Russell Mills nominated the music innovator, artist and producer Brian Eno:
Shed-for-a-head. Maverick. Polymath. Mobile (guerilla responsiveness as opposed to standing army constraints). Fervently progressive, champion of the new, of variegation and diversity, of the provisional and the contingent. Professional amateur and mischievous catalyst. Both intuitive and cerebral. Against habits of mind. Lucidly perceptive. Absorbing yet accessible.
From my first sighting and hearing of Roxy Music in 1972, I sensed that the androgynous, sequined, feathered, mascara-ed, knob-twiddling creator of otherworldly sounds, Eno, was exactly the kind of person I’d like to meet and exchange ideas with.
I first met Brian in 1975 while I was a student at the Royal College of Art, with no ulterior motives other than to connect and to hopefully share ideas. In his work with Roxy and in his solo projects, all of which espoused the collage principle that I believed was the most important cultural idea of the 20th century, I recognised a mind at work of a kindred spirit, an intellectual mirror.
Like me, he was concerned with the ever-shifting principles of culture in its widest sense and was questioning the erroneously guarded philosophies of cultural hierarchies, which pervade within and between disciplines in the arts; that discourage cross-cultural transactions in favour of an advocacy of invented scales of intrinsic values, ranking some areas of cultural practice as better than others. We both believed that there is no over-arching paradigm guiding us; rather the ideal is the exploration of the non-prescriptive, the unknown and the conjectured.
His work, in and across all genres, continually exemplifies the adages that have guided me and my work: from Robert Frost’s, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader', to Samuel Beckett’s, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Working at the margins of culture, determinedly open to the capacity of risk and unafraid of the new or the unknown, Brian speculates, through what I call ‘serious play’, seeking to find new approaches to creativity. While occasionally dismissed or ignored at the time, his ideas generally tend to be absorbed into the mainstream years later.
He is one of the most consistently interesting people I've ever met and he also happens to be one of the most important cultural thinkers we have. With an encyclopedic knowledge and insatiable curiosity he is never boring. Conversations with him flow seamlessly or ricochet at dizzying pace, or both. Connections and correlations are found in the collisions and collusions between the most apparently disparate topics, from the banal to the astonishing.
As a friend and as a fellow artist, Brian has continually inspired me to pursue a similar life of exploration, of experimentation, and of adventure. His career has served as a model for a life worth living, in which I’m able to do what I love and love what I do.
And, despite his reputation as a Mekon-domed overly cerebral intellectual, along with his brother Roger, he also happens to be one of the funniest people I know. For all these reasons I love and respect him.
Work by Brian Eno: