Tales of needs (english)

Tales of Needs. or : A lecture about Morphologies and Interfaculties from a subjective perspective.


Today I’ll talk about something fairly straight-forward — to me at least — as I will be my own subject to dissect. Why do I want to lay down on that operation-table, bathing in a haze of white light ? Well, that’s the easy part. Firstly, I love stories and secondly, I’m convinced that I can only talk from within my personal sphere of subjectivity. I could repeat old stories or histories, or talk about given and known facts, but even then — at the bleeding edge of reality — I would start interpreting and transforming them. Thirdly, I’m really having trouble remembering things that I’m not related to and the things that I do feel related to have become part of me over the years — you could call it cognitive Alzheimer. As much as all these tales have grown upon me, I have grown upon them too. So today, I will tell you a story that might or might not be true. Some parts of it might even be completely incorrect or invented as their DNA has been mixed, mutated and morphed by my own experiences and needs.

Ah yes, there we have it already, that last, enticing word —need.

Need is the essence of it all.

To love a story, to know a tale, to remember a history, is to need that particular complexation of words and thoughts.

I’ll rephrase my thoughts now : everything is based upon need. To love, like or want, is to need — even when you love to give.

About needs. First of all there is a planetary need for survival and after that, there are a few more or less refined ones.

How to survive ?

After being bombarded with an unstoppable stream of data that claims to have the invisible merits of objectivity — if only by the sheer number of contributors and methodologies that were involved — during years at educational, cultural and social institutions, I had been incubated by the idea of the unsurpassable mountain Past. After years of trying to neglect, belittle or ignore this giant, I came to a point were I realised that our history is inevitable. Even more; it might function as a positive and extremely important source of water to the burning desert that is our mind. It is a possibility — an example of choices made.

Celts, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Aztecs, Mongolians, … and whatever kind of culture in whichever kind of order and however their overlapping or solitary influences. Sounds, cave drawings, pyramids, runes, mosaics, sculptures, music, books, photographs, … and whatever kind of output. Classicists, impressionists, realists, modernists, post-modernists, the ‘big global villagist’, … and whatever kind of ‘-ist’.

They are all inhabiting my mind.

So many people.

And me ? Do they leave me some room on that vast ship – dwelling over the seas ?

How can I survive in that immense vortex of collective memories ? Where would I fit in ? Where could I belong within that overwhelming library that is our past ?

How should I interpret and use that dead, mutilated, cold data ? How can I resurrect all these lifeless items and turn them into living entities ? How can I make it mine again ?

Maybe I should combine and cocktail-shake my questions and ask “how can I become useful again” ?

This question directly fades to the back of the cave — where a faint echo remains — as the despotic father of that sublimated question claims it reign. All hail King Survive. Our King. Our father. Our primary instinct. My most basic need.

So, like many of you probably do, have done or might do at a certain point in time, I decided to selectively reduce all input to finally — or rather primordially — digest this mental database given to — and imposed upon — me.

I decided to free my mind by creating personal reductions and alterations of Past. A pocket-version of a library. Portable mental and emotional tools that allowed me to interpret my surroundings and sharpen my insights. Minimal constructions to survive more adequately. Personalise existence. Enhancing me through myself. If I really wanted to survive — and of course I did — then I needed creation, the essence of thoughts. Not dead data, but something useful, something liberating — even guiding.

Gradually, I have been wringing out all this data that lived inside — imagine a portrait of myself as a sponge — and turned it into an output that allowed me to communicate my own language and questions. A magician’s trick. From water to wine, from stone to gold. An output of words and poetry, of impressions and thoughts, of wanting to communicate, of need. My second need.

The need to communicate.

Desires. Dreams. Needs. We all have them.

After our need to survive — even by taking our own life — the need to communicate is one of the most instinctive, powerful drives that human beings can experience.

And even though the ‘will to power’ has been described by Nietzsche to be a human’s main force, I dare to say that it — for me — comes behind the will to communication.

Survival, communication, power. In that order.

Why would I disagree with our great German firebender ?

