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Posts tagged "subtraction"

Feb 21, 2013
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Wire’s rules of negative self-definition

From Wilson Neate’s 33 1/3 book, on Wire’s Pink Flag:


  Wire’s aesthetic was built on subtraction, a consistent withdrawal of superfluous elements. “The reduction of ideas, the reduction of things down to the minimal framework—it just seemed completely natural,” explains Colin Newman. “By closing down possibilities, you very often open up possibilities. You have infinite possibilities of simplicity and subtlety within a frame.” Natural minimalists, Wire pursued a negative sensibility, defining themselves in terms of what they were not…
  
  "The only things we could agree on were the things we didn’t like," observes Bruce Gilbert. "That’s what held it together and made life much simpler." Recalling some unofficial Wire rules, Graham Lewis summarizes this negative self-definition: "No solos; no decoration; when the words run out, it stops; we don’t chorus out; no rocking out; keep it to the point; no Americanisms.”

Wire’s rules of negative self-definition

From Wilson Neate’s 33 1/3 book, on Wire’s Pink Flag:

Wire’s aesthetic was built on subtraction, a consistent withdrawal of superfluous elements. “The reduction of ideas, the reduction of things down to the minimal framework—it just seemed completely natural,” explains Colin Newman. “By closing down possibilities, you very often open up possibilities. You have infinite possibilities of simplicity and subtlety within a frame.” Natural minimalists, Wire pursued a negative sensibility, defining themselves in terms of what they were not

"The only things we could agree on were the things we didn’t like," observes Bruce Gilbert. "That’s what held it together and made life much simpler." Recalling some unofficial Wire rules, Graham Lewis summarizes this negative self-definition: "No solos; no decoration; when the words run out, it stops; we don’t chorus out; no rocking out; keep it to the point; no Americanisms.”

(via postpunk)

Jun 29, 2012
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Literary characters are physically vague—they have only a few features, and these features don’t matter. Or, these features only matter in that they help narrow a character’s meaning. But these features don’t help us picture a character. Characters are ciphers. And narratives are made richer by omission.
Picturing Books – beautiful essay by Peter Mendelsund exploring the layer of imagination we each bring to stories. (via explore-blog — There’s so much about this essay that could be applied to comics, where you actually have to draw the character — and where the best characters are often the most abstract…)

(Source: , via explore-blog)

May 06, 2012
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John Baldessari’s list of “assignments” for his CalArts class, 1970

When Baldessari was first getting started, CalArts wasn’t much of a name yet, and it was kind of a hippie school without grades or a curriculum or much structure — Baldessari started teaching there before he became “one of the top conceptual artists in the world.” Here’s a video of him talking about his time teaching there, including recollecting “a class on joint-rolling.” Here are some of the assignments from his list:

1 - Imitate Baldessari in actions and speech.

10 - Create art from our procedures of learning. How does an infant learn?

16 - Given: $1. What art can you do for that amount?

17 - Cooking art. Invent recipes. They are organizations of parts, aren’t they?

23 - What are the minute differences in things that are supposed to be the same?

31 - Steal the trash from Pres. Corrigan’s wastebasket and make a collage of it.

43 - Forgeries. Ea. in class tries to forge my signature on a check by looking at an original. Or forgeries of forgeries of forgeries, etc.

46 - One person copies or makes up random captions. Another person takes photos. Match photos to captions.

68 - Make up a list by looking at art books, talking to artists on things to avoid in making art. Do them. Ask yourself if results are good or bad art.

85 - Describe the visual verbally and the verbal visually.

99 - Art that requires the rental of a Service rather than an Object.

More on Baldessari from the LATimes:

For anyone not wired to contemporary art, John Baldessari is a 58-year-old artist who grew up in the anonymous grubbiness of National City with expectations of going no further in life than teaching high school and making a bit of a local reputation as an artist. He pursued both dreams and wound up a figure of international reputation. Teaching—at CalArts instead of Chula Vista High—he evolved into a kind of guru. His influence, both direct and oblique, is downright astonishing. You can see his fingerprints on virtually every member of the younger generation who continues to dominate the high-risk lane of today’s art from Cindy Sherman to Robert Longo.

We think of artists as making their mark by adding something, something original. Baldessari has functioned by subtraction. Subtraction is not original in contemporary art; it comes from abstract Minimalism.

I became familiar with the list via Rob Walker’s review of Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment.

Filed under: John Baldessari

Feb 28, 2012
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“Creativity Is Subtraction” a 20x200 print by Austin Kleon

New print for sale! One of my personal favorites. Buy it here.

“Creativity Is Subtraction” a 20x200 print by Austin Kleon

New print for sale! One of my personal favorites. Buy it here.

Feb 10, 2012
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Limitations are really good for you. They are a stimulant. If you were told to make a drawing of a tulip using five lines, or one using a hundred, you’d be more inventive with the five.

Jan 18, 2012
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“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:


  Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.
  
  But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.
  
  To erase is to leave something else behind.


Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)


  the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.


She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:


  Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.


It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.



I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) ↩

“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:

Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.

But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.

To erase is to leave something else behind.

Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)

the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.

She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:

Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.

It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.


  1. I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) 

Jan 07, 2012
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RIP Dee Dee, Joey, and Johnny. :(

Via liveiseedeadpeoples, a Tumblr of album covers minus the dead folks.

RIP Dee Dee, Joey, and Johnny. :(

Via liveiseedeadpeoples, a Tumblr of album covers minus the dead folks.

Dec 14, 2011
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Kim Deal on “real” bass players

My buddy sent me this after reading Thelonius Monk’s advice, “Don’t play everything (or overtime). What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.”

Dec 01, 2011
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Thelonious Monk’s Advice, as written down by saxophonist Steve Lacy

Don’t play everything (or overtime). What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.

Thelonious Monk’s Advice, as written down by saxophonist Steve Lacy

Don’t play everything (or overtime). What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.
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