I Don’t Know What it is but I Know What it isn’t
Wednesday, 20 March, 2013 10:50 PM









Water Yam, George Brecht 1963









Water Yam by George Brecht, is a set of cards which use event-scores which Brecht intended for individual usage, and hoped that they would bring light and alternative thinking to those who chose to indulge in the concepts contained. As part of the Fluxus movement Water Yam became very successful and I believe its outcome still to be very relevant to an everyday outlook, whether or not the cards and the ideas involved are interpreted in a positive way. I believe he wanted to remind people of the importance found in unremarkable situations in which they continue to engage on a daily basis. In Brecht’s own words, his cards were for “ensuring that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed”.

It is these ‘details of everyday life’ which inspire the living in life, or perhaps it is only the more monumental events which inspire one to travel the longitude, continuing only in anticipation of a distant milestone. If this is so, how have people built their lives on foundations so superficial that they revolve around only the most prestige events on their calendar? Looking forward to scarcities like holidays is inevitable; however, I think to bring attention to the joys of daily life is important. As of course it is these ‘simple things’ which are often referred to as a fast track to a happier and more fulfilling life.

I hope to highlight these events by focusing in so much so, that the viewer has no choice but to address the situation head on. I shall frame and loop my video work, so that through the tiresome drone, visual satiation will allow the viewer to focus in and out. Placing them inside the event, just as one would be when completing the action in a normal situation. Then bringing them back out, in order for them to place perspective and de-familiarise themselves from the action.

I feel that Brecht’s Water Yam acknowledges that events as mundane as utilising a lamp can present difficulties and that the ways in which one deals with the potential problems will almost certainly extend out into the way one deals with different, more complex conditions. Sometimes when problems arise, it is not always possible for the afflicted to solve or make sense of the situation, and I believe this is where work such as Brecht's event-score cards or Peter Schmidt's The Thoughts Behind The Thoughts comes into play, by dissecting the individuals approach through the application of universal approaches.

Schmidt's mixed media work, The Thoughts Behind The Thoughts, use extant notes and prints from his journals to juxtapose aphorisms with simple prints and repeatable images. Journals themselves are not often viewed as art in their own right, although Schmidt's prints and annotations combined prove contrary. By producing an abrupt form of art, it changes the meaning of a ‘final piece’, presenting the foundations of art, as art.

In a sort of ante ars poetica, the work directs the viewer’s thoughts to a place where they can build on them. As opposed to confining thoughts, Schmidt puts forward his work in a way which will aid the audience in solving their own difficulties, helping to break through creative barriers and continue on in uninterrupted chains of thought.

These methods can be replicated using simply images, and that is what I hope to imitate in my own work, by presenting an image as a query, I shall juxtapose the query with possible visual outcomes. My outcomes will be linked to the original image through form, colour or context, initiating the thought process by inviting the viewer to find the links presented. I feel that they will create an infinite answer which is not only personal to myself but very accessible to others, prompting them to continue the thought process individually.

Peter Schmidt later collaborated with Brian Eno in the making of the Oblique Strategies cards. Eno, who was friends with Schmidt, approached him concerning a concept which would enable artists to break creative barriers. Their collaboration was seemingly successful, as their cards were used in Eno’s production of the innovative David Bowie albums; Low, Heroes and Lodger. However, Eno also used them when working with Talking Heads and their usage has certainly not become universal, which begs the question of whether or not they are at all useful, David Byrne was the only member of Talking Heads to find the cards even remotely worthwhile, dubbing "Brian's cards … funny and sometimes useful".

Maybe the cards could never have satisfied everyone’s needs, after all people approach things differently, which may explain Eno’s ability to innovate during his collaboration with David Bowie, compared to the almost non usage during his work with talking Heads on More Songs About Buildings and Food. Obviously this doesn’t mean that any genius was missed out on, it was simply not found through the cards, as they continued to collaborate with Eno throughout their career.

With such variety in human perception, it seems it would be impossible to produce any sort of superficial process which applied to all, barring the iPhone; people’s tastes direct them in different directions and cause them to act in alternate ways. Such as the order in which a cup of coffee is made, milk first or last, whichever way you go about it it’s still a cup of coffee, so does it even matter. This begs the question of whether or not an individual’s thinking will alter the effectiveness of my visual triggers, provided they engage in and commit to the process. Because seemingly, using the coffee cup analogy, whichever way the viewer proceeds to negotiate themselves around the images, it will eventually turn out the way they need it.

Existentialism defines authenticity as ‘being true to one’s own personality, spirit or character’, which is primarily the only way in which people will ever solve their problems. By allowing their thought processes to wander in whichever direction they find, the spontaneous should succeed in producing the most naturally available outcome ...

Doing things because we learned it

(Film) Visual satiation of actions i.e. licking envelope on repeat

Do I want my videos to be on a loop, to reflect the mimetic, unoriginal and mechanised way of life or represented as a neverending drone

‘requires external disruptive influence to suggest new ideas’
mimetic learning no original thought






Water Yam, George Brecht 1963




The Thoughts Behind The Thoughts, Peter Schmidt 1970