Friday, June 25, 2010

On transcribing Damien Hirst

I have been transcribing various Damien Hirst interviews over the past few days; mostly they are about how he has been inspired by Francis Bacon - how he uses sculpture more malleably so it looks like rotting flesh. Life to death. In transition. Often it is rotting flesh.
Artchive at “A Thousand Years,” 1990

What have I learnt from this experience? Well, I have learnt a bit about the art of conversation - could this help me with written dialogue? I noticed this once before when I transcribed some interviews for a sociologist, that people don't talk in sentences. And they definitely don't talk in paragraphs. So as the transcriber, how do you know where to put them in?  It involves some sort of judgement. It's too late to ask the interviewee what they think. And even if you did, they would be viewing their words retrospectively and trying to perfect what they were trying to say and they may regret what they said and look for ways to break up the meaning by splitting up sentences in to certain sections. And not only do people not add punctuation very clearly when they string words together, they also don't string the words together very logically. Often, Damien starts a sentence and doesn't finish it. Or he starts a sentence, introduces a subject and a verb and then when he tries to place them in context he adds in the words 'sort of' or 'you know' and they seem to suffice as the sentence's end. I like painting because it's you know, sort of like, you know. No I don't actually.

Does Hirst like painting? Well he does do a bit of it - the spot and spin series, for example. It seems to involve spotting and spinning. With paint. This was new to me though. I thought of him as more or a conceptual sculptural installation based artist. In one of the interviews, the interviewer asked him about the fact that he doesn't make the art himself. He replied by saying that an architect doesn't build houses. But I know an architect and she does get involved with the building process. And also, she had seven years training to know how to conceive, design, measure, survey, assess. Damien just seems to do the conceiving bit. I'd like a piece of rotting meat, a big glass box with some sort of electrifying poles in it and lots of maggots on the verge of turning into flies please. There, it's Francis Bacon embodied in sculptural form. The next remark he made in relation to the why don't you make the art yourself question had more weight, I thought. He said that no artist can make art without help from other people in some form or another. It is true, if an artist wants to be successful, they need people to help market / sell / curate / describe / review their art. Otherwise, they'd just be an olde style, poor suffering artist working in a damp attic which gives them pleurisy, who doesn't make millions until after they're dead. Contemporary artists take contemporary measures. They are professional self-spin doctors.

Writers are encouraged to do this too. That's why I started a blog. I kept reading advice on how to be a writer and they said work on getting interest in your novel from day one. It's not really working here. I should probably post bits of the novel but then I would be giving it away or leading myself open to theft (chance would be a fine thing). There were other marketing tips I was given as well, like - know your genre and consider whether you are commercial or literary or somewhere in between. And we thought writing the plot and characters into a contingent, unique narrative was the difficult bit?

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