Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Andrew Parker finds a couple of interesting quotes in a keynote speech given by Tavi Gevinson, 17 year old blogger / editor, at the Melbourne Writers Festival

What if, when you’re in a mood, when you feel sad and stuck, it’s just more therapeutic for you to write down someone else’s words than your own?

"Most of the work I have to show you is other people’s. Most of my world is a composite of the worlds of others’s.

This is very in line with the "everything is a remix" / Steal Like An Artist / Brain Pickings view of creativity as really curativity  - self as tumblr, tumblr as self.

I asked Andrew what he thought of those statements of Gevinson's and he replied:

"Teenagers are always seeking material with which to build their identities, but I don’t recall it ever being so conscious. All I knew was that I wanted to hear more music, watch more films and read more books than I could access. Furthermore, I didn’t care what anyone thought of my collections and never bothered to flaunt them. If anything, my collections were a way of accessing the best things the world had to offer (as far as I knew at the time), whilst rejecting everything else. Without wishing to insult my high school friends too much, none of them provided the intellectual stimulation that I found in books, albums and films. This insatiable hunger for stimuli also demanded that I reject anything that wasn’t original. However, despite the breadth of original works in my collections, I never believed that I could ever be completely described by a composite of these works. It’s not that I was better than these artists, just that I wasn’t quite like any of them and therefore must have been unique.

"If I were to attempt to create a work of art, I would endeavour to be sincere and then assess the originality of the finished work. Only once I was satisfied that I had produced something worthwhile and original would I bother presenting it to anyone. So far the world remains untroubled by my efforts.

"I would be horrified to discover that I could only think in terms of other’s works and that all my works were mere collages. And yet for many young people it seems to be a source of comfort, perhaps even validation".

That struck a chord with me.  Certainly when I was 14, 15, 16, 17, I was ravenous for any source of mindfood I could get my hands on, via Berkhamsted Public Library (and the inter-library lending system, when the local couldn't supply my needs), plus the town's bookstores, trips to London to Dillons and such like, and also what the school library contained.  Whatever arty or weird films might find their way onto BBC2.  And then music as well, John Peel, the small but surprisingly hip record store in Berko, and then music papers.
And at that stage, being very impressionable and impressed by stuff, my early efforts at creativity were extremely indebted  (comic sketches and pieces that were very Pythonesque / Palin-esque / Coren-esque; drawings and cartoons and watercolours that were somewhere between Dali, Gilliam, and certain Punch cartoonists whose names I've forgotten; s.f. stories, or scenario-outlines, that were clearly marked by Ballard and others; later on, premature stabs at music journalism that were frightfully Morley-esque/Penmanoid).   But I was never in any doubt that the goal was to get beyond being a composite of all this stuff I was stuffing into myself.  Both conviction and confidence dictated that this was the righteous target and also an attainable target. I recently came into repossession of a bunch of old diaries and other teenage writings and was struck by the precocious Napoleonic complex, the obsessive drive towards originality, the belief in uniqueness.

If nothing else, originality seems like a useful delusion, a motivating mirage. Something to aim for.

postscript 9/21: Andrew transcribed some more of Tavi's  speech:

“I wouldn’t have a public life, a creative life, I wouldn’t be speaking to you right now if not for the internet. Something about that has always made me feel a little impure. Not only because what I do wouldn’t get exposure in a pre-internet world, but also because I wouldn’t even be doing it.”

“Every cool thing I know about, every band or movie that means anything to me I know about from the internet. So part of what worries me is that all of my references are traceable, everything I do or say could be tracked down and exposed as being heavily influenced by a book I’ve written about before. I’ll never seem like Bjork.”

“So I’ve begun to understand the danger of trying to find justification for bad things happening in your life by believing that you will one day make it all into a wildly popular show on HBO and feel validated by the whole world. Because what if you write a show people hate or what if you write a show that doesn’t get made or what if you don’t ever write a show, not even for yourself because you just don’t have it in you.”

“But this is not about not being creative, original, ambitious or finding release. This is about a certain kind of creativity, originality, ambition and release. This is about fan-girling.”

“I don’t think that not feeling special should feel like a failure, especially when you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what you like. Instead it can make you feel like part of the greater chain of being. Not in a conformist way, but just in a way that is kind of comforting.”

“I kind of just decided that I don’t care about being original or unique or having an artistic identity or having to stress out about any of that. I just want to be happy. And being a fan can be the most happying thing you can be because you feel connected to other people and you realise these feelings pass through all of us and they have for years and years and years, and it will be okay.”

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