MORE DARK THAN SHARK - FEATURE
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
OPAL INFORMATION (NUMBER 21, 1992)
Opal Information was a publication that discussed the on-going work of Brian Eno and other artists released by his Opal Music label. Produced by Opal Ltd., it appeared on an irregular basis from 1986 until 1996. Each of the twenty-seven issues was comprised of approximately fifteen to twenty pages. The following is the complete text of Number 21, featuring Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and John Paul Jones -
BRIAN ENO INSTALLATION NEWS
An installation by Brian Eno entitled Geological Cinema is currently taking place at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, Charlottenborg, near Copenhagen, Denmark. This is part of UNDR, an exhibition of art, science and technology, organised by Art Connection in conjunction with the Danish Society of Engineers. UNDR is an exhibition which crosses the usual boundaries between art and science, with aim of 'making the visitors immediate experience of the works one of wonder and delight'. The exhibition runs until the end of June, and Brian hopes that as many people as possible can visit it because he considers it his best show yet!
Pictures taken from the installation will be used as covers for the upcoming series of Brian Eno releases (see cover).
As for the UK, Brian has not had an installation since Place 11 at Riverside in London in 1986. The London based company Art Angel has now undertaken to mount an installation of Brian's in the near future. An installation was to take place under the Canary Wharf Cultural Division programme. However Canary Wharf is owned by Olympia and York, and that company went into receivership in May, therefore no cultural events will take place at Canary Wharf in the foreseeable future. Other venues for Brian's installation are now being investigated.
BRIAN ENO: NEW RELEASES
This summer sees the fruition of marry projects. We are sure you will remember that Brian's album My Squelchy Life was not released, and that instead Brian went back to much of the original sessions to start afresh on a new album. The new album is called Nerve Net, and will be released by Warner Bros on September 1. Before that will see the release of two CD singles containing various mixes of the new tracks. The first of these is Fractal Zoom, which will be released at the end of June, the musician credits for which are:
Drums: Jonathan "Sugarfoot" Moffett
Bass, keyboards, vocals: Brian "Sweetdome" Eno
Guitar: Robert "Slipstream" Fripp
Bongos: Isaac "Hot Digits" Osapanin
Mixed by Markus "Dravius" Draws
The American remixer Moby was asked to remix Fractal Zoom, and the CD maxi single contains several versions by him.
BRIAN ENO: LECTURE
Before the release of the second CD single Brian will be giving ai illustrated lecture, at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre on July 20. Tickets and further information from the Sadler's Wells Box Office, telephone 071 278 8916.
ENO REMIXES EMF
The huge success of Red, Hot + Blue, the AIDS benefit album released last year, has now been followed by a new project, Red, Hot + Dance. This has taken the form of a series of incredible parties in ten cities throughout the world, featuring performances by international stars.
These events were filmed, and edited into a one hour MTV special. A spin-off album has been put together, of remixes of tracks by the artists who participated in the events. EMF were asked to contribute a track, and chose Unbelievable, on condition that the remix be done by Brian Eno. Brian was flattered, and immediately agreed to offer his services. The result, Unbelievable - The Hovering Feet Mix, will appear on Red, Hot + Dance to be released by Sony on July 6.
REAL WORLD THEME PARK
Some time ago we mentioned that Brian was working with Peter Gabriel and Laurie Anderson on a theme park where 'people could become artists.' The city of Barcelona has funded the development of the project, and in April the first presentation was made to the city's Mayor and cultural advisors.
There follows the transcript of an address given by Brian regarding the philosophy of the Real World Theme Park:
I'd like to talk about the philosophy of the park, about the kinds of ideas that inspired it and the kind of role that we hope this park could have within the culture that we live in.
