With a lot of reflection over the summer months I have started to identify what it is that I want to create and be apart of. During this period I have found more joy in reading and writing than in looking and making, potentially highlighting my area of interest to pursue after this BA course. Several books which have been particularly influential on my current thought have been; David Abrams’ The Spell of the Sensuous (1996),Franco Bifo Beradi’s After the Future (2011) , Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), Richard Dawkin’s The Blind Watchmaker (1986), Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (1973), Kurt Vonneguts’ The sirens of Titan and Alex Garlands’ The Beach (1996).
Abram’s recollection of his experiences with natural phenomena penned alongside analysis of Western cultures relationship with nature, and our reliance on understanding it through science, echoes my own thoughts exactly. It is this emotional way of receiving the world that I want to explore in my own work whilst also reflecting on how the current climate of sophisticated civilization makes this difficult, if not impossible.
On the other hand the Marxist theorist Bifo’s collection of essays focuses on the Western economic climate of labour and capitalism. Although rather difficult to digest due to the complicated sentence structure and use of language, Bifo’s writing has been influential on my thoughts on how labour, cyber culture and capitalism function after 9/11, how these things historically came to be and the (negative) cognitive effect of this environment in which the sole focus is progress and technology on the Western world’s population, myself included.
I plan to read more of Dawkins works in particular I think it is of importance for me to read the Selfish Gene, the book where Dawkins coins the term ‘Meme’. The Blind Watchmaker gave me the opportunity to marvel at the diversity of the natural world and learn more theories about how everything came to be. I also think it is important to think not only about physical evolution but also cultural evolution as anthropology is something I often think about in my own work. Although visually the natural world is usually exempt from my practice it is ultimately my curiosity and awe at it that is the backbone to everything I do, so I feel it is important for me to absorb all the ways of seeing it as possible.
Wolfe’s gonzo journalism style has led me to experiment with a new stream of consciousness way of writing that has directly influenced my way of making work. It is this organisation of events along with the emotional style of Wolfe’s writing that I want to pursue within my own work, whether it be through writing, staging happenings or performances I am now more aware that I want to make work that focuses on emotions and experiences. It is also the backdrop of revolution on which the text plays out that made me fall in love page after page as I could feel the energy of exploration and community of that time flooding my senses, something that I have never experienced in my own culture.
Then onto Non-fiction, I have always loved sci-fi and recently this has begun making more and more sense to my practice as they present the dystopian futures of humanity that I often imagine myself. Clarkes’ Rendezvous with Rama and Vonneguts’ The Sirens of Titan both explore the way in which AI would receive and interact with our planet earth. It is this distancing from our way of life that I think is really important to my work, to try and see our civilization from new perspectives is possibly the only way we can assess, as a community, if we are making the right decisions, not only for ourselves but for the planet as a whole.
Quite opposed to these dystopian reads is Garlands’ modern depiction of Utopia; The Beach. In this novel Garland explores the contradictions of tourism, paradise, self-sufficient communities and Utopia. It is the blind faith and necessity of escape that the young people present that really spoke to me in this book that thrilled and shook me before bringing me back into a disappointing reality where all my hopes and dreams for a simplistic future disappeared. It is ultimately this frustration at my futile dream of an impossible Utopia that I feel has effected into my work.
My current reading practice is relatively diverse, but this is something that I am not looking to change as I feel my interests lie in many places, and this only helps to fuel my writing and understanding of the world in which I am apart of. In the next months I plan to begin reading Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, texts by Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf, Manuel De Landas’ A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, James Lovelocks’ Gaia Hypothesis, Slavoj Zizeks’ Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours and W. G. Sebalds’ Rings of Saturn (along with any other books I pick up along the way).