The Finnish rock band Circle once played at Tampere, Finland. It was the most amazing concert I've ever seen. I left after 15 minutes, unable to take in more.
Last night, I started to watch Southland Tales, a peculiar sci-fi movie from 2006. I went completely crazy over it. While witnessing the first fifteen minutes, I posted several screen shots from the film to a social media site. It was very late and I stopped watching. I'm not entirely sure if I will ever return to the movie. Maybe it can only disappoint me now. And maybe, once again, I got as much as I could handle.
In Circle's case, the music was pretty set from the first songs onwards, so I also left because I had enough of the fantastic they were producing. With Southland Tales it was bit different, since the first 15 minutes are indeed very packed with new information, bizarre plot twists and visual rapid-fire.
Were I really in the gig if I didn't stay until the very last song? Have I seen the movie if I don't even know how it ends?
I've never read Deleuze & Guattari's seminal book A Thousand Plateaus in its entirety, nor I'm intending to, although it's one of the books that changed my life. In this case, the authors themselves encourage the reader to experience the book as they like, without respecting its chronological order. Digesting the book (I've picked it up numerous times) like this, by randomly reading from a page here, another there, has turned the book into a drug for me. Its words and intensity alter my consciousness for a short period. I really think its genius lies in the way it's written, and much less in what they're saying. It's as if form and content had changed places.
The way I consume music today resembles this. SoundCloud, a social web site used mostly by songwriters and record labels for sharing their new music to their followers, offers the user the ability to listen to the stream, which consists of all the tracks the people you follow have posted lately. If you happen to follow both people who make sound effects and spiritual leaders, you would then hear sounds of artificial thunderstorm and monologues on meditation. In my case, I hear countless new Hip-Hop tracks, mixtapes, podcasts, demos, 30-second beat loops, and so on. I never know the names of the artists, sometimes not even the context of their activities. I absolutely love this way of consuming (sic) and being immersed in music.
There was a long period in our history when one could read all the books ever written, since there simply wasn't too many of them. A member of the Danish royal establishment in 16th century Copenhagen could have heard all the musicians playing the so-called royal circuits. Same kind of examples could be pointed out from any other form of art or science, I imagine.
Today, this is of course impossible. I can only imagine how many new music releases or books or interesting web sites or subversive porn films or profoundly important online discussion threads are born every day.
You could study to be the expert in the films of Eija-Liisa Ahtila, but then wouldn't you need to also know about, say, early Finnish video art, European cinema, museum exhibition procedures, Nordic art education, installation art, and so on? No one works in a vacuum, and anything can be studied infinitely. Where could possibly you draw a line, by saying: this is where meaningful information and connections to other phenomena concerning this work ends at? Isn't this always more or less a random decision?
It's not that nothing makes sense or that one shouldn't try to understand things. I just believe it's worthwhile to remember that nothing never ends anywhere.
This is very basic information to anyone doing academic research, and I could assume to anyone who has ever thought about the nature of our understanding of things. We all know it's impossible to grasp the full picture.
So, why would I need to, for example, read a book in its entirety? In the beginning of my video Death Of You, I address the viewer and tell that if you're hear to check out a style (ie. my style), that's now done. You can stop watching. And I take this seriously. You don't need to see anything I've done all the way through. What good would it bring? Is it not credible to talk about a work you haven't seen in its entirety? What about works that are almost impossible to see in their entirety, like long-durational performances, or the "live sculptures" of Thomas Hirschhorn that go on for 3 months within a residential community?
Possible reasons and uses for needing to read a book, for example, in its entirety:
1. Auteur: you want to respect the author's intention, and you feel the work in question is meant to be read from the beginning to the end. If you wouldn't do so, you don't think you could understand the work.
2. Peripeteia: you want to know what happens, ie. can the main character get her money back, will Mick and Joe get back together, etc., and you just can't live with the idea of not knowing how the twists in narrative will resolve.
3. Bourdieu: you want to have this book in your cultural wallet, so if a discussions about the book arises, you can say you've read it. Furthermore, this might result in acceptance from other people, or in the feeling of being in the same level with your friends who have read it. Additionally, the book in question might be a classic or a hot topic, and you don't want to miss out.
4. Habit: you don't have any particular reason, but it somehow feels wrong not to finish the book, and also it's just something you've learned to do with books, as if it's just the way one operates with such interfaces.
1. Hard to see why anyone should care about this. The work is out in the world and lives its own life, regardless of its author. In any case, it's almost impossible to know what the author meant by the book. This book in question is an edit. It could've been ten million other things, as well. Maybe the publisher needed to have the book out before Christmas so the author hurried the ending, maybe she was severely depressed and couldn't go on any longer with the book, or maybe it's just like she wants it to be, but then again, if you think how one human being ends up doing a certain thing, you quickly understand that our activities here on Earth are by a large extent guided by chance incidents.
2. (Peripeteia means a rapid change in narrative: a character is happy and in the next scene he loses everything, etc.) I think this is the most valid reason. Can't argue with that. Although I still think you can understand one's style by reading half a book, or even just few pages. Very rarely does the style itself in a book suffer from peripeteia, so usually you know exactly what you're getting.
3. How often you actually need the experience of the reading the book from beginning to an end to be able to talk about it? Life really isn't a math test, where you must prove you know an issue thoroughly. If you think of the discussions people have about books, they are almost always very wide-ranging, tied to other topics, and bouncing back and forth. I guess I'm just more into art that's in an open format, a stream, an experience etc. After I've grasped the style of a work, I do not need to know how the narrative end, since the narrative is just entertainment. I could also just check it up from somewhere. A great work for me is a space not a life. The latter has beginning and an ending, whereas the former is infinite and forever.
It just that I haven't noticed I would've learned anything from having been into hundreds of concerts or seeing countless art works in museums. Yes, I know more now, but it doesn't really translate into better works or, most precisely, better understanding on how to make great works.
This is not all I wanted to say, so I'll continue from here tomorrow. I think I should write about teaching: if this is what I believe in, then why do I teach?
Monologue of the day, from last night:Monologue #7, Tallinn: NIGHT by ANTAGON