'We're living in a time when all sorts of things that used to be seen as separate are converging and merging with one another. It's impossible now, for example, to maintain a distinction between High Art and Low Art because so many things cross the boundaries. On the other hand, a great deal of art has to do with working across the boundaries of the traditional media. Then another thread that is interesting is that more and more cultural experiences expect their audiences to be active parts of them, we see a lot of cultural threads coming together and one of the most unlikely places in which these threads come together is the theme park. The theme park to date has been a commercial enterprise, characterised by a high entertainment ratio and a low involvement ratio: complex tricks and a passive audience. We believe that a theme park is potentially a great new art form, an art form in which all sorts of threads that have been gradually converging in the twentieth century can finally come together. If you look at the work that Peter, Laurie, myself and others have done you see some first experiments in this direction. The interesting thing about these experiments is that they are not confined to galleries and elites. They are popular experiments. 'We believe that it is possible to do something like this, to involve the best artists and the best technologists and to make it popular and successful.
We feel that culture is the place you go to find out where you are, where you could be. Culture is a kind of simulator, where you can have experiences of other worlds. You can feel what it would be like to live in this world of the future or that world of the future. In doing that you understand much more about the possibilities of the world you live in now.
We are really looking at three major areas. The first one is the relationship between man and culture. As I said, traditionally this has been a clearly divided situation with people called artists and people called observers. We want to see a situation where there is not a simple distinction between artists and watchers: where people can choose their level of involvement. The second big area is to do with the relationships between culture and nature . We are making a park. A park is a very important statement that society makes about how it relates itself to nature, to environment. For example, if you look at the park of Versailles, Paris, you see a very clear statement of a particular understanding of our relationship to the rest of the world. It's a relationship of control. If you look at Kew Gardens, you see a somewhat different picture. It's a relationship that's to do with the excitement of the wildness of nature, but nature as something separate. We are now looking at a time where artists have begun to work with the world, where artists are starting to ignore the separation that has traditionally existed between the works of man and the works of nature. We are increasingly aware of the manifold connections between our behaviour and our environments. Many of the artists we're involved with are interested in this area So I think we are looking at rethinking the idea of 'park'. The third area we are looking at is man and nature. That is different from culture and nature. We want to make a place where people who live in a city have a chance to be confronted with nature in a way that is both more organised and less organised than they are normally likely to encounter. So we want to present nature as wilderness, as art work, and as extended self.
Now of course within all of this there is a technical aspect, a technological aspect. The degree to which we pursue that, the degree to which we follow the technological aspect is still undecided. The important point to make is that it must be kept in relationship to making a park, we don't want to just build a crowd of buildings with lots of clever tricks inside them. What we really want to start here, but it is a secret, is a new system of education. We want to make something that people love to go to and during which they have real learning experiences, but, we want them to think that they are having fun. That's all.
A video presentation setting out the ideas for the park was also made. The following is an extract from that video:
Peter Gabriel: I've always pictured it would be great to be able to be inside the work of other artists.
Brian Eno: Not just sort of stand around looking at it from the outside, but get in there together and engage in a dream together.
Laurie Anderson: It should be a place for people to explore, to discover something about themselves that they didn't ever know before.
BE: Imagine all the theme parks you've ever seen, imagine all the parks you've ever seen, imagine the best bits of them and put them together, and then imagine getting the best artists and scientists and technologists, and see what they do to it.
LA: It would be great to make a place that people really loved, that they kept coming back to and a park that people really cared about, a really beautiful place.
PG: This shouldn't just be a place crammed full of thrill rides, it should be a real centre for imagination, creativity and ideas.
LA: It's a place where people can become artists. You'll enter the park through a big gate, which is made of two sixty foot high tornadoes - these are real tornadoes whirling around, and as you walk through them you enter a totally different world, where art and nature have suddenly and mysteriously combined. Once you're inside the park, one of the first things you notice is that there's a lot of water running through it. You see several water falls, one of them is the entrance to a ride called The River Of Life. There are also streets of water that lead to a floating screen. The screen moves and is animated as the park transforms itself, especially at night when all the pure water turns blood red. Images will be projected on the floating screen from the nerve centre of the park, which is called TAP. A monorail surrounding the park will also have images and words projected onto it, so that at night it becomes a kind of moving story.
