Exploding Appendix Questionnaire: Oli Spleen

Artist in Residence: Nick Hudson and The Quiet Earth Project.
June 23, 2019
Exploding Appendix Questionnaire: Krzysztof Nawratek
July 16, 2019
The Exploding Appendix Questionnaire is an ongoing data collecting exercise that, drawing upon divergent public figures from different intellectual disciplines and artistic practices, seeks to create an ongoing and ever-expanding map of ideas. Through this ever-expanding map of divergent views, we seek a kind of dialogue that, in both its overlaps and contradictions, creates a kind of hive-mind, which, in turn, helps contribute to the intellectual unfoldings of Exploding Appendix’s overall mission.
For the Exploding Appendix Questionnaire, we have asked some of our favourite intellectuals, activists, artists, creatives and commentators to contribute to a series of 11 generic questions. The same generic questions have been sent to everyone, and what you read below is one response to this.

 

1. Who are you and what do you do?
I perform and write under the name Oli Spleen which isn’t far removed from my birthname. Lately I’ve been focussing on music, releasing my second “solo” studio album “Gaslight Illuminations”. As with many (if not all) “solo” albums it was a collaborative effort. Mishkin Fitzgerald of Brighton band Birdeatsbaby co-wrote eight of the twelve tracks.
2. What are your biggest influences in art, literature, music and cinema?
That’s a big question. The visual arts and painting were among my first passions but I studied Fine Art at university level and as a result lost interest in it. I subsequently gravitated towards areas where I hadn’t been formally educated, such as writing and music. I still have a lot of love for Dada though, as its approach to art is multimedia, anarchic, irreverent and revolutionary.
My biggest literary influences include Arthur Rimbaud and Hubert Selby Jr, though I have taken a lot of comfort from the writings of Maya Angelou lately. Also, my friend and mentor, author and poet Salena Godden has been a tremendous influence on everything I do since I first met her when I was seventeen, over twenty years ago.
Music is another one which is hard to encapsulate in a sentence or two. Having been in punk and heavy rock bands for nearly twenty years now; I took the initiative with “Gaslight Illuminations” to create something closer to the music I love which broadly fits in to the French Chanson tradition. This is a storytelling style of song-writing that is often visceral and lurid in its depictions and doesn’t shy away from dark subject matter. The chanteuse Barbara is one of my favourites, also Jaques Brel who is Belgian but very much in the French tradition. I can see the influence of French and European song writing on many artists I admire who sing in English too and also have deeply influenced my work, these include Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Scott Walker and The Velvet Underground among a great many others.
As for cinema, I rarely see a film because of a particular actor, instead I seek out the work of directors and scriptwriters I love. These include Charlie Kaufman, Jordan Peele, Alan Bennett and Darren Aronofsky.
3. What, for you, is the purpose of art and culture?
To provoke thought, to inspire and to be a mirror to ourselves. Also, to test the limits of our freedoms and possibilities.
4. What makes something subversive?
I’d say a work is subversive when it challenges commonly held ideas of what is widely thought to be the ‘correct’ way to do things. This is one of the problems I have with the academic teaching of creative subjects; rules and academia seem to me to be anathema to the creative process.
5. How would you approach the task of winning friends and influencing people?
Be true to yourself and be openminded. Let your mind be a melting pot of ideas so your output will be more unique. Academia leads the student to specialise in one particular field at the exclusion of all others. A mind that is open to many different approaches and ideas is far more likely to have a unique and influential output than a mind that only specialises in one thing.
6. What does individual freedom mean to you?
Being able to follow your heart and evolve creatively without restrictions.
7. Is there, for you, a relationship between the personal and the political?
Yes. Many of the themes in “Gaslight Illuminations” were inspired by an abusive and toxic relationship I endured some years back. With governments and politicians also gaslighting us in recent years; scapegoating and deflecting the blame away from themselves; it seems to me that the personal can often be a microcosm of the wider political landscape.
8. What is the root of society’s problems?
Greed and a hunger for power, a lack of empathy and the “us and them” mentality. Many problems such as the environmental crisis are manifestations of capitalism, something is going to have to shift in human behaviour or else we’ll wipe ourselves out within a hundred years. Which would be no bad thing for the planet.
9. Will technology liberate humankind?
It can have the opposite effect of liberation. The internet should have been a tool to bring people together and create unity which it has done to some extent but it has also been manipulated to spread divisive and hateful ideology.
10. Do you have a vision for utopia?
Not a realistic one. Sadly the last ten years or so seem to have taken a drastic turn for the worst both politically and environmentally, but I have hope in the younger generation who seem to have more empathy than many people my age and older did and are taking action in an attempt to turn things around. Sadly, we have left them a whole lot of shit to deal with, we can’t afford to become too pessimistic, action must be taken now if we as a species are to have any kind of future whatsoever. All life on this planet is co-dependent and we aren’t doing enough to preserve it.
11. Finally, where can people find more of your work?
Bandcamp is good for me as I get most of the royalties but my music is available across most online distribution outlets: www.olispleen.bandcamp.com
YouTube/OliSpleen for the music videos and Facebook/olispleen to stay in the loop with my latest gigs and releases.
You can also support me on Patreon/OliSpleen to get exclusive previews of the work before anyone else does.