Your innermost self will be revealed

“My decision was that content should be ignored. This wasn’t a conclusion I wished to reach, because it contradicted my political thinking. I hadn’t realised that every play makes a political statement, and that the artist only needs to worry about content if he’s trying to fake up a personality he doesn’t actually have, or to express views he really isn’t in accord with. I tell improvisers to follow the rules and see what happens, and not to feel in any way responsible for the material that emerges. If you improvise spontaneously in front of an audience you have to accept that your innermost self will be revealed. The same is true of any artist. If you want to write a ‘working-class play’ then you’d better be working class. If you want your play to be religious, then be religious. An artist has to accept what his imagination gives him, or screw up his talent.


Once you decide to ignore content it becomes possible to understand exactly what a narrative is, because you can concentrate on structure.”

(page 111)

From Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.

I read about this book in another book, then found it on the shelves of a house I was staying in in Seattle.

The line between work of art and documentation is negligible

For example, the Chilean group CADA (Colectivo Acciones de Arte, 1979-1985) recently offered their achive to the Reina Sofia, lacking confidence that a Chilean institution could preserve it. The Reina Sofia paid two researchers to catalog the archive and worked to ensure that an institution in Chile would house it; in return, the museum received an exhibition copy of this archive. In the case of CADA, whose work consisted primarily of performances, actions, and interventions, the line between work of art and documentation is negligible. However, this documentary status increasingly defines the most politically engaged art of the late twentieth century. In order to redefine the Reina Sofia as an ‘archive of the commons’, the museum is therefore attempting to legally recategorize works or art as ‘documentation’. This recategorization increases accessibility to works of art – for example, the public can go to the library and handle them, alongside publications, ephemera, photographs of works of art, correspondence, prints, and other textual materials.”

(page 44)

Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig Books, 2013.


A need for authorship

“There is eventually a need for authorship to reach the ultimate compactness and focus that collective work is almost obliged to miss.”

(page 40)

Peter Brook, The Empty Space. London: Penguin, 1968.

From my own library, bought from the Emily Carr University Library booksale, used, for 50 cents.

Tangible realities

“Painting is born of an external reality, a spatial and material world. Music, which can be nonfigurative, is born of an internal reality. It is easy to establish connections between concrete music and abstract painting, tangible realities, whereas descriptive music is as illusory as musical painting. Some works of concrete music immediately call for graphic translation, and it would not be impossible, for example, to compose a concrete music based on an abstract painting and which would express the similarities of matter and form. Such a painting would in any case be a better score than notes on lined paper. And so there are indubitably connections between these two new phenomena that build a bridge, this time firm, between painting and music.”

(page 104)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

Imagining should be as effortless as perceiving

“Schiller wrote of a ‘watcher at the gates of the mind’, who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind ‘the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.’ He said that uncreative people ‘are ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators…regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea that follows it; perhaps in collation with other ideas which seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.


I now feel that imagining should be as effortless as perceiving. In order to recognise someone my brain has to perform amazing feats of analysis: ‘Shape…dark…swelling…getting closer…human….nose type X15, eyes type E24B…characteristic way of walking…look under relative…’ and so on, in order to turn electromagnetic radiation into the image of my father, yet I don’t experience myself as ‘doing’ anything at all! My brain creates a whole universe without my having the least sense of effort. [...] It’s only when I believe my perceptions to be in error that I have to ‘do’ anything. It’s the same with imagination. Imagination is as effortless as perception, unless we think it might be ‘wrong’, which is what our education encourages us to believe. then we experience ourselves as ‘imagining’, as ‘thinking up an idea’, but what we’re really doing is faking up the sort of imagination we think we ought to have.”

(pages 79-80)

From Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.

I read about this book in another book, then found it on the shelves of a house I was staying in in Seattle.

An archive of the commons

The starting point for this museum is therefore multiple modernities: an art history no longer conceived in terms of avant-garde originals and peripheral derivatives, since this always prioritizes the European centre and ignores the extent to which apparently ‘belated’ works hold other values in their own context. The apparatus, in turn, is reconceived as an archive of the commons, a collection available to everyone because culture is not a question of national property, but a universal resource. Meanwhile, the ultimate destination of the museum is no longer the multiple audiences of market demographics, but radical education: rather than being perceived as hoarded treasure, the work of art would be mobilized as a ‘relational object’ (to use Lygia Clark’s phrase) with the aim of liberating its user psychologically, physically, socially, and politically. The model here is that of Jacques Rancière’s “ignorant schoolmaster,” based on a presumption of equality of intelligence between the viewer and the institution.”

(page 43)

Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig Books, 2013.


Letting the words of the text happen to you

“Essentially, “work on the text” means letting the words of the text happen to you; finding ways to let the text impregnate you so that sensory, emotional, imaginative, physical and vocal discoveries are the foundation on which the intellect can build. This in turn becomes the foundation on which the speech, the scene, the character and the play are built.”

(page 191)

Kristin Linklater, Freeing the Natural Voice. New York: Drama Publishers, 1976.

Borrowed from the library of the Universität der Künste, Berlin, and from the Bibliothèques de Montréal, succursale Mile End.