observation

I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them. I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world.

– Haruki Murakami

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2/the-art-of-fiction-no-182-haruki-murakami

What interests me about Murakami’s statement is that it works paradoxically against the potential for art and arts-based research to clarify, reduce and generate certainty. I don’t mean that certainty is something to be avoided, but rather that resisting conclusions is valuable in how we think and talk about our work as artists (regardless of the context within which we are working).

But how is it valuable?

Consumer capitalism demands certainty – how much money we make, what we are prepared to buy, our likes and dislikes, our economic value to society – and in generating problems or ideas that are inconclusive, I imagine the smallest kind of reconfiguring of how I am able to participate in this economy. This occurs at various levels, but the one I am most involved in is higher education in the UK. What are the ramifications of being what is called an ‘active researcher’ in higher education and then to to only produce inconclusive ideas and projects?

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7 Replies to “observation”

  1. Si. Questions can be more empowering than answers: they encourage you to explore outside your frame with your attention free to check out possibilities. A commitment to an answer often seems to close down directions and choices. (And yes, this thinking resonates beyond the arts and academia…. )
    Q: How do you approach such a practice when you been indoctrinated to seek out cellophane wrapped answers….

    1. Laugh Andy. Strange though because even in my science days we were encouraged to enjoy the uncertainty. Not sure about indoctrination, and I’ll take some of your cellophane anytime you are prepared to hand it over.

      1. Indoctrination in the sense that we live in a culture where the (frantic) search for ‘answers’ is paramount and the comfortable embracing of questions (or your ‘resisting conclusions’) is not. With academia (for instance) it seems that you are expected to start with a proposition (conclusion) and then structure your thoughts to prove this position. A lot of folk think like this on a daily basis. Conversely, a lot of creative practice apparently embraces ambiguity and the freedom this affords the imagination… and you can end up somewhere you had no idea you might at the beginning of your journey. I fear I may be waffling with no clarity or conclusion. Perhaps I need some cellophane. Good luck with the no answers OR questions 😉

      2. Yes, you pretty much nail the paradox I’m interested in. How to work within a culture of answers/certainty whilst keeping alive my curiosity and interest in not knowing. Simple eh?
        A presto!

  2. Your projects may be inconclusive (in a positive sense), but they do produce questions – surely those are worthy outcomes? Who wants an answer without another question?

    1. Hey Sara – your comment is closely aligned with some preparation for seminar this coming week. I’ve been wondering what it might be like to get rid of questions as well as answers (!). Not sure what the implications of that might be, but fun to wonder …

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