BE: The architecture in the park will be dramatic and visionary, but won't dominate the natural landscape. There will be a dome over Body Beat, a club where dancers will be able to realise their wildest dreams as they participate in this new world of sound and light. Electronic totem poles dotted around the gardens will display signals sent from the nerve centre, TAP. Exhibitions, films, information, keeping everyone in the garden constantly in touch with events as they happen.
PG: It's a magic garden.
LA: It's an alarm clock.
BE: It's an anti-zoo. Instead of a place where you keep things in, it's a place where you let things out.
LA: It's a nursery for hybrids.
BE: It's a visionary playground, it's an urban tom-tom.
LA & PG: It's all, it's all of the above.
A final decision has not yet been taken by Barcelona.
U2 STAGE SET
As mentioned in Opal Information 20, Brian Eno devised the video-staging concept and made most of the video tapes for U2's 1992 Zoo TV tour. We thought these extracts from notes Brian made for Bono after the initial planning meeting might be of interest to our readers:
STAGE-SET THOUGHTS... ASSUMPTIONS AND AIMS
There were certain 'givens' before we started talking, and while we were talking other assumptions hardened into givens. I'll start off by detailing those.
1) It was taken as given that the show would be three hundred and sixty degrees, but that we would not necessarily try to create exactly the same experience for everyone in the audience (i.e. there might well be things that some part of the audience could see which others could not). The important thing was to make sure that everyone had a good experience, not an identical one.
2) It was taken as given that we would be working with a giant PA above the stage, but we then went on to decide that this should be treated as though it were invisible (i.e. it should not have attention drawn to it by lighting or otherwise). The PA can be regarded as the place behind which we hide things.
3) It was taken as given that we would be working with a non-flat stage - that it would have ramps and/or platforms.
4) It was assumed that it would not be appropriate or original to come on with a typical high-tech look, and in fact that the opposite (industrial, 'handmade', personal) would probably be better.
5) It was assumed that the visual aspect of the show should aspire to being as flexible and improvisational as the musical one: it wouldn't suit U2 to be locked into a programmed routine (although it might be oK to do that for certain limited set pieces within the show). The direction ought to be towards flexibility and evolvability and away from locked in programmes. This presents some freedoms and some problems; video is not by nature an improvisational medium.
6) The look of the show should be able to span the range from controlled, intimate, gorgeous and focused to, on the other hand, fast, chaotic, dirty, rough, incoherent, mystifying. This gives rise to some interesting technical problems regarding how you change out of one and into another.
We started off by looking at overviews of the stage, trying to get some grasp of the scale of things. It's big, and the problem is this: you don't want to use video just in the ordinary, boring old way - basically only as a means of making the singer look bigger - but you also don't want to produce a show that is just arty, bitty and confusing. So how can you interestingly combine the following desire?
1) To be able to look at members of the band close-up.
2) To use video also in other ways: as light source, as ornament, as information, as alternative narraLive, as lyric sheet.
3) To make something in which Bono (at least) can actively intervene (i.e. which doesn't just look like some kind of unmovable techno add-on).
4) To come up with a system that is loose enough for its controller(s) to have fun with, to develop and improve, and which could be quite different every night.
5) To integrate all sorts of material - old films, satellite broadcasts, local TV, prepared tapes, live camera, flat panels of colour or hard shapes - and be able to play with them, live.
6) To avoid getting locked into a stage layout that is inflexible. Most of what follows concerns ways of using video to satisfy these requirements.
How about using two or four big vidiwalls, a few smaller ones (maybe four monitors each) and lots of (Twenty-five? Forty?) different-sized TV monitors? This gets you away from the normal big-screen-above-the-band look. Instead you have a lot of different viewing surfaces, a lot of places to look.
