The Brief is Silent Frame's short-form interview series: big questions, small word count. This roundup is a summary of all interviews featured in The Brief column in 2017.
There was a great deal of variation between the artworks recommended by our interviewees – often within the same interview. Writer Yiyun Li (Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life) picks the endlessly enjoyable Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz alongside Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, while Smith Henderson (Fourth of July Creek) selects the celebrated strategy game series, Civilization, and the Melvins’ sludge metal album Bullhead.
Several authors share their thoughts on discovery. Nadifa Mohamed (The Orchard of Lost Souls) sees it as ‘that subtle shift when you realise that you have been living a smaller life than you thought you did’. For Marina Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian), discovery is about ‘learning from how others have solved artistic problems’, and for Evie Wyld (All the Birds, Singing), it is about ‘finding a pathway towards something creative’.
Other short story writers and novelists offering their two cents on their craft include Lisa McInerney (The Blood Miracles), who encourages risk-taking, warning that artists will ‘find little truth in caution’. Tackling one of The Brief’s typically big questions, Julianne Pachico says that anybody is capable of making art, regardless of age, background, or public exposure, while Salvatore Scibona asks whether ignoring the news is moral.
‘Artists must speak for those whose voices have been taken away.’ We talk to author Marina Lewycka.
'Art can be full or devoid of meaning.' We talk to Nadifa Mohamed, author of Black Mamba Boy.
'In film, empathy is optional.' We talk to Smith Henderson, award-winning author of Fourth of July Creek.
'Nothing is detached from the real world.' We talk to Yiyun Li, award-winning author of The Vagrants.
'The goal of art was never to understand.' We talk to Salvatore Scibona, author of The End.
'Art is not a community service.' We talk to Evie Wyld, award-winning author of All the Birds, Singing.
'I like not knowing all the answers.' We talk to Julianne Pachico, story writer and author of The Lucky Ones.
'History is written by the winners.' We talk to Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies.
Filmmakers and screenwriters
In her interview for The Brief, Emma Donoghue, author and screenwriter of Room, applauds a post-apocalyptic play by Anne Washburn based on an episode of The Simpsons, and talks about how parenthood has affected her creativity. Filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming suggests that we acquaint ourselves with Bang, Ai Weiwei’s ‘whirl of 886 antique Chinese stools’, and Claire Carré endorses The Tribe, a mafia-themed film shot entirely in sign language.
‘Discovery shakes me up and challenges my assumptions.’ We talk to film director Claire Carré.
'Everything is entangled with memories.' We talk to Ann Marie Fleming, director of Window Horses.
'If it's not new to me, it's boring.' We talk to Emma Donoghue, author and screenwriter of Room.
In 2017, The Brief celebrated the musicians behind some of the year’s best electronic albums. In the series, Blanck Mass (World Eater), one half of experimental duo Fuck Buttons, declares his love for Tom and Jerry’s Cat Concerto; Oscar-nominated composer Hauschka (What If, Lion OST) praises Alexander McQueen’s fearlessness; and producer Lusine (Sensorimotor) gives a nod to classic electronic albums by Fennesz and Röyksopp.
Annie Hart (Impossible Accomplice) of Au Revoir Simone cherishes the joy of visiting libraries on her travels, while fellow synth pop act Yumi Zouma (Willowbank) acclaim Taika Waititi’s silent short film, Tama Tu. Waititi crops up in three The Brief interviews in 2017, also receiving plaudits from dream pop musician Amber Arcades (Fading Lines) and author Evie Wyld, who likens him to Wes Anderson, ‘but with more heart and less whimsy.’
‘Knowledge gives you the satisfaction of development.’ We talk to composer and pianist Hauschka.
'So much art represents only a small portion of society.’ We talk to synth pop group Yumi Zouma.
‘Discovery is the backbone of expression.’ We talk to electronic musician Blanck Mass.
'Critics should like or dislike an artwork on its own terms.' We talk to electronic musician Lusine.
'Art can revise and elucidate history.' We talk to Annie Hart, musician and member of Au Revoir Simone.
'Art can make death less daunting.' We talk to Amber Arcades, the dream pop musician behind Fading Lines.
Other works noted for their humour include the television series Broad City, which singer-songwriter Doug Tuttle recommends, and the Wendy’s advertisement ‘Where’s the Beef?’, which producer Black Marble opts for. Another recurring choice was Frida Kahlo, whose fans include Jessica Curry, composer and co-founder of the video game studio The Chinese Room (‘I have no words to describe my admiration’).
Most entries to The Brief end with the artist posing a question of their own to future interviewees. Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Deradoorian asks her fellow artists about their most important creative ritual; Sandro Perri of experimental group Off World asks what question they are sure they have found the answer for; and singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos asks how being an artist affects the way that one takes in art.
‘Discovery is the one thing I keep deliciously private.’ We talk to composer Jessica Curry.
‘Unappreciated art is doomed to disappear.’ We talk to electronic musician Black Marble.
‘Kanye West twisted his ego into fascinating shapes.’ We talk to Sandro Perri, member of Off World.
'I wait for art to force its way into my life.' We talk to Doug Tuttle, musician and former member of MMOSS.
'Dreaming and creating both involve processing emotions.' We talk to singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos.
'Art is your dedication to life.' We talk to Deradoorian, musician and former member of Dirty Projectors.
Critics and academics
The editors of Reorient (Joobin Bekhrad) and 3:AM Magazine (Andrew Gallix) agree that art poses no threat to civilisation, but the jury is out on whether it aspires to do so. Film critic and video essayist Cristina Álvarez López reasons that activities that involve expanding appreciation of art, like teaching, are themselves an art. Musicologist Áine Mangaoang, who enthuses about amateur community choirs, would no doubt agree.
'I suspect all great art aspires to end civilisation.' We talk to Andrew Gallix, Editor of 3:AM Magazine.
'Bad art can make life miserable.' We talk to Joobin Bekhrad, Editor of the online arts publication Reorient.
'Every army in the world has music.' We talk to Áine Mangaoang, musicologist at the University of Oslo.
'Criticism and teaching can be an art.' We talk to Cristina Álvarez López, film critic and video essayist.
Graphic novelists and illustrators
In a similar vein, graphic novelist Leah Hayes (Not Funny Ha-Ha) and illustrator Rachael Ball (The Inflatable Woman) invite others to do some creating of their own. Hayes urges people ‘to read poetry, write in journals, and sketch in sketchbooks as adults. These are … forms of introspection and discovery that are very important.’ Ball emphasises the importance of experimenting ‘in the medium appropriate to our own lives, be it cooking or singing’.
Choreographers, visual artists, and video game developers
Alex Ketley, independent choreographer and director of The Foundry, talks about art’s ability to bring people together, while Angela de la Cruz, Turner Prize-nominated visual artist, discusses art’s relationship with war. To end with some inspirational words: Eric A. Anderson, video game developer for (among other titles) The Witness and the Myst series, gifts us with the reassuring message that ‘failure is a form of success’.
‘I learn through my interactions with dancers and audiences.' We talk to choreographer Alex Ketley.
'Children create art, but not knowingly.' We talk to Angela de la Cruz, Turner Prize-nominated artist.
'Trying and failing is a form of success.' We talk to Eric A. Anderson, game developer for The Witness.
Also on Silent Frame
Our 2017 interviewees pose questions to their fellow artists, authors, composers, and filmmakers.
A roundup of the albums featured in the Collected Works: Music column in 2017, from Ege Bamyasi to Hejira.
A roundup of artworks from Europe, Oceania, and the Americas featured in the States of the Arts column in 2017.