In following the wonderful women at Apiece Apart on Instagram, I became aware of the concept of "Oblique Strategies" as a jumping off point for their latest collection. Although I was intrigued by the term, I didn't know the provenance, and for some reason didn't delve deeper until last night, when I saw Brian Eno as a talking head on a David Bowie documentary. Eno helped Bowie during the creation of his Berlin albums, the most famous instance when the Oblique Strategies came into play.
The intention behind creating Oblique Strategies in 1975 was to encourage lateral thinking via aphorisms that could help artists break through blocks.
I don't have a copy of the Strategies, but some examples that stand out to me:
Work at a different speed.
What would your closest friend do?
Use an old idea.
Ask your body.
I love the idea of lateral thinking. A big reason for starting A Likely Pair is help me catalogue connections that I see between ideas or things that are not formally related, but share some root spirit.
The tone and intent of Oblique Strategies immediately made me think of Jenny Holzer's Truisms - a product of a similar time. Holzer began her work on her first public artwork, the Truisms, in 1978. Although the Truisms operate less on the level of a tool for artists (although I'm sure many artists have certain of these seared into their brains), and more as a provocation designed around lessons for living, I love the idea of commandments which generate action or discussion, rather than prohibit it. A few which jump out at me from among these:
CALM IS MORE CONDUCTIVE TO CREATIVITY THAN IS ANXIETY IF YOU HAVE MANY DESIRES YOUR LIFE WILL BE INTERESTING LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL THE ONLY WAY TO BE PURE IS TO STAY BY YOURSELF LISTEN WHEN YOUR BODY TALKS
And I do love, of course, as you may have noticed, the exhortation to listen to your body. Something it's easy to hear but not easy to do - generally for me at least, dialogue with your body requires getting up off our chair and engaging in some form of movement.