January 13, 2007

Danielle’s Words

As reported – not at all exclusively – by me earlier this week, Melbourne performance artist Danielle Freakley – aka the “Quote Generator” – has launched an endeavor of moot artistic, social, political, economic, cultural, material, linguistic, semantic, ethnological, or personal value.

Some days ago, Cube and I agreed, performance artists are a tad prone to the “LOOK AT ME” and “LISTEN TO ME” disease – which no medical scientist has taken the time and trouble to invent a specific name for, so in the interim, it has to settle for being some kind of derivative narcissistic disease with no name, thereby lacking a distinctive reference point in the index of the international psychiatric illness dictionary.

As if going out of her way to prove an artistic point, Daniell Freakley turned up right here on this very blog – IN PERSON – to be listened to and looked at.

So, without much further ado, and in her very own words, Daniell offers a more fulsome exposition of her project than I did (… I know, difficult to believe).

[Oh, okay, so some of you read this in the comments already? Just pretend like groundhog day – roll with it, there’s a competition, with no prizes, at the end. Which has already been won by Patrick.]

“G'day Bloggers,
This is Danielle Freakley, the Quote Generator.

There are rules to the project. which were not mentioned in the very short article printed the other day.

The website should be up soon with all of the relevant information so I apologise.

The project runs for an entirety of 3 years. It began in late October 2006. Each part of the project has a different phase and each phase runs for a separate time period. I have chosen three years because, that is the average amount of time to achieve a bachelor degree or to be toilet trained. I think it is an adequate amount of time to learn a language also.

[Note to would-be parents: fear not, it most certainly does not take three long years to toilet train any child - ed.]

The first phase (current) runs for a year and a half. I talk in quotes from popular culture, movies, books, plays, poetry, advertisements etc. Authors cannot be anyone I have known.

The second phase: I will talk in quotes from people I have spoke to in my life face to face e.g. family, friends, lecturers, employers etc.

The third phase: I will talk in quotes from things I have said in the past, taken from diaries, school essays, video and audio recordings of things I have said. Nothing in this phase can be quoted from the present; all quotes must be at least 1 month old.

I do not have to quote at home, in work situations, in writing, on the phone or with people I have spent over 100 hours with or in organisational situations e.g. asking for directions, or asking a specific question about my account at the bank. All other times I operate in quote.

I am treating quote generation project like learning a new language. I am still pretty shaky at it, but as time goes by, it becomes more natural.

The project is completely self-funded thus far. The URL is for the gallery, which held the Melbourne launch.

Hope this has cleared some things up.

As for the 'LOOK AT ME/LISTEN TO ME' syndrome comment. well, performance art does a bit of that, it's come with the craft or with anyone who uses themselves as a guinnie pig for their work. Some artists use paint as their medium, others use people, and people just happen to be my absolute favourite medium. It is not just me who performs in this project but the development and analysing of conversations formed by other participants and in turn quote generator adapting to function within that realm.

So yes there is an element of 'look at me' but at the same time, you should ask yourself the question 'what are you looking at?' Who am I to look at or listen to, I am a product of the books I read, the music I listen to and the people I choose to spend my time with. You must filter through these quotes and references from these areas to see a real personality, as you would filter through anybody's CD/mp3 collection, book collection, movie collection and links on their website to attempt to get a sense of them. The Quote Generator is not rendered as a whole person but a dissected sponge of information, influences and culture just as everyone is.

So I think it's less look at me, but more look at the people, the culture, the industries, who helped sculpt this person or any person. And to ask yourself how much of what you say is repetitive spiel, how often do you feel like you are in a B grade movie and how much original thought do you actually have and how much is regurgitated from your influences. Humans generally regurgitate, it's what we do, this project simply does it overtly, paying tribute to those who have gone before.

"I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye." Silence of the Lambs, 1991


If you have any questions or would like to submit a quote please contact me at: thequotegenerator@gmail.com
www.quotegenerator.com (coming soon)”

The domain name, "Quote Generator" is registered, but presently unoccupied.

Patrick (of BlueBerry Fool fame) offered up some of his own words (which are now, by some metamorphosis, actual quotes by Patrick, January 2007), with which I was in enthusiastic agreement. I quote, in part:

“critical and linguistic theorists have delved even more deeply into this, after all, what is language but quote, a signifier, a shared agreement of meaning? Adding a shiny patina of performance art and a soupcon more postmodernism (only a soupcon) though, I'm not sure if it's more interesting or valuable than a discussion of the theories themselves, some of which are very sophisticated and interesting indeed.”

If I may quote Patrick again:, verbatim: “Indeed” – or I could use my own word instead - “indeedy-do".

Yes there is much to become animated and impassioned about when one has the (rare) opportunity to discuss the theories.

I still recall the cartoon that one comm's lecturer was so tickled with, proudly displayed in his office (year after year); a simple picture of one person berating another, the speech bubble reading: Speak in semantics you fool.”

Patrick chivalrously took the time to offer Danielle three additions to her burgeoning quotations collection, only one of which, in the voting panel’s assessment, was prize winning:

"There's ALWAYS time for lubricant!"