How about putting all the monitors on wheels so that they can be moved around, and how about making the process of moving them around part of the show? Now you have a flexible architecture on the stage, the possibility of different arrangements, of stuff clustering in one place or shifting out to the edges of the stage, of being moved to face in different directions. This gives you the possibility of creating different sets, as in a theatre. All the connecting wires would run down from the roof, so the stage areas is utterly clean, so you get the idea of images and signals being drawn down out of the air. The cables should be very visible to emphasise this, the mobility of the monitors suggests the possibility of Bono pushing an image around the stage, of a dialogue between singer and image. Also you could use the idea of there being workers on stage - people continually engaged in shifting things - which links nicely with Peter's idea of the show emerging out of the noises of people constructing things live. Anyway, even if you don't like the idea of these things being moved during the set, your crew will thank me forever if you take my advice and put wheels on them - it makes setting them up and getting them in the right place a doddle (voice of hard-won experience).
How about making it so that the screens can either show different images or can be made to show the same image, so that you can move from chaos (or variety for those who don't like chaos) to unity? This is harder than it sounds, because it means plumbing all the TVs and vidiwalls into a central controller as well as giving each its own independent input. What might instead work is to divide the TVs into two groups: centrally controlled and free-running. There probably ought to be about fifteen or twenty of each, in a range of sizes (aside from the big vidiwalls). First I'll talk about the free-runners.
The free-range TVs are completely independent of the control desk and of each other - each has its own VTR and plays prepared upes regardless of what is happening musically. They are sort of arbitrary information sources, voices and images from outside the music. This doesn't have to be as random as it might sound. VTRs generally run at fairly similar speeds so, even though they wouldn't be precisely synchronised, the tapes could be carefully prepared so that every so often all the TVs are doing pretty much the same thing: they could all, for instance, move from black and white to colour or image to text at about the same time. I like the idea of these loosely synchronised transitions, where a change of character develops over several seconds (or longer) rather than the usual computer synchronised rock-and-roll big bang. So try to imagine a sequence of events on these monitors, remembering that they're all shapes and sizes, facing different directions etc. For example:
Before the show begins, as the house lights are going down, all the free TVs gradually fade slowly into life, one by one. They don't have images on them, just white noise. This grainy, black and white information combines with the industrial clangs and crashes of Zoo Station: a feeling of something about to take shape. The noise continues with some variations throughout the first song, maybe getting steadily brighter, but somewhere round the end of it faces (newsreaders? boxers? burglars caught on surveillance cameras?) start to emerge out of the noise, slowly becoming clearer. There's a different image on each monitor, maybe slowed down, distorted. As those images become clearer, a frame starts to develop around them, again each one different - crosses, chevrons, circles, squares etc. The image is held inside the shaped frame. on a black ground. These shapes get whiter and brighter and the image dissolves to pure light. So now you have white shapes on a black ground. The wipes hold still, pure signs in space, but occasionally one or another of them will make a quick ninety degree rotation or flip to negative (black on white) or a similar fast event; it will all look like some form music is fast enough, will certainly appear to be brilliantly and surprisingly synced. Perhaps this signalling now increases in tempo until all those screens are flashing and flicking, and perhaps new words start to appear among the flashes and flicks, but fleetingly. Words appear more and more often, until the screens are flashing language. Then, like a fruit machine drum suddenly coming to a stop, each screen holds on one word. So now you have static words all over the stage, still white on black:
Now the words start flashing, changing:
A conversation goes on between the monitors. Now all those monitors turn to black, still with the words coming up during the fades. At black, they rest long enough for people to forget that they are there, and to have their attention moved somewhere else. Workers move some of the monitors into different positions. Several minutes later, they very slowly begin fading up, all the monitors a very deep violet, for example. They hold this colour, rectangles of pure light, and then each begins slowly shifting its hue. Some move towards red violet and then red and then orange and yellow, others go the other way through indigo and blue and turquoise and green. They are all out of sync, so what you see is lots of rectangles of pure, saturated light. Bono moves from screen to screen, so that one moment his face is violet, then yellow, then blue, and he is refilmed and projected on the vidiwalls like that. I'm sure you get the idea, The strength of this is that it is cheap (relatively), trouble free, self-organising (just hit 'play' five minutes before the show starts), not too hard to make (I could do it) and able to generate a huge wealth of imagery - far more than you could ever achieve by any other feasible method. If you want the chance to have visual chaos or total image overload on stage, this is the way to do it. If you want strange juxtapositions, different every night, this is the way to do it. If you want to make a complex landscape of floating iconic lights, if you want to have dozens of different faces talking, laughing, eating weeping, twenty large eyes, a language storm, white noisescapes, maps of different parts of the world, traffic signs, heads of famous people. Aside from the free monitors playing tapes, there is also the idea of having a few dedicated monitors around showing things like Edge's current guitar sound setting, a view of the inside of Larry's kick drum, members of the audience, etc... You could even sell screen-time to local advertisers!
