Brian Eno has always been a favourite of mine, both for the quality of his recorded music and his attitude towards creativity. Yet for reasons unknown I had never come across Oblique Strategies before.
A collaborative project between Eno and artist Peter Schmidt first published in 1975, Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards meant to help creatives overcome writer’s block or other artistic constraints.
Want some creative advice from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt? Take your pick from Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards composed by the pair in 1975.
After Schmidt worked with Eno as a lecturer plus on the covers of Evening Star (his collaborative album with Robert Fripp) and Taking Tiger Mountain, the two became friends and collaborators, finding a common ground in the way they conducted their work.
Eno’s landmark LP Before and after Science also featured four of Schmidt’s watercolours in the design of the first vinyl edition, along with the following quote:
“Apart from our collaboration on this record, Peter and I have been working together and comparing notes for some time. In 1975 we produced a boxed set of oracle cards called ‘Oblique Strategies’, which were used extensively in the making of this record.”
Find a few of our favourites below, and view the full list of cards as a PDF here.
- Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate
- Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle
- Listen to the quiet voice
- What wouldn’t you do?
- Give way to your worst impulse
- Go outside. Shut the door.
- Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list
- Go slowly all the way round the outside
- Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency
- Once the search is in progress, something will be found
Getting your hands on a printed edition is somewhat more complex. Although a commercially available 5th edition is easy to buy, the first three editions were more exclusive.
The first was printed in 1975 as a signed and numbered edition of 500. If you find one of those online, it will cost you a pretty penny. Edition two and edition three were printed in 1978 and 1979 respectively, both prints of an unknown number.