‘Wille zur Macht’ incorporates how we all want to reach something, gain recognition, be ambitious, have better results than the person next to us. ‘Wille zur Macht’ is what makes our capitalism thrive relentlessly and institutionalises the tyranny of technology. You have an iPod, I have an iPad, you have an iPhone, I have an iMac, you have two iMacs, I have three iMacs, etc. Or just think of the friend-system on Facebook. How many friends do you have ? What does it even mean anymore ? There are no questions, it all just functions. Smoothly, further and further we dissolve into technology. Our lives start there now. They end there too — with a small tweet of blogpost. Do you even remember the taste of real milk ? Maybe we should radically stop thinking and let economy take over. It isn’t even radical now, it is almost a fact. How sad can we be. But you can probably be even sadder than me. You have to. We are continuously encouraged to show how successful and established we are. And we don’t question that, we listen. We have become part of it. We just play the game without remembering why we started it in the first place. We have fallen asleep while enjoying the soft whispering voices of power. And the gods of ancient times stand by and watch, senile and old — looking at their own penises — but still questioning “when and why did humans take over to directly enslave themselves ?”

The need for communication gets twisted — a never-ending battle — by the desire for status. The battle of the necks.

‘Wille zur Macht’ is however not what thrives me to walk a city, enjoy the sunlight, touch a women’s hair and smell it in the frail wind. It doesn’t make me look at the stars or follow a bird gliding towards the horizon. It doesn’t make me stand still on Finistèrre or talk to myself when i’m alone.

First, I just want to communicate — to talk — and only later on I will want to have feedback and dance with the dangers of appreciation.

First, I need to tell a story. My story. Like everybody.

To do that, I have to start somewhere. History has ample examples of how to. In retrospect, my main sources in doing so might have been a peculiar convergence of Camus, Hesse, Nietzsche, Van Ostaijen, Multatuli and Wittgenstein. Not because it might sound cool, but as an inevitability. A posteriori a-priori.

I created an emotive and poetical and searching and immersive — sort of — Tractatus of my own. I wanted to erase everything and start something new and essential to me. Something true.

So, I started a new language.

I started looking for words that explained what I was experiencing, defining the ideas that were floating on my mind, formulating the thoughts that were living there. Then, I tried to form structures of words. Oh my. What a bad experience — for the result was an immature tendency to sentences. Like a kid, garbling words. Slowly however, I found combinations that suited me perfectly. I found a way to enable — as close as possible — a translation of thoughts through something I might call poetry.

Poetry. Textual, visual, auditory, etc. It offers me an almost direct experience of thinking and being. A non-method that creates a vast landscape of possibilities, an escape from technology into thought that allows to reflect about the invisible cohesion between all and everything. An inter. Thinking. Not thinking about. A country of perhaps and might, of sudden and would, where all creatures have equal rights and nothing really exists but pre-constructions towards language.

Now, these word-juggling activities happen completely internally, struggling — or possibly floating freely — inside you. This modus operandi changes dramatically — albeit unnoticed — as a parallel process of exteriorisation gains momentum.

To communicate and verify the expression of a new language, you have to find a public.

Early on, I tested it reluctantly on people close to me but how could I make them understand this strange vocabulary ?

By pure persistence. Over and over, I confronted them with this alternate me. Establishing a sometimes absurd dialogue where my intrinsic honesty endangered any status quo.

The first hurdle ? Showing them that I was not a dangerous species, but rather endangered — alien nevertheless.

After a long period of conflicts and misplaced predisposition, they started to see some consistency in my try and errors. Once they noticed that, they relaxed and began to interpret the structures I proposed. I was happy to see the reactions growing, but I got frustrated as well, as I felt that these thin lines of coherence seamed to take an indefinite time to be understood. The interactions with my nearest and dearest allowed me to reflect upon how my immature sentences were being interpreted. Next, I could optimise my structures internally and externally — towards the output. Enhancing my language for readability and feedback.

Yes, the need to communicate is too strong to be contained. It wants to break free.