As you can see, I'm very keen on this idea, and although extremely anxious to promote it, I feel compelled to confess to its disadvantages.
1) It's uncontrollable - it can't be precisely synced (However, all the other screens - the non-free ones - can).
2) It produces small images although it would be possible to do the same thing with vidiwalls if you wanted some of the images larger.
3) It means carrying around twenty VTRs - but so what, when you're already practically rebuilding the pyramids.
So that's what I see happening on the free screens. Then there are also the centrally controlled screens. The most prosaic (but certainly important) use of these is as vision amplifiers - ways of making the performers bigger. We were thinking about ways of doing this that would not be entirely sleep inducing, and my first suggestion was that we create a 'blue box' a blue screen that a musician could be filmed against - so that the background around the musician can be substituted for something else - any landscape of your choice, guv. This is probably worth a try, but it is cumbersome and might not look amazingly new (because one has seen it on TV so much). Peter (Williams, Production Designer - Ed.) had a better idea to use the available TVs on stage as backgrounds... so that Bono stands in front of one of the TVs (showing an image he likes) and he is then re-filmed against that image, the whole to be project out onto the bigger vidiwalls. (This would require a handheld camera operator... which I think is a good idea anyway.) Another approach to the 'vision amplifier' problem is to use serious video treatment on the images. There is a tremendous amount to be done here - colourising, keying, mirroring, stretching, squeezing, spinning, negativizing, disintegrating - all the things you've ever wanted to do to Bono, in fact, and it is not technically exotic. Also not too exotic is combining such an image with another - one that is, for instance, coming from another camera or being played back off a tape. You can do this in lots of ways: the face is framed by another video, the face emerging or floating in it, the screen cut in two etc., etc. That's all quite easy, it gets a lot harder to do this with three or more images. I think you could effectively rule that out, in fact. So, as regards the 'vision amplifier' approach, the maximum complexity you're looking at is treated face on complicated background, or similar. It'll be ok.
The only thing is, we all felt that we didn't want to have dozens of screens all doing the same thing - that's to say, we didn't want to have twenty copies of the face-on-funny-background - at least not all the time. We liked the idea of making the different video walls (and the centrally controlled monitors) capable of moving between unison and harmony - so that sometimes they'd all show the same thing, but other times there'd be a chord or even a cacophony. It would be good to be able to have more than one band-member (or one band member,s member!) up there at certain times. It would be good to have the song text on two screens, Bono singing that text on another... things like that. Unfortunately, this threatens to get really clumsy. Video is not a performance-orientated technology, which is why everyone ends up syncing everything to computers. If we don't want to do that (and I really think it would end up pissing you off by putting you in a straightjacket musically), then we have to think a way around it.
INCONCLUSIVE TECHNICAL RAMBLING
You could have three or four cameras each feeding an effects unit and a vision mixer. You would then need an overall mixer to decide whether the outputs of these chains went to separate vidiwalls or were mixed together somehow or just one of them was sent to all the walls. That means five vision mixers of some sort, plus attendant effects units. See - you can't even follow the description, let alone getting it to work. It's a nightmare. Unfortunately none of us know enough about the state of the art to know if there were ways round this jungle of complexity, so the area remains very vague to me. We all liked the idea of using the video stuff to pick up and display available material - local TV channels, satellite broadcasts, surveillance cameras in the building etc, but thinking of a plausible way of switching between that kind of material and the cameras with any degree of freedom is difficult. Normal switchers work like this - there are two banks of inputs which look like this:
BANK A: Camera 1/ Camera 2 / Camera 3 / Live TV / Tape 1 / Tape 2 etc.
