Saturday, 6 April 2013

Book Review of Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives

Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives
Published by Sampson Low Ltd, 2013

“Life is a delicate balance. Drift in a perfect bliss of ignorance and you can find your personal Nirvana or find yourself lost. Structure our unpredictable lives and we harness our potential, achieve greatness or send ourselves to the edges of insanity.”

With this thought in mind, Alban Low set out on a unique project: he sent a proposal to 1000 artists and authors, asking them to analyse their lives and try to describe the personal systems which they employ to help them function at work and at play. The response he received was overwhelming and spanned poems, sculptures, collages, paintings, photographs, prose, and mini manifestos. 60 of these are now available for consideration by a wider public, in the resulting book, Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives.

The book is split into two sections: the first containing the contributors’ systems, and the second containing the results of an experiment whereby nine of the contributors were asked to interpret and follow nine of the systems proposed by nine of the other contributors. The results are curious, and the interpretations very free – so much so that it makes me wonder how the proposers felt upon seeing their systems employed in such a different way. Having first been asked to bare their souls, it seems almost like a psychological rape, yet in these cases there was full consent, since the initial sharing was willing and voluntary.

Only two of the systems proposed make reference to religion (Patten Smith’s God’s Script and Gary Evans’ and Veronika Cerna’s A prayer like any other…), and one offers up a modern day memento mori (Shona Davies' and Dave Monaghan’s Wheel of Misfortune) in the form of a steely water wheel with miniature hospital scenes filling the gap between each spoke, confronting viewers with “vision[s] of their potential fate.”

Dreams play a role in Mike Russell’s drawn call to record them and Melanie Ezra’s written response, and memories and mindfulness are also brought to the table. Decisions, attempts to change, and, unsurprisingly, New Year’s Resolutions (Ella Penn’s Two little words) form a basis for a number of the systems, and Robert Good’s flowchart (No Way) would perhaps be closest to my own largely imperfect system, currently in the process of being replaced by the motto “do, delay, delegate, dump.”

The system which made me smile the most was Catherine Steele’s Collected Philosophies of Jubilee Saffron-Beeton, and, for anyone else who remembers the Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen song, it will probably have the same effect.

Overall, Patternotion is a charming little book, full of idiosyncratic responses, and soul-baring offerings. Some entries speak to me, others don’t. But, as Low concludes, “Patternotion is not a dramatic ‘do or die’ ultimatum of course, it is just a book. Read it though and the ideas inside could influence the next chapter in your life.” Who knows? Give it a try!

Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives is available on amazon


Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives
Book cover 
© Sampson Low Ltd

Gary Evans and Veronika Cerna
A prayer like any other…
© the artists

Shona Davies and Dave Monaghan
Wheel of Misfortune
© the artists

Robert Good
No Way
© the artist

Harvey Wells
My aim for 2013 is to be more mindful
© the artist

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