One of my favourite artists is the land artist and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

There are plenty of descriptions of his art, as well as images, to be found online: what always strikes me about his art can generally be put into two categories:

  1. How ephemeral the work is. It doesn’t hang in a gallery, or stand (with an accompanying sign) in a public park. It challenges the age-old cliche of whether something really exists if there is none there to see it. Well, for someone to have created it the answer must be yes, and even when the elements are back in the seeming randomness of their environment, a shadow remains.
  2. How precisely formed the work is. Out of all the stones in the field, or twigs in the hedge, what emerges is a well-ordered and shapely mass that has a meaning. It makes me think of writing, or painting: a honed, polished structure within a jumble of words or colours that has been given meaning, context.

The film produced about some of his creations and the creative process is also worth seeing: I watch it in quiet moments when I enjoy seeing the sculptures melt back into nature, having nevertheless left behind and imprint.

Hoarding words

Struck by a Start the Week podcast on writing and epic stories, the comment that left me most satisfied was the phrase during the discussion relating to how writers hoard words, how they keep lists of verbs, and (as I interpret it) how they use these as a treasure store and inspiration to seed the growth of longer collages and stories.

Single words often have powerful connotations, especially the verbs, and it is fascinating to see how they spawn actions of their own in writers and during the process of writing.

Big data (2)

In this Analysis podcast, several themes come up relating to media and big data, data, privacy, secrets, and who controls and distributes each of these (government, media, individuals).

The interesting comment is that in the 20th Century framework, ideas, philosophies, and causes were promoted by groups which nucleated around an idea (political parties, unions, etc.) and derived their main strength from “strength in numbers” and could thus influence policy or decision-making generally. Today, things appear to have become more granular: it is possible for an individual to make waves without the backing of a party, and ideology has thus reached a much higher level of granularity than before, highly dependent on the individual.

The government has reason to fear the individual, just as the individual has reason to fear the state.

Big data (1)

Bringing together several strands of thought (society, geography, technology, behaviour) the following BBC Radio 4 podcast on The Bottom Line provoked some thinking on how changes in monitoring and networking (in many different contexts, mainly digital) are affecting how we behave.

The most fascinating part, it would seem, is the effect on behaviour. This has an impact on both the individual and society: each individual modified their behaviour (slightly (due to monitoring of some vital sign, for example), and by changes in aggregate behaviour one can observe changes in societal behaviour and modes. There are counter-balancing trends as we yield to a networked digital world, with demarcations and fences, as well as benefits of large datasets.