to do this a lot of the time.

I like being able to delve into the context of a case study in order to understand it better.

Take, for instance, the planned Queen’s speech for the state opening of parliament tomorrow, the 22nd of June. There are many angles one can approach the event from;

  • You can talk about the history of the relationship between the monarchy and Parliament,  Bad King John, the English Civil War, and the fact that the Prime Minster’s party technically derives its power from the Queen, asking her to form a Government on her behalf if they have a majority in the House of Commons.
  • You can examine the direct political context – the snap elections which shrunk Theresa May’s small majority down to a plurality of 317 (compared to Labour’s 262), just shy of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which is of course, 650 and how this has forced her to tread much merely carefully.
  • You can frame the event as in contrast to former state openings of Parliament, and how much of the Pomp and Ceremony has been suspended, officially because of clashes with other Royal commitments and the suddenness of this event, caused by May’s snap election decision.
  • You can talk about the larger political context – how it was David Cameron’s Conservative Government took the gamble of a decision to hold the IN/OUT referendum, partially to put the issue to bed after decades of, mostly, Tory backbench grumblings, and how he expected an easy victory that would embolden his party and him personally as having A) given the people the chance to decide directly and B) he personally having campaigned for the winning Remain side, but in reality it shook the political tectonic plates and created new and deep fault lines.
  • You can talk about Northern Irish politics, devolution, the Good Friday Agreement as the culmination of a difficult and drawn-out peace process, and the power-sharing that has occurred since etched into the operation of the Northern Irish assembly. Crucially, you can also talk about how Northern Irish MPs from Sinn Fein are elected time and time again but do not take up their seats in Westminster out of Protest and how this time, this left the DUP, ideologically closes to May’s Conservative party, very much in the driver’s seat and with disproportionate power as any rebellion may cause Government Policy to fail, votes of No Confidence, and perhaps, a fresh election.

It is not vital to have a deep understanding of each of these angles, but it is important to have a broad understanding – as each allows you to understand the event in a slightly different way, and the culmination is an in-depth understanding underpinned by perspective.

Research: I Am Sitting In A Room

plus some youtube comment commentary

I Am Sitting In A Room

The real skill of Alvin Lucier’s work “I Am Sitting In A Room” for me is the perfect matchup between the thematic and intellectual base and its technical delivery. The medium of the work and its methodology (the execution) is a matchup with the artist’s intention and pre-occupations.

Namely, Lucier’s stammer is laid bare but then swallowed by the evolution of the sound as we move towards hearing “the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech”. Within the text itself he states that this endeavour is “not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have

I read piece this as a catharsis. Although it has been repeated with the same methodology – playing the initially recorded voice into the room and rerecording repeatedly – it lacks for me an authenticity. Lucier had a specific irregularity in mind – his stammer. The creation of the work and the particular way in which the voice dissipates and its degradation becomes the tool of catharsis. The form and function match perfectly.

 

What I got from this:

  • In my Unit 9 Final Piece, I am seeking to have a similarly close relationship between the concept and the delivery, to have every aspect of the installation have purpose and be appropriate for the content. This might mean digging down as to my motivation in creating the piece in the first place, obsessed as it is with memory, in order to link these motivations with specific decisions about the medium.

Thought: What happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness​

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Be specific.

What happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.

Saying “life is complicated” is far less compelling than telling a specific anecdote or story that underpins that exact point.

I need to be specific in my approach to the thoughts I want to share in my final piece. Anything less than complete openness won’t have the desired effect of catharsis I’m looking for and will lack impact in the presentation.

 

Thought: A Scientific Approach

I work in the Learning Zone at Central Saint Martins, which accommodates a staggeringly disproportionate amount of student printing, especially so towards deadlines.

Frustrations run high as the pressure mounts. When a student has spent the last 4 or 5 hours staring at a monitor often making minute changes to their work, and then when they send it to print and it doesn’t reproduce on paper how it showed up on screen nor how they were expecting, they can be understandingly devastated.

Beyond the basic logistical issues people come up against – which printer to send to, accidentally setting double-sided or mono when it should have been colour, there is a lack of appreciation into the work that must go into a successful print.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut there is a fault shared by the majority in their approach to printing. One should not simply think of all the work as done in the software, and then printing simply as a case of hitting the button and being done – a thoughtful, considered approach that can adapt will necessarily produce a better print, that looks closer to how you wanted it to look.

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One must learn about colour, and ink, and colour spaces.

 

 

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It’s not enough to think in-depth about the bulk of the process, it must be thought in depth the entire way through. A commitment to the end result.

 

Research: A Prarie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion has been on seemingly forever. I first came across it when it used to be played on Radio 4 at odd times, usually late into the night, perhaps it’s still on.

His voice, that of Garrison Keillor is hypnotic, soothing, and iconic.

What’s wonderful about it is how lasting it has been, created and hosted by the same man since 1974, no doubt thanks to its formula; inoffensive yet compelling cockamamie tidbits within a reliable and quickly familiar setting – that is Lake Wobegon. Any mention of the show conjures instantly the words in that familiar deep voice “the news from Lake Wobegon”.

What I got this from this:

  • What I take most from this though is that it’s okay to just keep on producing seemingly stodgy content, especially on the radio. It has its place. It can be noble work. Not everything has to be cynical or bold or ruthless. Sometimes, you can just make the familiar. It’s inclusive, not divisive, and that’s something I want in my work. To bring people together, not create controversy.