Tuesday, March 2, 2010

[Insert prefix here]speak

Interesting Guardian article here, which I read a while ago now, about 'artspeak'.

The point made I think has wider application. I have always been aware of the existence of a specific kind of religious language which could, by analogy, be dubbed 'religispeak'. The point of the language of 'calling' and 'vulnerability' by which I am perniciously surrounded could equally be expressed in plain terms. The problem then would be that the language would be robbed of its authoritative power. The sentence 'I am called to be a priest' would not sound so noble and ponderous if it were translated as 'I've failed at most other things in my life and have finally found the path that will provide me with social status, despite my obvious lack of talent or intelligence'. Alright - some bias has been injected into the 'translation'. But that is no less true of the sentence which it translates.

The analogies between art and religion are interesting and manifold. But what I had not considered is that both contribute to institutions or 'worlds' (as in 'the artworld') which are open to abuse. Elitism and exclusion abound in both. But this does not owe to the nature of art and religion but rather to the nature of the human institutions in which the artistic and religious impulses become entombed. Compare van Gogh's description of

a drawbridge with a little cart going over it, outlined against a blue sky

with some of Christ's more morally edifying statements. They are uncomplicated and 'earthy'. They are both miles apart from the respective '-speaks' created by the institutions which, all too often, sap them of their lifeblood.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Doctors and Philosophers

I have long appreciated the work of Raymond Tallis and can excuse some of his philosophical oversights on the grounds that he's had plenty of other things keeping him occupied. The arguments of Merleau-Ponty, for instance, are convergent with Tallis's but M.-P. is conspicuous by his absence from Tallis's work.

Having recently come across a review by Mary Midgley of Iain McGilchrist's new book on brain hemispheres and culture, I began to think that there are a number of very interesting philosophers who are also trained doctors.
Jonathan Miller's another one. As seen below, he can cram a great deal into five minutes. Contrary to what might be expected, these people tend to resist reductive accounts of human existence: something that's sorely needed in philosophy at the moment. I find the arguments of the recently fashionable 'neurophilosophers' facile and fatuous.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Terrorism Laws Gone Mad; Terry Pratchett

Interesting piece in The Guardian today about an artist questioned by police for painting a watercolour near London City Airport.
Inside half an hour two Metropolitan police officers from the specialist unit based at the airport arrived in a patrol car and demanded to know what he was doing, saying he had been spotted on a CCTV camera.

"I told them, 'I'm hardly a terrorist, I'm watercolouring'. One policeman said, 'you're not painting the airport, are you?' I told him I was painting the sugar factory. He said 'no one paints factories'. I told him Lowry painted loads of factories and made a mint. He got a bit touchy then."

For 15 minutes, O'Farrell said, one officer checked his identification on a radio while another searched his bag. "They said I had 'weird paraphernalia' with me. I said 'it's a flask of coffee and an iPod'."

O'Farrell said he had returned to the same spot a week later to complete the work and was interrogated again, by two other officers.

"I told them I was just doing a watercolour of the sugar factory. One of them said 'no one does watercolours of factories'. I told them about Lowry – it was groundhog day. It was extraordinary.

"Then one said 'I can see what you're doing now, I'd be a bit more concerned if you were painting the airport'. I remember from my art history that centuries ago in China artists were murdered in case they [painted] maps and roads. But in the days of digital photography I hardly think a watercolourist painting an airport would be some sort of international threat." The experience left him baffled. "I've been painting in Moscow, in Vietnam, Ukraine, and all I get round me are bunches of kids. If the police come by they're just curious about the painting. It's extraordinary what happened to me."

Apologies to those who are fans, and his work may be brilliant, but the novelist in this video comes across as obnoxious and stupid, playing up to a crowd of sycophants.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I went to Brighton and drank cocktails. I went to a party. Now I'm back.

Christmas shopping, reading, and writing await me.

I'm now reading Schnitzler's La Ronde which, when it first came out, caused riots in his native Vienna. Planning to write a piece about the philosophical implications of the idea that there is a 'God-spot' in the brain.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Chestnut-Seller

Here's a story by one of my favourite writers. It's called 'The Chestnut-Seller' and it's by Joris-Karl Huysmans.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Choral Evensong

I officiated at Choral Evensong in College on Tuesday evening and m'colleague, Frost, sang. All part of my regular duties. But this time I took a recording device with me. You can listen to a five-minute clip here. The choir were on top form! Responses by Leighton, if anyone's interested.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kierkegaardian Depression

Thought I would share a rather poignant quotation from Kierkegaard which I found in last Saturday's Guardian Review:

I have just returned from a party of which I was the life and soul; wit poured from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me – but I went away – and the dash should be as long as the earth's orbit and wanted to shoot myself.

Since K is hailed as the Father of Existentialism, it's perhaps not surprising that it has a reputation for being miserable.