Assignment L.21.1

It has been eleven years since we had an Assignment, and so we should express our gratitude to Turff for suggesting we give it another whirl.

His Assignment:

Create a piece of shamelessly commercial art. Display/describe it in detail. Produce it if that’s at all possible. Sell it for bonus points.

As usual, post your Assignment as a separate post. Email me if you have forgotten or don’t know how.

(Everyone should go back and check the Assignments page and see if there’s anything you’re delinquent on.)

Assignment L.12.2: The buttocks thing

All right, with less than a week to go before our Annual Meeting, here’s an assignment:

Jeff Bishop’s “buttocks thing.” It’s time.  The assignment is simple: gather material à la Lacuna-style.  Dump it here in comments.  Perhaps it will be our Agenda on Friday night.

Here’s what inspired me:

L. 12. 1 Bear Hunt Song, or rules of creative conduct revised

  1. Be wary when it feels like a word association game.
  2. What is the form?  Form is the wheel you don’t have to re-invent.
  3. If it’s truly new, it should be somewhat off-putting, something you would just as soon skip past or avoid, like a stranger who a year later is an intimate.
  4. Today’s intensity is tomorrow’s regret.
  5. Welcome intrusions.

I have no problem with these.  I still feel cute as a button uttering them.  Shirley Temple cute, if I’m being honest.

Three gnaws a bit, though.  I want it to be more concise, more aphoristic, more…Lichtenbergian .  Georg is the Master!  I’m so happy the quote rotator is back up to speed, humming away.  In these dark days of diminished production quotas, it’s a reason to visit the site everyday.  I can fiddle with Three, maybe, in the spirit of Lichtenberg:

3.  The truly new is that troubling stranger who in a year’s time could easily become an intimate if you gave in to your instincts, but who would more likely reject you outright for understandable  reasons.

Shirley Temple is now disgustingly cute.  I think my more compact version is actually longer, but it feels more precise and even has a touch of storytelling verve, which is not usually my forte.  So it’s a keeper.  Bon bons at play…

But I’m also content to chuck all of them.  I don’t really believe in them as working guidelines.  I don’t really believe myself these days when I claim I create.  I have been revisiting the circumstances that first put me on a supposed creative path, and the truth is, I really cannot speak of  those circumstances in any other way than as an encounter with an impasse.  At a certain point in my development, I met with something I couldn’t understand or encompass or circumnavigate.  The instruments I normally employed to get at things were useless.

Always an exciting moment, of course.  And, in my case, I think, traumatic.  Every encounter with an impasse is something of a trauma, I might assert.  The moment of defeat makes an impression and sets the stage for a lifetime of re-visiting, of rehearsing the fatal encounter.  Exciting, traumatic, and, ultimately, therefore, essential.  Because, as I said before, you are not equipped.  You lack savoir faire.  There is no help.  You become a moment of possible extinction.  Such a threat, a loss, a lack, touches on the essential, on you, on life.  You can’t find a ring to grasp.  You plunge.

Here’s a version of the Bear Hunt Song as thoughtfully preserved by a helpful Boy Scout troop.  The song is basically a guide to using prepositions in one’s various encounters with the world.  It is the prepositions that function as the working codes, the symbolic formulas, that afford you the chance to move on Reality, to engage it, to establish meaning and possibility.  Reality as a set of known possibilities is, in fact, mapped out in the song.  But here’s the interesting thing:  at the heart of the song is an encounter with an impasse.  And that moment, really, is the essence of the song.  The key moment, the thrill, is when prepositions aren’t worth a damn.  And that is why it is fun to perform the song.  Repeatedly.  The Bear.

To put it briefly, my particular preoccupation with “creativity” and all that it promises and withholds is due to meeting a Bear.  My continued engagement is a rehearsal charted by a particular practice, a particular way symbolic reality works and then unravels.  I flee and re-approach.

I was lost in a Baroque tangle and baffled by words.  That was the Bear.  At the time there were no friendlier words to begin to characterize the predicament or the effect.  I then began to collect related objects that seemed to want to adhere to the initial mysterious mute monstrosity.  The “creative” path took its place as a possible connection to that mute kernel, along with others.  All within a family drama, of course, and surrounded by various figures of interest.  And so I orchestrated more and more elaborate meetings with the thing in the cave.

What to do?  What will this new clarity tell me about how to proceed?  I’ll keep you posted.



L.12.1: Dale’s rules revisited

This is going to be painful.  You have been warned.

First, a recap:

  1. Start every venture with the words “Abortive Attempts”at the top of the page.
  2. Face up to the fact that quantity is better than quality—and more likely in the first place.
  3. Make your distractions as productive as your work.
  4. Defend your time.
  5. Learn to look/listen for what is missing.

One reason I proposed this Assignment is that I’m in a creative stasis at the moment and I wondered if watching other people create might help me push some button that would restart my energies.  Also, I thought it might be helpful to reexamine my own rules for creativity.

But I’m clearly missing something key here, because although my rules are still quite valid, they do not provide me with an impetus to get back to work—in this case, on the percussion piece for this summer, or indeed on anything else.

