A Rant (In Two Parts)

Rant:  Part I (In Which I Think Deep Thoughts About Art, Art Ownership, and the Institution, Then Get Sidetracked)

I’ve been reading a book called Ways of Looking:  How to Experience Contemporary Art by Ossian Ward.  It is a bit of a beginner’s guide to looking at contemporary art, which I picked up with the idea that  it might be useful for teaching younger kids or non-art folk about contemporary art.  Yes.  I am that nerd that thinks about pedagogy and teaching ALL the time.  It’s a pretty basic read, but interesting.  Anyway, it dredged up a few thoughts that have been kicking around in my head for awhile and got me thinking about them again.

Urs Fischer, You, 2007 Not my image! http://thefunambulist.net/

The premise of this book, is that it breaks down contemporary art into “Art as” sections to be decoded using the author’s TABULA Rasa formula (Time, Association, Background, Understand, Look again, Assessment).  These “Art as” sections include:  Art as Entertainment, Art as Joke, Art as Message, etc.  The last two chapters are Art as Spectacle and Art as Meditation, which I was reading on the train on my way into work this morning.   Toward the end of the Art as Spectacle chapter the author discusses Urs Fischer’s You, and writes:

“Resembling a battlefield or a construction pit rather than an exhibition, Fischer’s destructive, anti-artistic statement was not only an assault on the senses—involving as it did a precipitous 8-foot drop and the risk of serious injury—but it was also an attack on the very structures that support and validate art itself (it was nevertheless sold to a foundation for excavation at a later date at some other location).

At which point I literally wanted to stand up on the train and flip a table.  It just seems so ridiculous to me that this piece was bought by a foundation to be moved from it’s context, making it even less accessible. It actually made me angry. Because let’s face it, there is a certain amount of privilege involved in being able to visit (access) a museum, gallery, foundation, or other arts institution.  But also, I really HATE the idea of ownership when it comes to art (especially when it comes to something so ephemeral and site-specific).  I want everyone to have access to art all the time.  I don’t think you should have to pay to see something that is culturally relevant, or interesting, or thought provoking, or just plain fucking beautiful (although I could personally not care less about that particular criterion). And I think art objects are stupid.  It upsets me that these are things which artists have poured themselves into, and they are hoarded away by private collectors or museums, only to see the light of day occasionally.  Art isn’t about just looking/seeing.  But I’ll get to that rant in a second.

The author continues his bit about You, referencing the writings of Robert Smithson (of Spiral Jetty fame).  Smithson was a leading figure in moving art outside of the gallery, and helped to develop the Land Art movement of the 70’s.  At one point he wrote that museums are just graveyards above ground.  And, regardless of the context in which Smithson said/wrote that, or the context in which Ward is theoretically linking it to You, I really am starting to believe it’s true in a very literal sense.  Museums are places that art goes to die.  Art no longer exists as it was originally envisioned once it’s consigned to a collection, where it is restored, or stored, or academicized.  It becomes part of a hushed atmosphere, in which you are supposed to take everything very seriously, study the beauty of the “masters” (which, fuck that noise), and learn something.  These randomly selected objects are placed onto white walls and white pedestals to be admired and revered (from a distance), because someone employed by the museum said that they should be.  Aside from the usual rhetoric over who gets to decide what is art, what isn’t, and what should be displayed/preserved, it’s a stupid, stupid system.  And sure, there are museums, or exhibitions out there that challenge this status quo, but not enough.  The majority of them do not.  The majority of them are the white cube-didactic-no-touching model.

This makes me think of the Futurist Manifesto (because really, it’s never far from my mind), and the Futurist’s desire to destroy all museums/libraries/academies etc, because they viewed them as antiquated and therefore an impediment to the progress of the future. Sometimes, I think they weren’t far from wrong (aside from their somewhat blatant misogyny and general delight at war).  We have created these repositories of things that we are told to revere.  I can easily question and challenge it because I have the theoretical knowledge and art back ground, but the average person does not.  They take it to heart.  We cling onto these things, as if they truly are the end all and be all of beauty, or whatever the hell it is that we are looking for in art.  We uphold the past, and scorn the contemporary (Thats why books like Ways of Looking are written…).  It’s almost like we want to hold ourselves back.