I created my first ‘public’ poems and tales, drawings and paintings, photo’s and video. Small, controllable output for a little — but possibly expanding — audience that enticed me, that pushed me further. Once they had tasted this world, they wanted more. Not that they liked it — or even that they disliked it — it only meant that someday they might — while wondering how big a vocabulary can get, how immense the world on offer.

People want to drown into somebody else’s fantasy. Everybody has a lust for escapism.

The need for communication grows stronger and stronger. Without your consent or knowledge, it plants the seeds of war in the garden of delights. It wants to conquer territory. It needs to. It even finds an ally in Nietzsche’s Wille zur Macht — while Friedrich is laughing beside his fireplace.

The values and opinions of the Umwelt are growing upon you. So many needs.

The outside world had seen these steps and whilst they started to understand what I was trying to express, they became stricter, harder, less forgiving. They would accept or reject communication — without the margin for error that they allowed earlier on.

They now implicitly demand a continued expansion of your language and they start to compare it to other languages, to other people’s worlds, to other people.

There is no way back. You have to perfect your stories — even before you communicate them. You have to tell them about your world — but with a maturing delay. You demand time to enhance your message to shear perfection. You have to try harder every time and you just can’t stop. The need to communicate will become a relentless obligation to communicate.

And when you hear the sirens’ song, you will observe that step by step all your attention will focus on a single point in infinity. You will find that you can’t resist.

Nobody can stop you walking towards the dangerous temptations of thoughts. You want to sail over the edge of the world. You need to.

Needs are powerful.

Ok, we’re halfway and we should go back to Morphologies and Interfaculties.

You just tasted how I experience the world. Now, let me share some tiny elements of that world with you.

I was born in 1980, in Belgium, in a small place that I forgot about. I have two brothers, one is older, the other is younger. My father is an engineer-architect. My mother gave her life for us. I followed maths and languages in high-school. At the university of arts I choose for the option of graphic design.

That was short …

However, I have to go deeper into that last part — the graphic design option. It has been a bit problematic for me. At that naive point in time it seemed ideal, but only later I found out that I had missed some forms of interaction in the —so called — free arts that I had to relearn. The faculty of graphic design at my school was really separated from the other faculties. Actually, all faculties were separated from each other — so that if at a certain moment I felt the need to do something that wasn’t part of the direction I had opted for, I wasn’t allowed to. This incomprehensible situation was in direct contrast with what I expected an art academy to be like. I thought that the arts would be generous. I thought this faculty would give me time and space to learn about myself, to find the nuances of my vocabulary, to experiment with my thoughts. I had hoped to fight with my need for communication.

How wrong could I be.

The Arts & Crafts and Bauhaus visions that inhabited my mind were no more. Cross-overs only existed as a fashionable idea — nothing serious.

I had to choose to become or a graphic designer, or an artist, or a researcher, or a typographer, or a writer, or a photographer, or …. A mix of these things seemed to be impossible. And even the suspect of longing for these multitudes made teachers and fellow students treat you like the plague. You had to think monolithically.

That’s exactly when I decided to stay a hybrid human being. I labeled that ‘creative’ — easily translated as ‘artist’. A simple word that could cover it all and even though it has been used and abused in so many ways — it would be allowed. It might even be understood — or at the very least garner the presumption of understanding. A word that in every period has had its obligations and mannerisms — especially now, in this result-driven tyranny — of more and more, faster and faster, harder and harder. Nietzsche tried to warn us, but we thought he was talking about another world — even another race. Also, this guy had been writing poetry - we all know you can’t take such people seriously, they don’t really believe in technology.

This creative / artist / poet / … can be given many names and probably the most precise definition, is the one that we will always forget — as we have no words to define the undefinable. It is hard to define something that doesn’t want to be defined, any definition will restrict instead of generate.

The artist as a creative being that strives to experience the essence of existence and express it. A generator of questions who touches upon invisible morphologies.

Morphologies are the very essence of my work.

‘Morphologies’ is also my personal platform for the exchange of thoughts. A real and virtual framework that I needed badly. A playground. A library of my own — with open doors. Communication before power.

I needed it, because the works I am making are besieged by a continuous conflict of definitions.

