Freewrite #1: When pretend is so good it becomes reality

Pretend City Children's Museum, Irvine, CA

Pretend City Children’s Museum, Irvine, CA

This freewrite post was prompted by Toner Stevenson. I’m not sure it’s what she intended me to write about – but I hope it’s interesting anyway. Just as a reminder, I write about each prompt in ten minutes, and though this is typed from a written text I’ve kept any errors and idiocies. 

Let me know what you think. Let’s chat about this.

What do we mean by ‘pretend’? Pretend is that which is not real, which is imagined. Which is not, but is enacted as though it is. In museums and heritage what is pretend? Is it the reenactments and costumed interpreters you find at Mary Arden’s House? Is it the videos one might see illustrating a battle? Is it the audioclip recalling WWI that play in booths at Liverpool Museum?

Or is it the whole thing? The whole enactment of heritage? The history books, the TV documentaries, the arrangements of objects and stories told in museums?

Of course, these things may be fact, or based upon uncovered facts, but their representation is always a sjuizet, always a telling, an arrangement, an imagining, a form of pretend.

Because telling is never real. Not really, really. Telling – which is to some degree the way we see the world – is always a form of pretend. Because viewing ‘reality’ through our flawed eyes, we are become imagineers.

In museums, pretend is both the wonderment and the danger. Because the ways in which museums have presented reality have become so ingrained and successful we have forgotten they are pretend. Forgotten they are tellings which modify the facts museums tell us. Present becomes reality, in as much as it is thought to be true.

There is a need to recognize the pretending of museums for what it is – no more or less than the wonder in the eyes of a child, staring into an infinite cosmos.

On reboots; or, how I learned to stop worrying and freewrite

Recently I became very despondent at the lack of activity here on Beyond Xanadu. It felt pointless. Unworthy. Why did I even pretend I was bothering?

It made me feel productive, but I wasn’t actually doing anything. I had a blog – that’s good, right? Yeah, but only if there’s any actual activity on it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So I considered why there might be such a lack of action. And I think the major problem is me. I stymie myself by trying to produce essays rather than posts. Essays are for journals (for me, mostly). Posts are for posts. Neither is better or worse, but there’s a level of research and effort that goes into a journal paper that, in all honesty, I cannot put into a blog. Not if I want to post every week, or even semi-regularly, as well as writing all the other stuff I need to write.

I think the other issue is value for myself. What did I want to get out of this, aside from just yelling thoughts into the wilderness of the Internet? I wanted to get enrichment; practice at writing; to be able to examine objects and ideas in a digestible way.

As a consequence, I’m rebooting this blog. And you’re going to help me. Every week, I’m going to attempt a freewrite on a topic. Each freewrite session will take 10 minutes, and will be posted, uncensored. After that, we can have a discussion about it. Perhaps, that way, we’ll all get something out of it.

So I want you to supply me with topics. Questions, issues, ideas. Anything. But it needs to lie within the scope of cultural activity and practice – museums and literature are my topics, but art, architecture, theory and other associated areas are also welcome. There’s a contact form on the homepage, and you can use that to send them to me.

I’ll choose a topic by the Wednesday evening of every week, and post the freewrite on the Saturday.

We’ll see how this goes.