BANK B: Colourfield 1 / Colourfield 2 / Live TV 2 / Tape 3 / Tape 4 / Handheld etc.
You can select one item from each bank and then crossfade between them, key one on to the other, wipe one with the other etc. Essentially, however, you are always dealing with two images, and you are making just one output. In order to have a situation where you make different images, you need more than one mixer. As far as I know there is not a way of creating more than one output from one device. It's primitive in an unrewarding way.
END OF INCONCLUSIVE RAMBLING
The thrust of my thinking has been that this operation should not be a technical nightmare. It ought to be something that you can feel a little free within... like you can within the music. This is one reason for favouring the low-tech approach. Another reason is that it looks good, different, original. People haven't done it much, because they're all slaves to synchronisation. I think that you'll get something new if you stop thinking about the TVs as narrative, illustrative devices, and use them like collage elements. Let them make their own collisions of content and hence their own meanings. OK. I know you have to do something else as well, the vision amplifier stuff, but how about if we decide that Vision Amplification gets treated fairly straightforwardly (treatments, overlays, framing etc.) and that there are just two channels of it: that means, for example, that there could be a musician on the big vidiwall and another on the two smaller ones, with the same images occurring on some of the stage monitors as well. It's not an exciting solution, but it could be made to work without serious psychiatric attention being incurred. It could even start to get exciting if one of the cameras that fed it was handheld by Bono, for example, so that we got some good pictures of the black floor! Anyway, we really need some technical advice and more thought about this.
Other aspects of lighting were also discussed. The cars could be painted in white fluorescent paint - this is paint that apparently looks white until you throw fluorescent light onto it, when it reveals its true colours. We thought also about using those self-powered amber traffic lamps - the ones that you see sitting in lines on motorways - because they all have slightly different flashrates. This would look great. There are lots of types of these in various colours and, though perhaps a bit of a one-liner, they would be trouble-free, cheap and easy to drop in and pull out again. I think they'd make a really eerie setting - total darkness except for forty or fifty dully flashing lights - the beginning of Wild Horses. We thought of handheld emergency lights - quite small but with a very powerful, directional beam throwing strong shadows and those illuminated batons that policemen use. I like all these because they are unromantic, strange, untheatrical forms of light, We thought about having naked bulbs descend over the stage on their wires and slowly glow into life (maybe for Love Is Blindness?) This would look spine-chilling after a big, loud, bright number.
(Brian Eno, November 28, 1991)
It starts "Cool, the definitive compliment, sums up just about everything that U2 isn't. The band is positive where cool is cynical, involved where it is detached, open where it is evasive", and ends "And this is exactly what I've always liked about pop music: its ability to create crazy emotional landscapes which then invite you to come and dance in them." A lot of the points Brian made cropped up later in reviews of the album, and it seems that his article became the definite reference text for Achtung Baby.
This article was syndicated to many more magazines than we had initially thought, therefore we won't be reproducing it in Opal Information, because we are sure most people will have read it. However, if anyone hasn't but would like to, please write, and we will send you a photocopy.
BRIAN ENO: BOOK REVIEW
Brian has been invited by an American art magazine, Art Forum, to contribute an occasional article. He was asked to review any record, book, film of event of his choice, and the first of these reviews by Brian appeared in the November 1991 issue. He chose to review the book Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext And The History Of Writing, by Jay David Bolter (published by Lawrence Eribaum Associates in 1991). We reproduce Brian's review below.