I am a programmer, a curator, a writer, a photographer, a designer, …

All fine, but first of all : I am a creative mind. A person. A human being.

Filled with thoughts. Thinking.

And I have this irresistible intense approach — that leaves me with nothing but myself. ‘The Man With No Name’, wandering through a desolate desert.

The faraway island of Morphologies allowed me to stay myself. It saved me. From what and who, I can’t really say. I just know. It still does. It also gave me the valuable asset of time and room — two key ingredients that enabled me to research my internal world and the Umwelt.

Everybody should find this freedom. Many aren’t even looking.

To allow for a public use of this a-methodological space, a few years ago I started ‘Interfaculty’ — together with Nico Dockx. A place for questions that could transform itself into anything, including a guerilla faculty for any university. Interfaculty stands for the non-space, that is left out by the definition of every other space. It is both intra and supra.

Once again, it is a need for communication.

It tries to question ways of communication, it wants to reply a question with a new question — maybe generating an answer. Searching for ways to allow architects, artists, craftsman, doctors, designers, scientists, … to communicate within and especially overlapping their specific fields. It is multidisciplinary and invisible. A platform for any kind of intense approach. For mathematicians and poets and composers alike.

A time for craziness.

Sickos. People that go all the way to develop a way of thinking — or relationship — that transcends the mere category society places them in. Glenn Gould is not a pianist but an artist, Einstein is not a mathematician but an artist, George Perec is not a poet but an artist and so on. The same goes for Joseph Beuys, our famous storyteller, or for the old example of Warhol. The books of Dieter Roth actually are works of art. Enzo Mari overpowers design. Mies von der Rohe is not just a designer. And so on and so fort.

They are all artists and they make a lot of art — that is, if you understand ‘artist’ in the way I described it earlier. These creative minds have been giving their life to communicate their personal interactions with existence — their essential worlds.

No, I’m not saying that design is art. Or the other way around. It isn’t. Some art isn’t even art - some science is.

But everything has the potential to be so.

Sometimes, the communication of thoughts closes this gap and the translation becomes art — when creativeness becomes a generator for thoughts and emotions.

Alive and vibrant questions of multi-faceted nature with incredible colours. Like sunset on the Nevada desert. Like sex. Like music. Like dying maybe. Or birth. If I could only remember.

Thousand lambs Brought before a hungry me Let them be slaughtered and eaten Or set them free No Let them vanish Within this Humpty Dumpty Fluffy — oh so cute — gorefest of thoughts Inside my mind Pure silver and gold Cocktails of power and joy

So, to show how a hybrid personality can exist of different worlds, i’ll briefly define some for you. A cat with a name might be easier to call.

Farthest from me, you have the works that I classify as ‘ordered designs’. I do only a few of them on a select basis in order to survive financially. These ‘ordered designs’ have no content that I really need. Form is supportive for the content here. This might sound like ‘the boring category’ but that’s far from reality. This category asks me to continually rethink and rephrase my proposals so that I can speak the language of the client and feel him or her. In a sense, they create room.

Then, ‘closer’ to me you have ‘collaborative designs’. This important group embraces all the output where I was relatively to extremely involved with the research towards both the content and the form. Content and form are equally supportive. Due to the extensive work and time — up to five years — that these designs require, I can only handle a few at a time.

Very close to me, you have ‘collaborative works’. Very important to me, these ‘collaborative works’ are related to my personal body of works — both in interpretation and form. They are part of the stories I want to tell. Here, the content is the collaboration, it can even come from somebody else — but I demand and take absolute freedom in time, space and form to give my view upon the content. It’s like a very personal translation. This is a real work.

And finally, there are simply ‘works’. This is the section that exists within me and towards I’m geared the most — it even starts to take over parts of the other three. Step by step I’m accepting my destiny.

Another need — Schicksal.

Questions ?

Jan Mast

Santiago de Compostela, España (01/12/2010)

Los Angeles, California, EEUU (05/02/2011)

Gante, Bélgica (10/04/2011)

Estás en:

Tales of needs (english)