The Insidious Design

Last night, if you wandered off K’Rd and on to Mercury Lane, you would have found a house/theatre playing host to “Ninety Seconds”, a collection of ninety-second long works by various artists, curated by Jessie McCall and Zahra Killeen-Chance.

Ninety Second Numbers

If you had sat in the audience, then about halfway through the proceedings, you would have seen me step on stage and perform “The Insidious Design”. Given that none of you did, however, you can enjoy the next best thing (or just close this page immediately to simulate non-attendance) and watch a recording of the performance now:

Yes, that’s me gesticulating at the slideshow whilst silently mouthing my stream of consciousness.

That was the insidious design.

“The Insidious Design” was an idea that my partner in crime, #apefail, and me came up with over coffee and cake about three weeks ago.

“I’m good at saying stuff that sounds intelligent but is probably gibberish”, I said, honestly and openly to the patrons around me (some of whom must surely work for the Pork Board and thus will be engaging in surveillance upon persons like #apefail and me’self).

“And I’m a qualified sound engineer”, said #apefail.

With that, it was settled; we would combine our talents and present a faux lecture, with materials somewhat cribbed from a project we failed to get off the ground several years, a collection of Spam Beat poems, and the images largely cribbed from Wikimedia.

The result was this:

“The Insidious Design” has no intended meaning; the images were randomly selected and the decision to shift or zoom in on some of the materials was based entirely upon needing to ensure the slideshow lasted for ninety seconds. The audio design was similarly chaotic. #apefail recorded about fifteen minutes of me reading out spam, which she then edited into ninety seconds of layered sound, developed entirely independently from the slideshow. Indeed, #apefail only got to see how her soundtrack meshed with the images the night before we performed, and no tinkering was undertaken after that first melding of sound and vision.

Yet.

It’s possibly to see the connections between the sound and the images, even though there was no intent to link one to the other. #apefail and me thought of “The Insidious Design” as a humorous piece precisely because there would be a series of accidental confluences of certain phrases with particular images. Our audience last night seemed to treat “The Insidious Design” as a serious work, laughing only at the line about conservatives.

That’s fine and good, though; we can hardly complain about the work not being appreciated for what it is if we also claim the work has no meaning. After all, authorial intent is damned, is it not?

#apefail and I have thought of a follow-up work to “The Insidious Design”, which would be another ninety-second piece. I hope we get a chance to perform it soon.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

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