The thesis of Jay David Bolter's book is that the way we organise our writing space is the way we come to organise our thoughts, and in time becomes the way in which we think the world itself must be organised. Bolter, who teaches in the University of North Carolina, looks at the major phases in the history of writing, from papyrus rolls through medieval manuscripts and on into the era of print. He examines the way in which each of these writing spaces has created its own picture of thinking and of the organisation of thought. "The writing space", he says, "becomes a metaphor, literate culture's root metaphor, for the human mind." Hence the print writing space offers a linear, sequential, and unified writing and reading experience, and encourages us to try to envisage the world in those terms: as a place where logical accretion of cause and effect march forward in a unified plan. The medieval codex, on the other hand, become a forum for discussion and interpretation as successive scribes added their contributions to the texts they were copying. The codex invokes a more negotiable universe-one of pliability, intervention, plurality. Most of this book is dedicated to an appraisal of the most current writing revolution, the computer, and to its implications as a 'root metaphor', Bolter's contention is that the computer/word processor recapitulates all past phases of the history of writing; and, with the idea of 'hypertext', moves writing away from the linear and into a new territory of richly interconnected ideas. Hypertext derives partly from what we know as 'footnoting' in print culture: the process of elaborating on particular ideas contained in the main body of the text. But imagine now a work so rich in footnotes, that there is no longer a single main argument, and the process of reading becomes an active ramble in various directions through a three-dimensional text space. In such a book "the reader calls forth his or her own text out of the network, and each such text belongs to one reader and one particular act of reading." The 'author', then, becomes the person who constructs this network of possible linkages, but it is in the nature of the system that he or she will never be able to know which particular book any given reader will read. Bolter discusses earlier attempts by such experimental writers as Laurie Sterne, James Joyce, and Jorge Luis Borge to modify the writing space of print in order to make it possible for the non-sequential, networked nature of experience to be communicated within its constraints. Joyce is here described as an early creator of hypertexts: unwilling to follow a straightforward narrative thread through the complex web that constitutes human memory, he tried instead to recreate the experience of such a web. In Ulysses and Finnegans Wake he wove a tangle of allusions, cross-references, ellipses, shifts of time, and points of view. The reader is tacitly expected to decode the work, to engage actively in the game of association that it presents, to engage in the process of organising chaotic and multi-layered experience. Borges, on the other hand, wrote in a comparatively traditional manner, but chose to describe new writing spaces: books written and rewritten in countless permutations: books with endlessly branching plots: infinite libraries of random letter-combinations: books about books. Bolter says:
"For Borges literature is exhausted because it is committed to a conclusive ending, to a single storyline and denouement. To renew literature one would have to write multiply, in a way that embraced possibilities rather than closed them off. Borges can imagine such a fiction, but he cannot produce it... Borges himself never had available to him an electronic space, in which the text can comprise a network of diverging, converging, and parallel times. He could not see that the literature of exhaustion in print by no means exhausts the electronic medium."
An electronic 'book' (if the term still applies) is published as a diskette. In several important ways, it is conceptually different from a printed book, for it is impermanent, ephemeral, a manifestation of energy rather than of matter. Most of all, it presupposes interaction, creating a new sense of what it means to be a reader, by diffusing the concept of authorship to all users of the system. The distinction between author and reader actively intervene in the text, adding to, subtracting from, and modifying it from their own keyboards. The idea of 'book' now changes radically: it ceases to be a finite, finished statement and becomes instead a space where ideas are continually being gathered together, reassembled, and added to. This suggests the intriguing idea of books that never stop being written, of books that mutate and proliferate and become teeming communities of ideas, a powerful modern version of the medieval codex, with its layer of commentary and addition.
The piece de resistance in this publication is, in fact, Bolter's construction of a hypertext version of the book Writing Space itself. Slip it into your Mac, and begin to sense the potential of the new writing space. The screen shows a paragraph of text. Certain words or sentences are highlighted. By pointing to one of these, you open up a new window that displays an amplification or extension of that idea. That extension may itself carry highlighted sections inviting further exploration. Then move back out of the network to peruse a window that shows you the overall architecture of the text, pick a re-entry point, and begin reading again from a new perspective. Your progress through the electronic text becomes an adventure - a genuinely new reading and thinking experience. I've already modified my copy of the disk: added a few notes here and there, for example, so that I am now to some degree co-author of my particular version of the electronic book called Writing Space. And when I copy that version and pass it on to my friends (as Bolter specifically invites readers to do), they will no doubt make their own modifications and additions. It's conceivable that, after a sufficiently long period, only a small fraction of the material on the disk will have originated from Bolter's keyboard.
