Seduced to Surrender: Brian Eno’s Illustrated Talk

by Jenna Shummoogum · 1 comment

What is art? Brian Eno’s illustrated talk covered many things, but it mostly attempted to provide the tools to answer this one question. Eno asserts that to have that discussion we have to create a public language. We have to answer that question to move forward. He argues that playing when we were children is art when we are adults.

“Art is everything that we don’t have to do,” Eno explains. “We have to walk, but we don’t have to dance. We have to wear clothes, but it doesn’t have to be Chanel or Dior, we have to communicate but it doesn’t have to be in poetry.”

Eno tried to demonstrate, using diagrams drawn on the fly, that everyone is striving to create a balance between control and surrender in life. Sex, religion, drugs and art in particular, allow for surrender. In order to achieve this state of surrender, one must slow down.

Eno expressed a fondness for slow. For taking the time to revel, experience the process, whatever that process may be. It may be the act of overlaying one sequence of music over the other, or one colour over the other, surrendering to the process of enjoying art for what it is. This is his pursuit in his installation 77 Million Paintings at the Glenbow Museum, to seduce the viewer into a state of surrender.

Towards the end of the illustrated talk Eno showed the audience a copy of Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White. It’s a painting of a white square on a beige background. Eno explained that without the context and history behind this radical work, the piece would not impress you. Brian Eno’s work is much like that, and his illustrated talk was a 2 and a half hour snapshot, a glimpse at what got him to this point. Easier to understand if you had all the background information.

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