What’s the point of art? Part 2

Culture provides us with the psycho-biological advantage of greater adaptability.


All human cultures tend towards cultural slowdown and comfortableness. Art is a form of rebellion against this; a necessary antagonism against mainstream cultural mores to ensure our survival when the circumstances change.

Hood explains cultural mores can become the crab’s rigid shell, preventing us from growing and changing as a species. A crab needs to split its hard shell and expose a soft new shell capable of allowing new growth.

And so artists feel fragile and unworthy and unnecessary precisely because that’s their role in society, to be vulnerable and expose human nature at the forefront of uncertainty and soft shells!

Hood says fine artists (whose primary work is to affect the mind or spirit rather than fulfil a function) do two things: “crack the shell of cultural rigidity” and “restore adaptability to changing circumstance on which life depends”.

This means thinking outside the shell; imagining ideas and solutions and stories that are not there because they are beyond the current environment and constraints. And we constantly need more as the environment is changed by new ideas and resources. It’s a constant cycle of creative inspiration – right?

“Creating the new shell, art and science function as the growth point of culture,” he says.

Art must challenge our daily life to allow our minds to imagine new things, as a matter of survival, so we are prepared for change.


So, the point of art here?

–          Advancement for advancement’s sake and creative survival.

–          Greater adaptability to different environments

–          To provoke new thoughts and new ideas and freedom from circumstances

Is this answer good enough for you? Comment now!

Shappi Khorsandi = captivating comedy

When Top Secret Comedy Club unveiled Shappi Khorsandi as the headline act, I spontaneously ran to Covent Garden on Sunday. Here’s my spontaneous review of the entire night…

Shappi Khorsandi at Top Secret Comedy

Shappi Khorsandi at Top Secret Comedy


The star I’ve admired ever since my friend and I scoured all available YouTube videos of her. And she’s back! She’s as lovely as ever… with stumbles and stutters and cute moments where she is unsure of herself.

She draws attention to her baby brain – she’s a new mum, 6 weeks – and how it’s like being stoned; appropriate for the Latitude Festival the day before. This sets the tone for her signature rolling of her eyes at herself as she jumbles words and noises mid-sentence. She’s absolutely right in her observations, particularly about the lack of talking on the Tube.

Her natural presence and intimate tales of her mid-life crisis the year before are hugely entertaining. She is  captivating to watch on stage, particularly the part where she ran off in her own world on a rant about a 5 year old who picked on her son and the kind of man he’ll grow up to be. The onslaught was stopped in a pause, she breathes, and the beautiful insight into her bitterness and mind is overcome with:

“Shappi, what are you doing? You’re on stage calling a 5 year old a dickhead.”

“And… I’m back in the room.”

This bitterness towards men is perhaps understandable, as her anecdotes about the opposite sex continue and the audience warms to her mid-life crisis. I mean, who would mistreat SHAPPI KHORSANDI? Her vulnerability and sweetness, particularly when she said she’d go out with anyone and she went out with a girl last year, endeared her to me. How can anyone not love her?

She often said she lost confidence mid-rant and mid-sentence, and her self-awareness and corrections to her internal monologue were beautiful to watch. It was too hot to think anyway. She did ask us if something was ironic when we had already got the irony, but otherwise, she was completely on form with great perceptive observations. If she did lose confidence, she will get it back – she’s on form and if this is her comeback, I can’t wait for her next tour with plentiful material from the last year.

See her work in progress 12-17 August at Soho Theatre!

And here’s who else was on:

Host Josephine Lacey was loud and proud, harsh and strong, scathing and Jamaican-Irish, and had the audience whipped. I believe she struck fear into the guy at the front who called her ugly with fierce Jamaican wrath. She’s sexy and sassy with sweet, softer tones. She’s a formidable woman.

Niko Yearwood

Niko Yearwood

Nico Yearwood ran through a classic three-act set with well-developed, well-written concepts that were seamlessly connected. His rant about phones was brilliant and plenty told him so after the show, complete with his great Dr Dre song re-make. He flew from dating to sex to Facebook to art and his stories were all relatable and all funny. I remember his face and he’s impressively improved within a few months.

Lynn Ruth Miller, self-aware and crude ‘granny’, gave us a preview of her Edinburgh Show Grannies Gone Wild. Her initial, very funny one-liners gave way to cruder and cruder, and unrelenting, jokes about mistaken definitions of rude words. She’s very American, very adorable, and plays on our expectations of sweet elderly ladies – but she could tone it down a little. Says a 25-year-old to a 78-year-old. Blimey.

Jason Patterson … Which isn’t a very ‘black’ name.

Clever word play and suspense in story-telling with two amazing stories in particular that were amazing – starring an original, beautiful and articulate commentary on immigration through the character of his eccentric and lovely Nan. His Michael Jackson vs. Prince rivalry skit might be out of date but it was a great ending to excellent stories.

