I pulled a tendon between my big toe and heel. A friend said “Only you.” Sigh. This one I have to own. I managed to pull it walking. Not even fast.
WARNING – I’m about to get my art history geek on!
Back to thinking about art and my relationship to it. These ideas have been percolating (fighting?) in the back of my head since before I started this residency. I’ve been aware that I struggle with ‘art’ and ‘art world’ and other definitions but I’ve just avoided making time to express it to myself clearly. Probably because it’s a huge systemic issue that has no happy resolution.
From the RFAOH website:
“Moreover, our everyday encounters with media and technology in recent years have created a culture where we no longer necessarily equate creativity with lengthy and strenuous activity or with the specific material dexterity of an individual.“ (https://residencyforartistsonhiatus.org/about/)
This is where I find myself mentally and emotionally stuck.
As an artist, I am basically interested in exploring materials and processes. The final outcome (say the pen drawing of a goose) is secondary to the actions of making and learning how a new pen works. The outcome could, theoretically, be anything – even a page of random scribbles dotted with water/brush marks. Why is it representational? No reason other than it gives a structure for making different marks. In this regard, the resulting works can be considered products and garbage (or fancy word: detritus) simultaneously. My work gets called a product when I think I can sell it, or otherwise, garbage when it is ‘unattractive’ or ‘unsellable.’ The truth, however, is that the product and the piece of garbage are actually of equal value to me in terms of the benefit I get from them.
My indifference to the final outcome is why my portfolio doesn’t appear unified. Mostly the images are not the point, are totally random, or fleeting whimsy. Maybe I need to choose a type of imagery? Or just switch to abstraction? That makes me feel squidgy though, things that are arbitrary should be so. Picking a set of consistent imagery to satisfy some vague external force’s need for me to be dependable (aka: having a potentially sellable ‘style’) goes against who I am on a fundamental level.
Interestingly, lack of attention to detail and finishing bothers me immensely. Seeing an intriguing work and then getting closer to realize it’s shoddily executed is a huge disappointment. Even though I cycle through media and styles, I always work to increase my proficiency so that the experience of closely interacting with my work is as satisfying as seeing it from a distance. Which is also why I love making miniature books and sculptures that are meant to be held in an intimate way. So how do I fit into an ‘art culture’ where effort and craftsmanship are not valued?
I also hate jargon. I have never believed that so many MFA students really, naturally, blend esoteric language with their art. I’ve always had this sense of conflict as though the theory was being shoehorned onto their writing in order to sound ‘academic.’
Here is an article I just discovered, that may be my new favourite, about “International Art English” (IAE): https://www.canopycanopycanopy.com/contents/international_art_english
I love that obviously others have found ‘art-speak’ to be as weird as I do. Their analysis is fascinating and ties in nicely with the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of ‘cultural capital’ – that in order to be seen as a legitimate part of a class system you need to follow the unwritten and unspoken but established rituals of that system. IAE writing is a gateway pointedly separating insiders and outsiders, and aims to positon the art and artist in a specific (elite) market. And of course that would be proliferated by universities – how else would they support the idea that having a BFA/MFA was crucial to advancing your career? The fact that IAE restricts huge portions of the general populace from interacting freely with your work is one of the things that super bothers me. I totally get that there are times when you are speaking to other experts in the field that jargon can be a type of abbreviated language for complex ideas but when you are interacting outside the ‘ivory tower’ of university or conferences and such, it’s actually (to quote Wil Wheaton) “a dick move.” A quote sometimes attributed to Einstein is “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If you don’t understand your own art well enough to break it down into lay terminology isn’t that a BIG problem?
Ahh! It feels good to get that off my chest.