Entries in Rian Hughes (19)
"So those chapters and some of the spreads in them are: Ideas (this is an idea, how to symbolise any idea, gesture as language, codes, languages, hieroglyphics, etc), Communications (the oral tradition, signal to noise, how content changes as it's transmitted, error correction, etc) Media (culture as memory, duplication, convergence, the meme), Representations (what colours and shapes mean, information content, negative space, colour harmony and beauty, beyond the visible spectrum), Frames and Maps (what's outside the 'frame', what's inside the 'frame', nested frames, maps, culture as a map - what of?), Objects (the crime of ornament, resonant objects, how many times can you solve a problem?, is-ness, the bookness of the book),
Perceptions (world processing - basically my theory of consciousness, pattern recognition, structural intuition, conspiracy theories), Solutions (the 'rules of the game', law and number, truth and beauty as tools of discovery, reverse engineering, religious and ideological belief versus rationality and science, how to be good, 'good not God'), Arts (the pop aesthetic, art, ismism, Warhol passes the baton, sell me a dream, pop idolatry, the politics of dancing), Identities (everyone wants to find out how to be, label whores, commodity fetishism, default human, customise me), Prescriptions (memetic inoculation, burn this book, enlighten me, fictions facts and the bit between - why we confuse useful ideas and truths and believe stuff we know to be unbelievable, head of ideas, the headless idea, a democracy of ideas, dangerous ideas, how to kill an idea).
This is followed by a short Chapter 12 coda, where I sum it all up. Quotes and references aside, much of the book is my own personal observations and theories, and setting these out as baldly as I do makes you feel a bit naked, but I thought that at the end I finally had to stand on a soapbox and see what happened. So the coda encapsulates the book's philosophy - twice in fact, one version longer, one shorter. I playfully counterpoint this with the "disclaimers" page immediately after, which is a collection of disclaimers from things like cereal boxes, financial services and drugs packaging, but that's probably me cracking a gag to cover my arse in case I seem too pretentious.
It being a book, and a book being something that has a history and language all it's own (see p87), I wanted to play on this - I thought it'd be interesting to do a book that was aware of it's book-ness. (see "This is this", page 184, and "The thingness of the thing", page 182). So I have an errata slip tucked in the front that refers to the spread on error correction. I have marbled endpapers from an old library book, which reveal the ragged page edges - so it's an endpaper of an endpaper. In one section, I speak about frames, the containers that hold certain ideas or spaces, so the library label from a fictitious "fantasy book library" places the book itself in another book-type "frame", while the implication that it may be classed as fantasy plays off the ideas discussed on the "fictions, facts and the bits between" (page 316).
Again, probably inspired by Monty Python, who thought nothing of putting the end titles at the beginning of the episode or having the supporting feature invade the main feature, I'm playfully messing with the usual form of something for effect. Another example is putting the contents/index in the "maps" section, and calling it "this is the map of this book".
Referencing our ideas of "bookness" again, the gold page edges, black stamped title and ribbon marker are designed to evoke our ideas of bibles or holy books - this is picked up again on page 310 ("Burn this Book"). I thought this might be hammering home the point somewhat, but with the yellow police-tape warning bellyband around it, it does neatly summarise what CULT-URE is all about, right there.
Rian Hughes on his new book CULT-URE, in his own words.
"To help the reader I wanted to have denser pages interspersed with lighter ones, maybe incorporating a visual gag, or something like a dot to dot puzzle, or a comic strip – there are even die cut holes that work from both sides. Hopefully this keeps it engaging and varied. I've read too many incomprehensible books on aesthetics and semiotics that have few if any images at all, which seems peculiar - like a cookbook with no photos of the dishes you're making. I also wanted it to be concise and snappy - by setting a limit on the word count, it encouraged me to use the most efficient and sparse language I could, no flab. Boiled down to the essentials. Free of waffle. It would have been twice the size if I'd included all the original text.
This does make for a pretty dense read, but it is intended to work both as a dip in, dip out experience - which, if you look at how people approach visual books, is actually how they work through them - as well as the more standard 'start at the beginning, end at the end' method. Hopefully by following the 'pop aesthetic' (page 250!) it's comprehensible to the proverbial man-in-the-street, not just those who've studied design or philosophy or ethics. I've tried to make it jargon-free, and where I do use jargon, I'll explain it first.
Like I say, I wanted the book to function both as a series of self-contained ideas, almost as if they could be printed on a pack of cards and chosen at random, as well as a more integrated whole; so you could effectively dip in to the book and get some nugget without reading every previous spread. I added three footnotes at the bottom of each page so the reader could also follow their own thread through the book depending on what ideas caught their fancy - kind of like a choose- your-own adventure book, if you remember those.
One footnote even takes you to the bellyband and back, another from a page on "the power of a name" to the "this book belongs to" page, where you can write in your name and lay the claim of ownership. I tried to put together a book that even those with ADHD might get something out of, but as I also wanted my underlying theme to build and structure the book as a whole, I divided the ideas into 11 chapters (and a coda) that take you from the very simple and elementary - "This is an idea" - "Is this an idea?" to the more complex "How to kill and idea". Ease you in gently before clobbering you with the 'how to save the world' stuff later on, basically. Take you from the light of the Enlightenment off down a dark alley where bad ideas can make bad things happen."