Now that none of us can match that, I provide the following as a solid, multi-purpose, multi-disciplinary, get you through any sticky situation, all rounder, any context type of quote, from Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

“If you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. This sum may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it; but in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths, and dull razors.”

[Taken from an article in The Age, January 7, 2007, which was an edited version of an article from The Economist - no writter was attributed from either source.]

But I digress from serious artistic business.

Kenny jumped in with both feet, setting us all straight with the devastating precision of his intellectual and evidentiary based argument:

“If you don't think that has any artistic merit, you don't know what artistic merit is”.

Yeah - so there!

Furthermore, he remonstrated:

“This project does more than discuss those theories; it puts them into action.”
Except that it can readily be argued that we all put those theories into action, daily, minute by minute, from birth to grave - itself an arbitray allocation of a lifetime - if one wished to be pedantic about it, and right now, I choose to be such.

Kenny offers the empty flourish:

"It's the execution of that idea that counts."

That is, to live overtly in the way that semioticians "preach". [Preach? PREACH?]

"Riding on the seams of everyone elses [sic] underpants. She's living as an upturned sardonic emulation. I like it."

One unadulterated vote of support is all that art requires in order to call itself art. One hand up the back of the room is sufficient to support someone’s momentary lapse in judgment and refinement – or joy ride on the seams of someone’s underpants – turning it swiftly into their lifetime squandered, for want of a more worthy delusion.

Tim.T – who knows more than a thing or two about creativity, originality, and artistic matters, with musician, writer, and literary and cultural critic all legitimately credentialed to his name – was strangely resistant to the allure of Kenny’s compelling academic case.

“ … she's regurgitating the words of others for an arbitrary period of time. That's it. …don't kid yourself that it raises any new questions about how we are shaped by culture, whether it is possible to say 'new' things. There are far, far more intelligent ways of investigating the way in which quotes permeate the English language than just martyring yourself to a cause for a couple of years.

At any rate, our language may be influenced by quotes, but it's more than a little ridiculous to claim that that is all it is. A far more interesting approach than repeating the words and ideas of others would be to speak honestly in your own words about your own ideas. Hey, you might even say something original; at the very least, you might come up with an elegant way of articulating an old idea. After all, if all we were doing is quoting from previous generations, then language would never change, and we'd be saying exactly the same thing as the Elizabetheans. Egads, forsooth, zounds, bloomin' heck, and all that!"

As far back as the Beat generation, and probably before then, taking existing text and arbitrarily rearranging it was almost de rigueur. Contemporary music calls it “sampling”. Sure, Freakley is undertaking her task on a verbal basis – a rap artist of sorts? - but not going to any trouble of rearranging the material; the serious question being: is this a genuine recontexuatlisation of the original material, will it be replaced with new textual meaning? Or is it recitation and mimicry, devoid of even an artful dash? A string of perpetual clangers interrupting the rhythm and meaning of connections and communications, defeating rather than engendering meaning?

Phase two and three, in particular, conceptually, appear, at first blush, null and void. I often quote family and friends to others, and even my own tired old thoughts. This is common, pedestrian, everyone does it. And we even provide attribution and a chronological reference point. (Last week my Mum said ... a few years back at a friends wedding ... yesterday Jacob ... )

Perhaps, in time, when the web site morphs into existence, we’ll be able to divine some answers, or glean some understanding of why this 3 year exercise will, apparently, be turned into a tax payer funded PhD of another 3 to 6 years.

We will watch progress with interest.


  1. Anonymous10:55 PM

    Just got back Caz..
    Have posted a message to you on Duck Friday post... Thought it was appropriate. Heh Heh!

  2. Gadzooks, I've been immortalised in quote form!!

    I'm glad we're in agreement; I thought Kenny's defense was piss-weak, and not super-strong early morning piss, either.

    I'm yet to think of a way this project is in any way different from the regular and random quoting we all engage with regularly.

    Still it was cool of her to show up, and bring Kenny along too.

    I wonder about the PhD prospects of this experiment, given that Freakely didn't really mention any of the critical theorists who preceded her by about fifty years. On the bright side, it makes the topics I fantasise about basing a PhD around at some undefined point should I ever get sick of real life look _Way_ more sensible...

  3. While very early days yet, it’s difficult to identify the theoretical framework/s, and even if we knew, what depth of understanding or insights this exercise would uncover that haven’t already been illuminated by many great, lucid and erudite minds. It would need to be something quite extraordinary to warrant a PhD thesis.

    Keep toying with yours Patrick (topics that is). I imagine you have a great number of excellent ideas for a thesis. There are millions of worthwhile topics; half the genius is in uncovering them, while the other half is knowing what to do with them.

  4. "He wrapped himself in quotations--as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of emperors"--Kipling

    "Have you tried Kipling?"

    "Oh, I've kippled a bit"--no idea, but I read it somewhere.

  5. The world would be a much finer place if we all had opportunity to kipple more often.

  6. Anonymous10:41 PM

    Oi prefer a tipple meself!

  7. Anonymous12:37 AM