The following is an excerpt from my new book Offline Matters: The Less-Digital Guide to Creative Work, which can also be found in the current print issue of Amsterdam Alternative newspaper.
Shock Me. Please.
On Pervasive Boring Creativity
Who knew living ‘a creative life’ would feel so arid? Where is the joy, the excitement, the risk, or the shock? Nothing is shocking besides the diminishing sense of possibility – and the working conditions. The work is safe, predictable, and supposedly ‘predicted’. All conforming to predetermined directives.
It’s not a matter of standing out, it’s a matter of fitting in and doing that very well. Future Shock. Present Shock. The Shock of the New. Do we even know how to feel shock anymore? We’re talking real shock – confused, challenging, discomfort-at-oddity shock. Not the shock one is ‘supposed’ to feel. Not the play shock that follows looking around and see others acting shocked, then following along accordingly – hazarding a guess that it’s simply the correct reaction to be done.
Except, nothing is being done. What are we really doing here? What are we even creating now? More ‘engaging content’ to exasperate the masses, complicit in the contemporary zombie condition? More riffs on past styles, never-ending re-runs of previous cultural moments? More distractions and ever-cooler ways to say ‘spend, spend, spend!’ without quite saying it? Boring. …
This edition of my COVID-19 Diaries features a two-part
anecdotal poem on ‘not working’, combining fragments of conversations and dialogues collected over the past three weeks.
1st July 2020 – PART ONE
“I hate work.”
“I love working.”
“I love work but it’s killing me.”
“I hate work but it’s saving me.”
My friend is 30 and being awarded her ‘Ten Years of Servitude’ new year from the bread company she works for. “I don’t know what it means”, she said.
servitude /ˈsəːvɪtjuːd/ Learn to pronounce
1. the state of being a slave or completely subject to someone more powerful.
“you’ve got thousands of years of peasant servitude to make up for”
The Freelancer is receiving ‘Ten Years of Serfdom!’ from Fiverr. A special badge, shaped like a gold star and bursting with shards, that they can put on their platform portfolio to make it “really stand out”. For ten days it will appear as the top search result. After that, it’s back to the whim of the algorithm.
Last week I received two emails, which felt like obtaining the two pieces missing from a 2000 piece puzzle sitting before you. The first was an issue of the bliss of the spam, a casual newsletter from radical curator Dalia Maini, and the second a shared article by economist Niko Paech.
Imagine being a teenager nursing soldiers during the 1918 pandemic. It’s near impossible. Six months ago, such a task of the imagination would have been of no interest. Just as an online exhibition held in early 2019 by the National Archives (USA) titled ‘The Deadly Virus’, which surfaced a letter from a 19-year old nurse named Lutiant Van Wert, would have been far less interesting. Or relevant.
In this edition of my COVID-19 Diaries I try to cyberflâneur, only to end up at lofi beats. Again, and again, and again.
5th April 2020:
“Our very existence has turned into a question mark.”
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
― John Cage
The future is cancelled. We know this by now. It’s not ‘postponed’, that sweet word being politely touted in exchange for the hard truth. Here in Zurich, posters remain in loom for a festival put on by a youth theatre that was to run from January until June – ‘The Future is Cancelled’ they jest in their title. These word still hang on the empty streets. When they were designed last year they would have appeared rebelliously tongue-in-cheek. Those who concepted the title may have felt antagonistic and playful. Running on the funny provocations that ‘youth’ knows it is allowed. Imagine that? What we thought was our future has been broken into fragments of oblivion. Eaten away until it doesn’t even matter. No need to ponder too hard on it. It’s gone. The slow cancellation of the future was not slow at all. …
Our view of the US at present is obscured by the news, from our position in Europe. Here are dispatches from across the city of Los Angeles, reporting from life on the ground as the skies clear and the initial panic-dust settles. For now.