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Theory of Obscurity – creating for yourself

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 8.04.49 PMThe Residents may be the world’s most famous unknown band. No one knows who is actually in the band, they disguise their face with giant eyeballs or other disguises, and their music is not designed to appeal to everyone. In fact, it is purposely composed to appeal only to them. They developed their interesting way of looking at the world through the theories of (possibly fictional) Bavarian composer N. Senada. The theory, as stated in this Wired article, goes as follows.

According to this philosophy, artists do their purest work in obscurity, with minimum feedback from any kind of audience. The theory adds that with no audience to consider, artists are free to create work that is true to their own vision.

I bring this to your attention because it led The Residents to try an interesting exercise. They decided for this theory to truly operate, they would have to create music that was not intended to be heard by anyone. They recorded an album that there were going to lock away in a vault until they forgot about it. Eventually, during a dispute with their label, it was released under the name Not Available.

I remember a woman in a poetry class I took years ago. She was so
desperate for an audience and so fearful of a negative reaction, that
she would write poems, tear them out of her notebook and abandon them
on park benches and buses. She hoped that someone would find them and
be touched in some way. She would sit in class and cross out negative things in her poems because she was afraid people would like them less.

I was often left wondering what she actually thought, because all she wrote was what she thought I wanted to read.

Creating for no audience with the intention of locking something away may be just what you need to spur yourself onwards. If nothing else, forgetting an audience will let you push yourself into areas you might not be comfortable with. It will let you bring up ideas and thoughts that you not otherwise consider for fear of being judged.

Use the Theory of Obscurity in the spirit in which it is intended. It only matters while you are creating. Afterwards, if someone does see it, it doesn’t compromise the initial process.

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2 responses

  1. She’s probably a professional writer by now.
    All I get published is work that appeals to others. The work *I* prefer is constantly rejected.

    Like

  2. Ha! Actually, she works in a mattress store. I always imagine she tucks poems into mattress packaging in the hopes that someone might read it as they’re falling asleep.

    Like

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