February 10th, 2007


Masters and McMice

So here's Curly Carl at the Anonymous Drawings opening in Prenzlauer Berg with Suzy and Hisae. Here's Curly eating dinner at White Trash Fast Food before taking the stage for his performance, in a Polish Working Men's Club on Torstrasse, at the Kleine Field Recordings Festival. Hear Curl Carl's holiday sound recordings of his Japan trips, some of them accompanied by video! See Curly squatting in a chair grinning, his iBook screen twirled round to face the audience, and a silly introduction that goes "I don't want to talk about music, I want to talk about hair. This is a wig, not my real hair. But I have real ears, and I can really hear. Who needs real hair when you can really hear? Maybe the world is like a big bald head, and each real hair is something you really hear, rooted in a place and a time"! And, to illustrate, see Curly play the random, shaky video that accompanies each of his collected sounds!

The Anonymous Drawings idea is interesting. It strips away identity and foxes the usual laws of the market. Each drawing is €100, whether it's by a professional artist or an amateur. You may be paying way too much, or way too little. It's a gamble. And when the individual identity of the artist is hidden, what remains is a collective claim on the descriptor "artist" itself.

Curly Carl is an artist, a poof, a dilettante. He's just one aspect of me. He goes to art openings and dabbles at Berlin fringe sound events. He comes with the wig. Momus wearing a wig is a fake Momus, but Curly Carl wearing Momus is really himself. This makes me think of the theme of fakeness and anonymity as enablers -- a kind of license you give yourself in order to become a person you're not, but whose life would fulfill you so much more than your own, with all its limitations and inhibitions. This is very important -- becoming a new character so that you can fulfill the needs and desires of the character you already are.

It makes me think of Masters and McMice, two personae created for an experiment psychologist Liam Hudson describes in his book Frames of Mind. Here's how I described it in my Wired News article The Problem with Brainstorming:

"In his 1968 book Frames of Mind the humanist psychologist Liam Hudson looked at British schoolboys, concentrating on whether they were convergers or divergers -- his terms for two different thinking styles, characterized respectively by convergence toward "one right answer" on the one hand and a kind of riffing, improvisational style on the other. Hudson thought convergers tended to head toward the sciences and divergers toward the arts. But he wasn't sure if these differences were innate, or came with the job. So he asked his subjects to role-play two characters, a mad and shocking artist called McMice and a controlled, conventional scientist called Masters. He found that these masks, or avatars, could change the boys' characters completely. Playing McMice, the convergent science types could produce material every bit as shocking, original and even obscene as their divergent arts counterparts."

Living in Berlin as Curly Carl, I feel frisky and free. I never quite know when I'm going to become him, but I like it when I do. And this town deals with eccentricity and self-awarded license well. Tonight I'm off to see some drag queens perform a cabaret. Not sure whether I'll go as Nick, or Momus, or Curly. But I know we'll probably agree, those trannies and I, with Oscar Wilde: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."