Background Artist

17 July 2007

Days doing micro-editing on The Broken World – moving into the final phase with it. I love Word’s track changes function because it at least starts to show something of the layers and layers that a text has. Some of the sentences I am working on I must have written in their first form three years ago and they’ve been through endless variation, wholesale rewriting here, erasure, restoration, minute additions and subtractions. (See also my recent project for the Sheffield Pavilion in Venice – City Changes).

On the level I’m working at right now what’s interesting to me is that a lot of the work is so much refining (or pointless twiddling). I’m *supposed* to be tightening the structure in the middle of the book (which I am doing, honest) but at the same time I do get sucked into details. Waves of work in which I add words here and there, making it flow more easily, followed by days in which I decide this flow is too comfortable and I go thru removing the new stuff, even erasing words here and there from the original, cutting up the flow in places.

Another delight of this stage (or any stage) is the process of endlessly adding to or tweaking jokes. It’s amazing the amount of fun to be had just slightly changing the punch-line or pay-off of something, or adding a whole new clause to an already ridiculous sentence.


I get a sense doing this work, and again in writing the recent story for 1001 Nights Cast that somehow I trade majorly in comical irrelevance and apparent digression. Narrators/voices that are never really getting to the point, or who are straying from the point very often and as far as possible.  Also the totally irrelevant fact from the background pulled out as preposterous foreground. Makes me think (on a tangent) of that description of movie extras (or is it scenery painters?) – as ‘background artists’. Manipulation of background. As if foreground were (is in fact) only ever an excuse for what you are *really* doing, elsewhere.




Best graffiti of the week, an artfully dripped set of stencil capitals: YOU WANT IT SO BAD



Best sight of the week, so far: aeroplanes slowly criss-crossing the darkening sky above Central Park as we watched The Decemberists last night.