My ponderings on art ownership, objects, and destroying museums also started me thinking about the other forms of art that we accumulate and store.  For instance, why am I OK with collecting outrageous numbers of books, of which many are works of fiction, and therefore art?  I LOVE books.  I learn things from them, I escape every day life with them, they are magical objects to me, and are tied into happy childhood memories.  But still, they are art.  So why can I support ownership of those and not works of visual art?  Is there any difference?  Perhaps it bothers me less because there are often thousands, if not millions of the same copy of my book floating around?  Because anyone can go to the library, find that book, and read it for free (Unrestricted access)?  And libraries are depositories of ALL books, not just some.  I realize not every library will have every book, but they don’t actively seek to curate their patron’s visit by limiting their selection, to say the 200s (Religion) in the Dewy Decimal System.  Or perhaps they do, and I am just unawares.

And what about music?  I’ve never been one to obsessively collect albums.  I’m perfectly content to turn on Spotify/Pandora/insert-other-internet-radio-here and listen.  I don’t need to own it.  But there are some who make it a priority in their lives.  And in some weird, conceptual way I find it more acceptable to collect that form of art.  Again, perhaps it’s because theoretically anyone has access to this art form, and there are millions of copies laying around.  Perhaps because someone else could then learn that piece of music and play it for themselves (or others), whether it be in a replication of the original, or in a new interpretation.  Its tough.  And I’m not sure I can justify my ability to accept owning those art forms but not others… Maybe I just need to give up my book collection.  *insert wide eyed emoji here*

Rant:  Part 2 (In Which I Get Back on Track, and Rage at the Consumption of Art)


I don’t think I really need to caption this very obvious wealth of information.


The other side of the issue of owning art and locking it away, is that we also treat it like a commodity to be consumed.  We pack large rooms and entire buildings with vast collections of “precious” art objects for people to pay to see.  Often times these collections are so enormous, it could take you days if not weeks to view just what was on display.  For instance, according to CNN, it would take you SIXTY-FOUR DAYS to see everything in the Louvre if you only looked at everything for SIXTY SECONDS.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Sixty-four entire days, looking at roughly 35,000 works of art for exactly sixty seconds each.  Forget actually studying, appreciating, or processing a work.  And that is only what they have on display at any given time.  Their entire permanent collection is around 460,000 objects (You do the math on that one).  So it’s no wonder that with museums like MOMA in New York charging upwards of $25 or more for an individual admission to just the permanent collection, people are going to want to get their money’s worth.  They are going to rush through, trying to take in as much as possible (which is the  worst possible way to view art), making it  into a sort of scavenger hunt to find the most famous, or popular works of art.  All so that they don’t feel gypped, so that they can say they saw the Mona Lisa, and of course, so that they can snap a selfie.  What. The. Fuck. World?  It’s so angering.

Art is not meant to be consumed like that.  It’s meant to be experienced.  It’s meant to leave us thinking, in awe, or some how impacted.  The final chapter of Ward’s book is Art as Meditation, which address works of art that require time for reflection and processing.  He writes that some artworks need contemplation and a sort of extended digestion.  I would argue that this is every work of art, because art can change in meaning over time for you, depending on any number of variables… Circumstances, experiences, knowledge, relationships.  All of which are dynamic, and subject to change in and of themselves.  Ward continues this line of thought, saying:

These shifts in perception or changes of heart require time.  They need time to reveal themselves, to create an atmosphere, to warp the here and now, and –maybe– to formulate a new universe… This kind of contemplative situation, or ‘Art as Meditation,’ as I’ve called it, is not about conceptual art, or anything necessarily related to the 1960’s Conceptual art movement (with a capital C).  Nor is it about seeing something that isn’t there or posing more thoughts that can only live in your head.  It relates to the ability to better appreciate or more deeply engage with a work of art without succumbing to the bite-sized nibbles of culture offered elsewhere or having our heads turned this way or that by any number of other tempting distractions.”

