oh no!! fite!! oh no!!

oh no!!
fite!! oh no!!

For 30-odd years, as a writer and broadcaster, teacher and editor, I've nibbled away at the issue of expertise: what any given specialist knowledge -- practical or theoretical, haptic or head-bound -- allows you to do, and (just as important) what it will block you from. What can you gain by casting the conventional understanding aside, and what do you lose? To commit yourself to a discipline -- artistic, academic, the structured jargons and congealed wisdoms of the professions, from money to the military to medicine, from the law to revolution -- is to embrace a path-dependency which will protect and promote its own acknowledged (and unavoidable) hierarchies of authority; and with all these also come contested boundaries, resistance, dissent and class hostility, as shaped and challenged in the struggle for accurate description of the world, and self-reflective insight into any discipline's effect on the world.

This puts the project very grandly and much too generally: my beat has almost always been far more small-scale and particular, explorations at the point of friction between clusters of focused knowledge or expertise or connoisseurship. I'm interested in the spaces that emerge, to allow unexpected cross-disciplinary contests or encounters, fighting or flirting; I've argued that the NME c.77-83 was one such; my time as editor of the Wire in the early 90s was intended to fashion another; for a while at the turn of the millennium ilx was certainly a third, called collectively into being. I'm interested in how and why such spaces arise, what they can do (if anything) to maintain themselves, and what the price of such maintenance is likely to be in the long-term (pressured acts of exclusion; mannerism in place of genuine curiosity; the gathering safe dullness of the amiably like-minded). To sustain the playful (which is to say, truly exploratory) revolt against the cliched battlelines of others, have we always to end up rolling along grooves and ruts in all the bad old directions?

And if not, how not?