“Abortive attempts”? This is a great rule and a critical one.  Last year when I was working on the Cello Sonata, I had separate files for each movement just to fart around in.  I’d make and save “Adagio–Ideas,” for example, and I could plop down a melody or a chord progression without regard as to whether it was going to work or not.  If that’s all it was, a melody, and it didn’t go anywhere, I could skip a couple of measures, draw a double-bar, and start something else.  I could copy and paste, join bits together, insert crap here and there, and if and when I ever got something that was “right,” I could open the actual “Adagio” file and copy and paste my work there.

Whenever I got stuck, I’d head back to the Ideas file and plop out more abortive attempts.  It worked, even though it’s always more painful that those who don’t do this kind of thing can imagine.

Which leads to my second rule.  By plopping out huge amounts of stuff that does not work and will never work, I would come up with something that does and will.

However, in the static state I have found myself in for the past month at least, neither of these rules is useful.  I can’t even plop out crap.  It’s just not there.

I know, I know: plop anyway.  It would be worse than usual, but at least I’d be working.  That’s the trick, though, isn’t it?

Third rule: productive distractions.  I suppose I can claim this one, although none of the work I’ve done outside the realm of creativity could be reasonably claimed as “distraction,” since there’s nothing to distract from.  Still, I have worked fairly regularly in the labyrinth (and will be working more in a couple of weeks as a birthday treat to myself), so that’s all to the good.

Mostly, though, I have written letters to Craig.  I start a letter and work on it all week as I have things to say to him, and then when I get a letter from him I’ll respond to what he has to say and mail it off. And then I start new letter.  I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but it is the only thing I am rigorous about these days.

But these distractions are not serving the purpose that the rule implies, and certainly not the way distractions served me previously.  Working on the Preludes or the Cello Sonata, I might turn from one to the other, or a blogpost, or some task in the labyrinth, and those “distractions” actually served as a break from the work so that it could percolate while I was not paying active attention to it.  Now, my letters to Craig are not a break from the work, they are the work.

Defend my time?  Not necessary.  I have pruned away all outside duties and interests other than my job, and it does not consume every moment outside the office.  I have more than enough time to be writing not only the percussion piece but the Five Easier Pieces that I keep wanting to do this year, or a song for my young baritone friend John Tibbetts, or even, heaven forfend, getting a head start on arranging William Blake’s Inn for string quartet and synthesizers.  What am I going to do when I actually have to produce that gem?

My gestalt theory or creativity?  That’s only useful if you’re actually working on something, and I am not.

I think I need to develop another five rules for getting off one’s ass.

The one that comes immediatly to mind:

  1. Grind it.

If I think of more, I’ll add them.  Feel free to suggest some in comments.

Assignment L.11.02: Reflection

I rarely propose assignments.  I rarely do them.  I do not expect an enthusiastic response.  That is not the Lichtenberg way.  Our way is toss off whatever it may be with only smothered hope.  Followed by a smirk.  And then walk away quickly.

I propose a structure that may inspire a creative response.  I’m mostly interested in whether or not the structure is useful in any and all media or though any and all modes of expression.  Need the structure be explicit within the work?  Good question.  Visible or invisible?  Subject or silent support of some other subject?  Are we always aware of what stages the supporting mise en scene of our every thought, revery or effort?

The structure is built on reflection.  Looking into a mirror and seeing not only oneself but also, behind oneself, another.  Another looking perhaps at one’s back or at the reflection of one’s eyes.  And so, what may follow?  Might one try to look into the eyes of the reflected other to discern what the other sees, to see if the other sees one’s attempt to look? Everything would then circulate about the question:  at any moment, does the other share the beam of sight with the one looking?  A beam shared though reflected.

You can ignore everything after my initial sketch of the lines of sight, after the first three sentences of the previous paragraph.  To imply that a question might reside within this structure is an imposition, I realize.  Certainly a possibility within the structure, but not necessary for creative exploitation.  Don’t attach anything to it unless it’s useful.   You need not let this structure lead to questions of any sort.

A mundane though uniquely modern phenomenon.  Mirrors certainly are part of the architecture of mind and self in the modern world.  And I say modern (said it twice, now, really three times, heaven help me) fully aware that glassy reflection appears in myth, theology and other pre-Renaissance moments of thought.  An aside, this paragraph, a ruffling of an otherwise smooth and unfussy texture.  Or a skidding waver of the beam.

It occurs to me to add that, for the purposes of this assignment, I consider philosophy to be a mode of creative expression.

2010 Assignments

Just like 501(c)3 appeals for last-minute charitable donations, the Society would like you to realize that you can double-back and complete any assignment you missed over the course of the  year:

L.10.1 [minimalist wordplay]

L.10.2 [Lichtenbergian belief/disbelief]

L.10.3 [revisionist tattoo]

L.10.4 [drinks with movies]

L.10.5 [awkward stock photo]

L.10.5: Lyles

Looking with dismay at the role of adventurer? Disappointment with a gift of haberdashery? Disbelief at the weak protection from the sun afforded by a cheap imitation pith helmet?

Used for “Fear & Loathing in Kilimanjaro,” Esquire.

(Should have made more sure of a blank background.)