Joey Page: Imagination suits him

Joey Page at Top Secret Comedy Club

Joey Page at Top Secret Comedy Club


Whether it was the heat or nerves or the lack of audience goodwill, Joey Page’s usual whimsical and playful energy was a little subdued last night at his Edinburgh show preview at Top Secret Comedy Club. But then, he did decide to wear a suit to ensure he sweated more for us, to show his gratitude to us for choosing him in a dark basement comedy club over spending the beautiful Sunday outdoors.

His PowerPoint presentation of ‘Things I Haven’t Seen This Week’ – an old school slideshow of handheld childish drawings – acted as an introduction to the UK’s first ‘unobservational comedy’. The unpolished preview wasn’t up to scratch but he was full of charm, as his tales leapt within 60 seconds from Tesco pizza to Eric Cantona to a girl coming out of the shower to a punchline that needs work.

He explains a conflict between his head and his imagination (with an office just how he imagined it) and a dinosaur that’s a metaphor for his comedy. It’s random and funny and silly – and I love it. He starts with a joke that his head wrote and then develops a wildly imaginative story to back it up for greater laughs – but his awareness of the audience’s slowness is endearing when he chastises himself with a “too cocky, rein it in”. His story about the lengths he will go to appear charitable in front of chuggers is a fast-paced treat.

But then, it is hard work. He sweated and struggled valiantly to win over an audience who didn’t, at first, appreciate his mental leaps and bounds. His story about a burglar flopped; “unobservational comedy is hard, as you can see from that joke that just died” he admits, lying on the floor in the expectant wake of no reaction. Perhaps the audience was just too hot and tired to think. Is a review of a live performance really a review of the audience?!

He is quick witted and quick to smile and when bar staff dropped a glass he said, instantly, after some badly pronounced French: “Yep. They smash a glass every time I get my French right.”

Research on the comparisons to Noel Fielding took me on a 25 minute digression to watch an episode of the Mighty Boosh. Joey Page is better than that. I don’t see that influence as much as a Pixie Fairy Tale hipster character who writes fantastic jokes – some of them real, but most of them are imaginative leaps and bounds and he proves himself a fictional adventurer.

He leads up to his quiz show which is really, really good. Answers are unknown and picked from the hat of destiny; the questions are perfectly timed, clever jokes. But don’t lose the quiz show, Edinburgh, or he’ll eat his Caramac!


Edinburgh Festival, Comedy: 31 July – 26 August, Pleasance Courtyard, The Cellar 8:30pm – book tickets up to £9

What’s the point of art? Part 1

The assumption behind the question “what’s the point of art?” is often utilitarian. There is no inherent worth of art so it must do something to justify itself. While the philosophy itself has its flaws – is everything a means to an end, always? – we must tackle the question on those terms.

And I have found a good answer from visual artist David Watson Hood’s lecture in 1998.

He says artistic and scientific creativity both “evolve descriptions of the world that are more enabling than pre-existing interpretations”.

What does that mean? Art simply enables us to describe the world – is that all? The descriptions are all so different and contradicting and confusing. It is no dictionary definition of the world, no objective verification of real life. If we use art as a tool to discover truth – of the world or, more likely, ourselves – then we end up here:

“How many geniuses have wasted their potential because they chose to search for truth via art (a completely forlorn hope, by the way) rather than via science, the most reliable way to truth (though nowhere near 100% reliable)? Frankly, I feel that the time I spent on art (reading about it, experiencing it, even trying to do it) in my youth was misspent).” – from a forum on the sciences.

This questions the point of the entirety of human culture. Animals use violence and/or sex to order and make sense of their worlds and while our closer relatives may use rudimentary tools, we are the only animals to have a complex conceptual or material culture.

So if animals do not need one, the question is how has it benefited us as a species?

The psycho-biological explanation

We need advancements in material or conceptual culture because it provides for our desire for comfort and security. Whenever we gain power over resources – through ideas, understanding and abilities – it appeases our insecurities; but it is brief.

We quickly become accustomed to increases in our power over our environment and we need continual advancement to cope better with the changes and developments around us. In addition, our own advancements change the environment and present new challenges.

And so culture provides us with the advantage of greater adaptability. It explains where there are so many of us (and growing!) all over the Earth.

But do we need it?

…More next week!!

A racy super pen


What a joy to drive – I mean, write with – this red-blooded supercar… pen.

ferrari pen


This Ferrari 500 pen will make people turn their heads and bump into things.

But the delight is in the writing.

The emblazoned clip with prancing horse emblem is heavy enough to weigh down one side and my words are possibly streamlined for it. It’s a smooth, even ink flow and a heavy, solid pen. The case is bold red, black velvet inside, and is a perfect gift for a special achievement or occasion.

