embarrassment and ‘taste’

plateWhen I put this black plate out (on the right, you may need to click ‘show images’ in some email programs), ready for Dulwich Festival (open again tomorrow, in case you’re nearby), I suddenly noticed something. A spelling mistake. I wrote ‘te’ instead of ‘the’.
 
The quote is from Edward Thomas:

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

 
This is embarrassing. A design flaw, a technical fault, even bad execution, I can live with, sell off as a second. But this plate will never leave the studio, too embarrassing if someone thought I couldn’t spell the word the.
 
Embarrassment is often mixed up with taste. Taste, more than fashion, I think, although they are related. Like showing your bra strap – OK after Madonna. As part of my interest in culture and digital, I’m currently doing an online course: Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative. The ‘online games’ part – perhaps already a bit embarrassing in intellectual circles. One of the main texts is Lord of the Rings, as it’s available as book, film, and multi-player game. Also often a ‘guilty pleasure’, not considered perhaps the height of great literature. Especially as a game. So perhaps, in bad taste? Embarrassing?
 
I’ve noticed myself talking up the other texts being studied – Browning’s Childe Roland, Keats’ La Bella Dame sans merci, Spencer’s Faerie Queen soon. Yes, proper literature. But one of the pleasure of the course is watching the videos of course discussions where gamers in flannel shirts (one guy has a pony tail) talk theory about agency and formal devices, clearly both clever and knowledgeable. They are able to talk with heart about the low-brow, then apply high-brow analysis to the same content. I’m interested: what do you admit to as guilty pleasures? Where do you draw the line? Where do you say – ‘no, it is really good?’ My own caveat is always, like here, ‘it’s an interesting cultural phenomenon I feel I should know about.’ Not Angry Birds though. Bored me.
 
Jane Millar Jane Millar detailOne reason to do these online courses is for stimulation: there’s a myth that artists in groups talk art to each other all the time. Usually we are all shut up in our spaces, working away at manual labour. With the Dulwich Festival, I managed to get to artist Jane Millar‘s studio, in West Norwood. Click on this link for some images of her work. I took some terrible pictures, trying to capture the wonderfully surprising textures, often made with beads, always 3-D. I had no idea. I realised that I have ‘read’ the images online as flat, because I expected them to be paintings.
 
The Dulwich Festival Artist’s Open House was great. They really organise it well – 18,000 booklets distributed this year! The booklet is also available as a downloadable file. Lots of pictures. I’m open again this weekend, in case you missed it last weekend. And many thanks to all who came.

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6 responses to “embarrassment and ‘taste’

  1. Hmm, guilty pleasures. Well, probably reading children’s books. I used to love discovering and reading books that I’d never read as a child (such as Tove Janson’s Moomin classics) to my own kids. Now that boys have grown up (and are much more interested in the kind of games you mention above) I have to read them on my own – silently, without moving my lips. 😉

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    • Hey, Scrap, nice to see you. Apparently, it was a Bishop, Ambrose (338-397, Bishop of Milan) who was the first person in Europe who could read without moving his lips, according to St Augustine of Hippo (ie not the Augustine who was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, the other one). Sounds a bit apocryphal to me – a QI buzzer question..

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  2. Carys, sorry not to make it to your open studio, the work looks great, wish I could come. Personally I like your spelling of ‘the’. If I’d seen it I would have assumed it was in some rural dialect or old English perhaps. But that’s just me being embarrassing!

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