I’m moving right along this lovely book and this section has been my favorite so far.
This essay begins with repetition, how no experience can truly be replicated, and what subtle differences occur when repetition is attempted.
“Repetition, as Gilles Deleuze wrote, has both its tragic and its comic aspects: nothing is more appalling, and at the same time ludicrous, then the individual condemned to the same action over and over again. But repetition, says Deleuze, is also a kind of freedom: without its regular framing and punctuating insistence we would never be able to experience difference, to relish the new, at all. In the simple repetition of a clock’s ticking is already the possibility of movement, of a narrative ( we hear the actual and meaningless ‘tick, tick’ as ‘tick, tock’: a tiny story).”
This example of the narrative we create through the simple repetition of the second hand of a clock illustrates the potential for meaning when using repetition as a strategy for making art. I love how concise this notion is and the potential for especially subtle differences, though I’ve always been a fan of subtlety.
“Perhaps we only believe in repetition ( as something interesting, engaging, even moving) by claiming that it’s not repetition at all. Which is in turn a way of claiming that our lives - all our habits, routines, obsessions, mistakes unrecognized and pattens unbroken - are really, despite all evidence to the contrary, not repetitive. And so we watch, listen, read, and live, all the time intoning the same mantra. There is repetition. There is no repetition. Repeat to fade...”
If you know me, you know that I enjoy a good spectrum and this end to the essay paints a great one. To imagine painting the same image over and over, only to discover in your repetition that each time the terms are different. Your approach is different, your mood is different, the way you hold your brush is different. In repetition it becomes clear how unique each separate iteration is.
“I want my life to be embedded in my work, crushed into my painting like a pressed car. If it’s not, my work is just some stuff. When I’m away from it, I’m crippled. Without my relationship to what may seem like these inanimate objects, I am just an indulgent misfit. If the spirit of being isn’t present in the face of this work, it should be destroyed because it’s meaningless. I am not making some things. I am making a synonym for the truth with all its falsehoods, oblique as it is. I am making icons that present life in terms of our death. A bouquet of mistakes.”
Yes, and me too! Ha, but really, I enjoy how he talks about his relationship to the idea of making objects and am empathetic to the idea of feeling crippled without my work.
Fischli & Weiss
How to Work Better//1991
DO ONE THING AT A TIME
KNOW THE PROBLEM
LEARN TO LISTEN
LEARN TO ASK QUESTIONS
DISTINGUISH SENSE FROM NONSENSE
ACCEPT CHANGE AS INEVITABLE
SAY IT SIMPLE
I can’t express how much good advice this is, really. Any great accomplishment is the product of a series of single small events that you do one by one. I also agree with the order in which this list is given.