Or… just keep it for yourself to sign the cheque when you buy your Ferrari 458 ;)


Poem: Triple Dip

Triple Dip

A writer’s tale of the recessions


At the first dip my editor wanted me to move faster. With no time to love or study, I flew across the world in a hurry. But my work life flashed before my eyes when I was first at the scene of a crime. I saw the truck drive too fast and life cut too short and I ripped up my notebook of futility and thought. I felt too much to be objective about a homicide’s inflective.


At the second dip my editor wanted me to stay down. I wrote alone in a darkened room and withered away. I analysed obscurities and lost my spontaneity. I choked down cheap rum to mellow my protests as I pursued a career in a mess. I kept in line but eventually cracked at the limit of wasted time.


By the third dip, I wasn’t sure I needed my editor anymore.

I said my life is in progress and needs a first draft. Your edits to my freedom now seem rather daft. I keep my mistakes and my quirks and the pain that still lurks when I doubted I’d make it today. You want to digress but I define my own success and now I understand me. I had to kill the editor before the editor killed what I could be.


Life and work mooshed together in code.
Performed at Forget What You Heard (about spoken word).

Arts Council bans unpaid intern ads!


The Arts Council England has posted a public warning to employers recruiting unpaid interns via their jobs website http://www.artsjobs.org.uk. The announcement, featured prominently on the home page and every page, reads:

Unpaid opportunities

We recognise that there is great value in people having access to proper work experience, where it is offered and arranged properly and is a mutually beneficial arrangement, but that this should never be used as a way of attempting to circumvent national minimum wage regulations. Please ensure that your posts are compliant with our terms and conditions. We reserve the right to remove any posts without further notice to you which, in our reasonable judgment, do not comply with the terms and conditions.

Internships in the arts

Arts Council and Creative & Cultural Skills have published these guidelines to help clarify the legal obligations of arts organisations offering internships. Please note that we will not accept postings on Arts Jobs for unpaid internships unless they are part of a recognised further or higher education course.

The Arts Council has also published guidelines to clarify the legal obligations of arts organisations offering internships here.

Tanya de Grunwald is tireless and inspiring. She wrote the useful and brilliant books How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession and Dude, Where’s My Career?: The Guide for Baffled Graduates (recommended!). She has written on the subject in national newspapers and magazines and she inspired me from the beginning of my own bewilderment just out of University in the recession.

Graduate Fog has campaigned against unpaid graduate internships and the site is an awesome source of graduate careers advice – particularly in the arts and media, the two worst offenders when it comes to exploitation of keen, young graduates.

The Arts Council announcement and guidelines are fantastic news!

Arts Council England’s executive director Moira Sinclair said to Graduate Fog:

“The arts in England can only benefit from a wide range of ideas and voices in both artistic and leadership roles. If we don’t create fairer entry routes into the arts workforce we risk closing the door on a new generation of talented leaders from a range of backgrounds, and the arts will suffer.

“That’s why the Arts Council published Internships in the Arts last year, which we hope will help arts organisations offer high quality, paid internship opportunities that don’t put them at risk of legal action. These guidelines reflect the law, rather than create new rules or regulations, and while the Arts Council has no legal authority to find an employer in breach of the law we would encourage all arts organisations to take note of their responsibilities.

“We are working hard to ensure that employment opportunities in the arts are open to all and to build a diverse, highly skilled arts workforce which is why we have also established the Creative Employment Programme.”

Use this job search on Graduate Fog to filter out unpaid graduate positions!

On being lonely

I want to write but I don’t want to be lonely. I get lonely.


When I have poured myself out onto the page or work in isolation, I look up in a haze for interaction to fill up.


Some writers like that. And I feel worse about it then. Like, I’m meant to like it.


Writers write to connect with people but the actual process of writing involves aloneness.




It might be my situation that is lonely and writing doesn’t help (although it does, once I do it – but afterwards, not so much).


Yes, real art and real writing is about real life and real pain and it’s brave and embarrassing and that is how I resonate and connect with you. And sometimes it’s braver to point out what’s good in a cynical world.


But on the other hand…




A book written badly can be enjoyed by millions of readers. That’s connection, with the book, and with the other readers between themselves. Nice words don’t matter if you don’t have a story, a journey for the reader to experience, and you need to think about that before you write. You have to reveal it slowly if at all and seduce the reader to think and feel. Good writing is not even words. It’s thinking. Alone.


Losing a very social and great job at the same time as moving house are the two most stressful things in the world by objective standards. They were the most overwhelming and isolating things when I experienced them. And at that time, my partner preferred alone time while alone time for me was painful.


I looked up loneliness and I learned something. With self-awareness, it is a closeness to yourself and a distance from others.


I wonder if that’s true for work.

I love it at times and hate it at others. I’m a bipolar writer?


At the end of the day, when I haven’t made ends meet, I conclude I have nothing to show for my work and achievements pale in comparison to others. I forget why people read and why people write and then I don’t understand what I do.


That’s probably a sign. Often, people feel lonely when they put others first and they come second. Maybe that goes for my work too. When it feels bad, I need to put myself first and my work second.


I’m going for a walk.