Jan Svenungsson


January 22, 2019 – "Brave & New"
How to make art that matters politically? Today, right now? How do you position yourself in relation to the power, when the power is busy breaking rules? By breaking the rest of the rules? I read an interesting article comparing "1984" to "Brave New World", which notes that:

Orwell did create some technological innovations for his future world, but in essence his Nineteen Eighty-Four is a deep look into the of already existing totalitarian societies.


Huxley’s dystopia was the other sort of speculative fiction from Orwell’s: not a deep burrowing into the present, but a projection of existing trends into the future. He genuinely was trying to think about what the future would be, if things carried on in the direction they were headed. He was well placed to see trend lines in many of the sciences and made good guesses about where they were going. As a result, we can make a strong claim that it is he, and not Orwell, who did a better job of predicting modern life in the developed world.

Is this an example to follow? Is it possible? Do I want to?

January 20, 2019 – "Pleasure"
What is pleasure? It can be many things, of course, but right now while waiting in an airport and reading an interesting but complicated text, I entered a state of mind where suddenly you do lots of cross connections between thoughts. Where they stop being repetitive and shackled and instead start jumping around – hitting targets. I keep interrupting my reading to make note after note about the different issues brought up. And I think: this is how it should be, this is how you can move forward. This state of mind is what I am always after, when I'm alone and at work, but it keeps getting harder to reach. A main reason being never ending to-do lists which are so effective at limiting one's scope for cross-disciplinary thinking.

January 16, 2019 – "Slow-motion"
This morning, all media full of Theresa May's historic loss in the British parliament. The Brexit plan her government has negociated with the EU was thouroughly rejected. It was expected, of course, but nevertheless it is one more dramatic step towards catastrophic national self-mutilation. Or not, if indeed this was a necessary step on the road towards a second referendum. Nobody knows which. It's like watching an on-going car crash in slow motion.

I don't remember having had quite the same experience of watching a society taking one step wrong after another – while it is going on, instead of reading about it after the fact. Worse would be living in that society, but it is a faint comfort, because we are all interconnected. And... it is not just one place performing this dance.

I believe the background for this dysfunction is everyone's accelerating fixation on their own feelings in their own bubble. Social media's feedback loop for the individual, and delusions of manipulative grandeur for politicans. The result is fragmentation and falling apart. We need to change these mechanisms. Together.

January 11, 2019 – "Late start"
I thought I'd start with a passage about listening to Beethoven and thinking about creating, from the book I'm reading right now: Assymetry by Lisa Halliday. I then found the quote too romantic and decided not to.

I don't know where to start the new year. I'm looking for a shape to follow. There is so much going on, so many complex problems to access. So much trying to decide where one's own responsibility is centred. No clean solutions.

I do listen to music and I do create. I also think a lot about what it is I listen too and what role it plays. And yes, I do have so many questions about what it means to create in the present situation – and how –  and where the creation should be positioned.