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About is like about


Cheltenham, UK

About is like about was a public work of art made in collaboration with The Wilson Gallery and the University of Gloucestershire. Seven different texts were shown on billboards across Cheltenham (locations shown on map in image gallery to right).

The piece responds to the well known quotation ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture’. The phrase is an elegant simile that sets up a simple structure of comparison. It draws on ideas such as the relationship between word and image and nature of experience while expressing frustration with the limitations of language. In About is like about it is used it as a template to explore alternative permutations that conjoin creative practices with everyday behaviour and concerns.

Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Thelonius Monk, Clara Schumann, Miles Davis, George Carlin and several other people have been credited with originating the phrase.

Current evidence points to American actor, musician and painter, Martin Mull (b.1943) as the first to use the dictum in the public sphere. However, he does not claim to have originated it, but to have borrowed it from a story he once heard.

Research has found that as far back as 1918 a similar form appeared in New Republic; ‘writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics’.

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