We made another fantastic find at Artists Books, Multiples and Editions: an image of David Bowie’s well-worn, taped-together set of Oblique Strategies cards. Created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the seventies (they were WAY ahead of their time), the cards are meant to be picked at random when a musician or artist found themselves ‘stuck’ and in need of a shift of view. Bowie clearly got a lot of use out of them.

Oblique Strategies
Oblique Strategies

They are potent and beautiful and by many accounts, really work.

Oblique Strategies
Oblique Strategies

Because there were only a limited number of analog editions produced, a set costs upwards of $500; if you’ve got the dough, you’ll find them here.  (This ancient site gives a great history though few of the links work). So we hunted for a digital option.

Oblique Strategies
Oblique Strategies

And we found one, here.

Go to the page and click on “Click here for a new pick” to generate a new card. The words will appear, white on black.

Oblique Strategies
Oblique Strategies

It’s not quite as elegant or organic as Eno’s beautiful analog version, but it can do the trick at the right moment. We have it on our browser’s toolbar. Here is a beauty:

Oblique strategy digital sample
Oblique Strategies

There’s a list of the Second Edition’s cards here with some really great, often challenging advice, like…

Do nothing for as long as possible.


Note: the iPhone Oblique Strategies app is lame.



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11 replies on “Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies via David Bowie

  1. John Cage did this first.

  2. OMG Chris, WHEN? Where/how do I find out about it? I’ve just started reading Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists that a reader sent me. So your Comment comes with amazing syncrhonicity.

  3. Thanks so much. I wish there were a video of Cage’s improvised talk; but thank goodness there are tapes of it. Can’t wait to dive in.

  4. Where the Heart Beats has been on my reading list for quite a while…moving it to the top now!

  5. Thank you for sharing this…I aim to get a set of them! That website is fantastic.

  6. I recommend people do not try to order Oblique Strategies from Enoshop. I paid for two, never received a package and when I asked for an explanation was told that it had been shipped but there was no tracking information. The shop is either very poorly run or a scam. I have found others online making the same complaint.

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