These are things I’ve been trying to get at in my own work for a few years now.  I want my audience/participants/viewers to have an experience rather than simply look/see/consume what I have to share.  I want their lives to be impacted, for them to think about what they saw for years to come, and for that experience of the work to evolve as they themselves change and grow.  Otherwise, what was the point of making the work in the first place?  Sure, it fulfilled a selfish need of my own to create and express myself, but it doesn’t mean anything until someone else enters into the picture.  Otherwise, why look at art at all?  If you’re only going to spend sixty seconds staring at it, only to move on to the next piece immediately, and instantly forget what you saw just moments before.  Everything then becomes a blur, and nothing sticks.  Nothing makes an impression.  And I’ll have done all this hard work for nothing…

All the ideas…

I realized this week that I might be fighting my own expectations again.  While yes, I’ve been in Chicago for two months, it still might be a little unrealistic of me to expect myself to be totally acclimated and to have built a steady routine and become productive.  (Especially having added a new relationship into the mix.)  It takes time to readjust, to find a solid groove and balance.  I cannot expect myself to have mastered that in such a short period of time.  Realizing that has helped quash some of my anxiety about getting work done in the studio and feeling overwhelmed by my job.  It’s frustrating to me that I still do this to myself… Try to conform to my own unrealistic expectations.  Particularly when it comes to the studio.  I seem to be able to curb it elsewhere in my life, but the studio man… It always sneaks up on me.  The important thing is that I’m trying, and I’m making progress.  Even if it is slow.

Despite the minor anxieties, I really cannot, and should not, complain though.  I am, by leaps and bounds, the happiest and most content I can remember being.  My bills are paid, I have my own apartment, I have a really good (if sometimes frustrating) job that is actually in academia AND pays well, I live in an amazing city with a million opportunities for me, and I’m part of a we with a really fabulous bloke.  I’m actually sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but not enough to let it spoil my joy at this moment.  In the last few weeks I have gotten to shoot with an amazing Sigma art lens, learn all kinds of new things about printers, I’ve gotten to see an improv show, explore Chicago’s architecture, FINALLY go apple picking and to a pumpkin patch, eaten all kinds of ethnic foods… I just, I feel very fortunate to have gotten my job and to have things going so well that my anxiety over not making more art, faster, seems really silly.  And I think that’s a good attitude for me to have.

I feel though, that my art thoughtz have been coming pretty fast and hard lately and I haven’t been particularly apt at keeping up with them or making steps to make things.  Never the less it’s exciting that I’m having these ideas.  It’s been awhile since the ideas came so quickly and in any quantity.  It’s almost overwhelming, but in the best of ways.  I’m excited to get my white board up and running in the studio so I can start sorting through and keeping track of my ideas.  That’s something that’s sorely been missing in my practice the last year and a half.  It will also be nice to get all those notes out of my sketchbook and into the computer so that I can collate them with my whiteboarding.  Super duper excited!

I have several ideas that are really vying for my attention right now but I think are a diverse showing of my artistic interests.  Both in terms of media and in terms of concept, and I think it will be interesting to watch them develop.  I’m really kind of curious about an idea that I had just the other night, which I envision as being totally photographic.  Perhaps even a photo book (totally eating crow on that one, if it happens).  I wonder if I’m going to get bored with it as I tend to do with any type of straight photography, and if conceptually, I will feel as if it is accomplishing it’s goal.  I tend to be disappointed by straight photography because I feel a lot of it is:  Photographer takes picture.  Photographer tells you want the picture is about.  OR:  Photographer takes picture.  It is pretty/technically proficient/”compelling”.  There isn’t an experience to be had, there isn’t something to interact with or explore.  Ugh.  Vom.  Super boring (TO ME!  Let me stress that… SUPER BORING TO ME.)  Yes, my Period series was straight photos, but always with the end goal of a massive installation in mind.  (Which!  While I’ve had no traction on finding a place to make that happen, I have decided I want to print life sized stickers and plaster them around town!)

