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ME N’ U, Ruben Bull-Milne and Joseph Gentry

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It will warm the reader’s lonely heart to learn that the artists Joseph Gentry and Ruben Bull-Milne are good friends.

A friend, generally, is someone who likes the same music and books and jokes that you like, while hating the things that you like to hate. A friend can also be someone who doesn’t like the same things you like but does so in a charming way. What happens, for example, if two friends disagree on their preferred type of peanut butter, the first friend preferring crunchy, the second smooth? Or what if a third friend dislikes peanut butter altogether? What do you do when your other friend tells you she’s allergic? You compromise, of course. You say, “O friends, let’s forget all this about peanut butter and have some marmalade instead!”

A friend is someone who makes you think you’re smarter than everyone else.
A friend is someone you wish would leave you alone sometimes.
A friend is still your friend even when you really hate them.

Today, friendship, like everything else, is different from what it was before. Now friends can laugh at jokes together that are so far inside not even the jokers get why they’re funny. The friends just laugh and laugh and send the joke to all their other friends, who also don’t get the joke but still think it’s pretty damn funny. The blame or praise for this change should be directed at the dizzying rise of Internet culture, which has turned the loss of the original in the twentieth century from tragedy into comedy. The twenty-first century is witness to new forms of online communication that celebrate this loss, which is also the loss of authorship, and animates an image of the absurd more bottomless than what even old Camus could see from behind his big boulder. What this has done to those red-and-blue strips of cellophane called reality/the Real is to colour them both purple: a fresh bruise on the arm of truth with a capital T.

But back to friends.
Friendship is the territory of amicable disagreement.
Therefore friendship is the opposite of violence—the territory of inimical disagreement.

Remember: it probably doesn’t matter that much if your only friend is pretending, but it might matter a great deal if all your friends are pretending.

The main point: friendship is the larval stage of collaboration. The first project you and your new friend will likely collaborate on together is the project of making conversation. You’ll ask them how they’re going and what they’re up to, how their day has been and how’s their family. Pretty soon you and your friend will be making your own jokes and games. Maybe one day you’ll make a cake together. Then you will surely be friends. If, eventually, you and your friend decide to collaborate on an art project, you may find yourselves saying something like: “If this is what collaboration looks like, I’ll have no part in it!” This is where true friends discover the virtue of compromise. Because as much as the collab-orative act is a joyous one it also involves a violation of private space. Keeping this intrusion civil requires serious levels of fidelity to the vision of the other, which is another way of saying that collaboration, like friendship, is a matter of choice and making choices. If art has an operative value it might be this bridging of the gap between me and you, the nearest thing to shucking the existential machinery of living in the first-person. Art is ultimately a waste of time but it is one of the few wastes of time that remain paradoxically worthwhile. Another, naturally, is friendship. Where art reclaims the material waste of culture, friendship claims the spiritual. The artists are grateful to have wasted their time in both pursuits and wish to do so again sometime in the future.

  • Nicholas Xuereb