The intriguing question of authorship raised by this kind of interaction will keep lawyers employed for several decades. What does authorship mean in new scenarios such as these? If the author becomes someone who 'merely' assembles a network of dots, and then lets you, the reader, join them up (adding and erasing as you go), can he or she be said to be responsible for the shapes that emerge? Should we now describe an author as 'the creator of an ideas space'? And do we then place curators in the same category as we place 'original artists'?
This question is culture-wide, addressing a curatorial spectrum from gallerists (people who identify and distinguish their own particular constellations in the total space of art history, and who thus create original resonances in that space) to rap artists with their samplers (people who fabricate new music out of the total space of existing recorded music). It addresses critics, writers, librarians, political analysts, spin-doctors, newswriters, and educators - anyone whose work is to create patterns in the great fluxes of information. Curatorship is arguably the big new job of our times: it is the task of re-evaluating, filtering, digesting and connecting together. In an age saturated with new artefacts and information, it is perhaps the curator, the connection maker, who is the new storyteller, the meta-author.
Bolter's book may turn out to be primarily about the move away from old concepts of originality. We will stop dividing the world into 'authors' and readers, and start to recognise instead a continuum of involvement in the writing process. We will acquire a feel for this new continuum through our growing acquaintance with computers, machines that encourage all of us to interact with information. It may well be that Writing Space does for electronic writing what Gutenberg did for print. It is fortunate to have such a detailed and inspiring overview of a new technology this early in its evolution.
JOHN PAUL JONES
The Spanish Pavilion at Expo in Seville will include Memory Palace, created by Spanish electronic artist Montxo Algora and William Gibson, the American science fiction writer and author of Neuromancer, under the auspices of Barcelona based arts company Art Futura. Memory Palace was premiered at the Art Futura festival in Barcelona from April 1-5. John Paul Jones was invited to act as Musical Director for Memory Palace. In addition to coordinating contributions from other musicians, which included Peter Gabriel, John also wrote original material for the event.
Memory Palace is described as 'a synthesis of creativity and modern technology, a fabrication of theatre, music, video, images, computerised animation, digital effects, laser and synthetic characters generated in real time'. The theme is the human memory and the way its capability has been expanded by artificial storage systems.
Memory Palace takes it's name from a mental technique for increasing the powers of memory, devised in China and brought to Europe in the sixteenth century. To use this technique you must visualise taking a piece of information into a building, then into a specific room in that building, and then placing that information in a particular drawer of a closely observed piece of furniture. When you want to retrieve this information you follow the same route through the building, open the drawer, and there is the information.
Algora and Gibson feel the best way to travel through memory is via the emotions, and so Memory Palace is divided into areas based on different emotions, such as love, fear, violence and anxiety.
Also for the Art Futura festival, Brian Eno created an installation entitled Scribble, and gave a talk at the installation entitled The Future Will Be Like Perfume.
FOR ALL MANKIND
At long last the film For All Mankind, is available on video.
Brian was invited to write the soundtrack for the film, originally entitled Apollo, in 1992. Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois collaborated with him on the project, and the album Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (now on Virgin Records) was released by E'G in 1983.
It has taken Al Reinert eleven years to complete the film, which distills the six million feet of film shot on the Apollo Moon missions into an eighty minute epic adventure. Widely regarded as the finest documentary ever made about space exploration, it can also lay claim to be the most expensive film ever shot: the Apollo moon mission cost the United States forty-two billion dollars.
Astronaut turned full-time artist Al Bean describes it as "the film that cornes closest to showing how lt feels to go to the moon. It's the best film ever made on those journeys." One of Bean's paintings is featured on the sleeve of the For All Mankind video.
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