The following excerpt comes from an introduction I made to Momus at a very special AA event, on October 31st, to inaugurate the New Soft Room. Public Image Limited’s bass heavy wail, Careering, provided the evening’s title and theme: starting from Nick Currie’s polymorphous career (a word he would never personally use to describe his own trajectory) outwards into the shapes and significances of inspiring careers (Bowie, Brecht). We were joined by the very talented trio of Victoria Camblin, Zak Kyes and Brian Dillon.
The video recording is here
“The word ‘career’ may not mean what it did 20 or 30 years ago. Specialization has often given way to collage careers, portfolio careers, careers that confuse parents, careers that don’t even know the meaning of the word career.
Seen from a particular vantage point, careers are design projects. They have shape, narrativity, possible predestination (i.e. What did your parents do?) and also serendipitous failure built into their wiring.
You might be a child-star aged six, and by age nine, no one knows your name, not even your own agent/mother.
Your name might be Haruki Murakami and before you became a famous novelist you ran a successful bar with your wife.
Your name might be James Franco, in which case, everything is happening at the same time—actor, artist, PhD candidate, visiting professor, poet—and no one knows whether you’re for real or just a real wannabe.
Your name may have been Muammar Qaddafi, and after 42 years of job security, not only has your career come to a complete, impotent halt, but the phrase, ‘You’re fired’ takes on a mortal, literal, decisive dimension.
We’re sitting in a room at a school. Many of you are pre-career. Do you know the course you’re going to take? Is it important to know? Can you really control it?
Many of you are mid-career. Has it turned out how you imagined? Is destiny still something ahead of you?
Are any of you post-career? If so, I’m very jealous. I want to be you.”
POSTSCRIPT – A future unrealised project is to translate paradigmatic career models into simple graphs, with time on the X axis, and a combination of fame or wealth or repute on the Y axis. Examples will include: The One Hit Wonder; Child Prodigy; Octogenarian Breakthrough; Slow Slump; Constant Reincarnation; Perma-fumbling; Consistent Safety and It Never Really Started Until I Was Dead.