12 February 2011

In praise of complexity

Less is more and simplicity can speak volumes …

As a dramatist I compose what’s said and what is not, words and silence, into a play or performance text. Keep it simple, we’re so often told—at least, I’m often told that—by dramaturgs, directors, critics and others. Like a mantra. But why? What’s so great about simplicity? Why is complication such a no-no?

I like complexity. I think some subjects and situations demand it, and that simplicity can be reductive and flattening. I’ve read and seen a few things recently that, in my opinion, could have done with a few more complications.

The simplicity I mean here is not that distilled and eloquent simplicity that insightful writers sweat to tease from complexity, nor the iceberg structure of a good poem, but a kind of intellectual laziness. 

We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our methods of questioning.’ Werner Heisenberg in Physics and Philosophy. (I think this line also crops up in Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen.)

Sometimes less is just less.