Saturday, 21 March 2009

All Change

Caroline was kind enough to post a comment on my last post in which she drew my attention to the importance of rules. (Caroline is an artist who, to my expert opinion, is one of wonderful talent. Caroline will be embarrassed to learn I have downloaded all her pictures and use them as my screen savers in alteration to Gauguin to savour when I am trying to write.)

So to rules: rules, of course, are there to be broken; however, in order to break rules one must first understand the rules that one is breaking and, therefore, to what end one seeks to break the rules. If one does not, there is only chaos and nonsense.

Rules are not an imposition created for arbitrary reasons in order to discipline individual thought, but have been developed over the centuries through man's contemplation of how the world is. (I employ man in the traditional philosophical use of the gender to refer to all of humanity - not as a sexist generalisation.)

Man's understanding of the world is in constant flux, so ideas of its representation in writing, painting and music, traditionally, and now in film and video, are also in constant flux. Nonetheless, there remains a conversation with the past that great artists recognise, acknowledge and profoundly disagree with when it comes to their own representation of the world. Their works are a counter-argument and, in recognising the paucity of previous reasoning, nevertheless, respect the fact it be an argument worthy of contradiction.

If we look for a man who sought to destroy the tradition of thought, we can do no better than look at Descartes. Despite his claim that he was going to start from the beginning and re-write the understanding of the world, an understanding that proves so radical it still resonates in all the arts, he cannot, indeed, it is impossible for him to break free of the assumptions that motivate his thought.

So it is with any person living in any culture in any age: we are steeped in assumptions about how things are and how they should be from the breast. We can and should question, fight and disagree with every received opinion; equally we should recognise that in our arguments we are operating from foundations that remain invisible to us.

As writer, artist, film-maker, poet, environmentalist, politician, or anyone who seeks to change the world, we will only succeed if we understand why and what we are changing - in other words, the rules of the existing world.

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