Brian Eno in Art Students Observed?

by Art Fag City on February 20, 2009 · 1 comment Blurb

Momus speculates a student named Brian in Art Students Observed, a book by Charles Madge and Barbara Weinberger providing a sociological study of art students at two British art schools in the late sixties is actually Brian Eno.  Given the excerpts the blogger provides, the evidence certainly points that way.  Either way though, it’s more interesting to read the story as if it was.  A few excerpts from the Momus excerpts below.

Tutors’ reports, 1968-69

Brian works hard and I believe he is seriously committed to his type of work, ie electronics. However he is adolescent in many of his attitudes and displays a smugness bordering on obdurate philistinism when it comes to dealing with areas outside his immediate province. He will have to grow up before he will be able to use his expertise towards art rather than be a small-time boffin. (Gibson)

Gives the appearance of knowing what he is doing. He may very well know what he is doing. He is certainly capable of working out precise technical data, and his awareness of his “objects” in this sense is good. What I wonder about is his general awareness of how his work relates to “Art”. I get the impression sometimes that he is inclined to take up an “avant-garde” posture. In terms of describing what his work is technically, he is very good, but I am not sure how he means it! A little inclined to “strut”. An interesting student. (Coutts)

From the observers’ notebooks:

February 14th, 1968. Brian is working upstairs in the staff studio because he needs a white wall. He has made some electronic equipment which operates so that the wall changes colour as you move towards it. He told me that painting is his hobby — he does it at home! I asked what sort of painting. He said the sort of thing you see in Boots reproductions, mostly meticulous drawings of cars and machinery which he does because he enjoys it and not with any sort of irony. A couple of weeks ago he did a drawing of the sun, taken from Hokusai. Watson told him it was rubbish. Stone told him to go and do some life-drawing, which he took as a very critical remark, so he decided to keep this type of work as something that he does at home.

November 28th, 1968. Brian gave his history of art talk. He said his work was a visual representation of his thoughts on cybernetics. He took the class into the lecture hall, turned off all the lights and played some records. Asked why he had presented the lecture in this form, he said it would have taken him at least three hours to explain his ideas on cybernetics, even supposing the others could understand it, but that the performance was a failure because he had not announced that it was about cybernetics and therefore people had not been thinking about them. (He seems rather arrogant in his assumption that no one can understand what he is concerned with — he takes his ideas very seriously.) Abbot (in charge of history of art) took the event seriously at its face value and asked questions about its meaning and purpose which Brian was not prepared to answer. She agreed that Brian had learnt something from the feedback (or lack of it) from the event, and that it would be valuable if he did give his three-hour lecture on cybernetics next term, perhaps to the whole school.

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