In any event, this idea for a photo series struck me the other night in the shower.  I turned and happened to see a hair on my bathroom tile, which was not mine.  Ok, fine, it must be Matthew’s, since he showers at my place a few times a week.  But somehow that got the random synapses firing as I was finishing my shower.  I started thinking about how I really love living alone, and my place here in Chicago is really the first time in almost 8 years that I’ve actually had a place of my own, by myself.  It reminded me that I was in a romantic relationship for almost 6.5 years, most of which we lived together, and nearly 3 of which we were married.  Our lives were totally linked and wound together on every level.  But then the divorce.  It was like a perfect, sterile break that I truly rejoiced in because I suddenly things were always where I put them last, there were no arguments over how something should be done. Everything was the way I wanted it.  And I embraced that.  But now that Matthew and I are a “we” and he’s at my place and in my space pretty regularly, I think there’s going to be a period of adjustment while I get used to the traces he leaves behind.  Stray hairs discovered on my shower tiles, rumpled blankets, extra pillows on one side of the bed, double the dishes… I want to use imagery to investigate these invited trespasses and my re-acclimation to it.  I also like the parallel (conceptually) between the fact that I really have no idea where our relationship will/is going and the fact that I really have no clue how this whole straight photography thing is going to play out.  We’ll see…

I’ve also really been feeling the need to do some performative work.  I have this idea to attempt to walk a straight line down the sidewalk here in Chicago.  I need some assistance with this one though because in order to film it, I will need someone to babysit the camera while I do the act.  I think I want to try a few different variations of this act.  One that is sort of unapologetic and unwavering, where I do not stray from my course, one where I just stare at the ground as I walk, effectively ignoring any potential collisions, perhaps one where I try to avoid any and all collisions…  Variety might be a good idea.  I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say with this, but I sort of see some parallels between the act and my anxiety and stubbornness.

The third idea I’m trying to pin down and figure out right now I’m referring to as  Grandmother Spider in my head.  (I needed some kind of working title I guess…)  It’s me reading an essay (Titled, you guessed it! Grandmother Spider.) from Rebecca Solnit’s book Men Explain Things to Me.  It’s essentially an essay about how women are “disappeared” from history and society.  I think this is an especially pertinent issue right now.  Younger generations are rejecting feminism, reproductive rights are under serious attack, and of course there’s this whole thing going on with Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi nonsense.  Basically, women are still not on equal footing.  My thought here, is to record myself reading the essay, then periodically fade my own voice out (so you only see my face/torso), or fade out my physical presence (so you only hear my voice).  I had also thought about having a male read the same essay, with the sound on that channel subtly escalating over my own reading of the essay.  But I’m not sure if the male should read the same essay?  Or perhaps if he only read the parts that pertain to men?  Or changed the genders of what Solnit originally wrote?  I think though that there is something nice about the idea of a cacophony of voices trying to be heard.  Men often talk over women, so its not like it’s a stretch.   There needs to be a visual component that echoes that though…  Perhaps split screen with me on one side and the male on the other?  And his side slowly gets larger and louder?  Not sure, but I like this idea.  It’s simple in terms of execution and the visual, but complex conceptually.  I shot some test footage for this the other day and I plan on looking over it later today.

I’ve got a few other project ideas kicking around that I’ve made varying degrees of progress on, but I think I just need to let them lie right now.  One is Adrift which is the second part of a live performance I did back in May.  It’s supposed to be video and photo documentation that calls the veracity of the performance into question, but I’m not sure how to put the documentation together to get that across.  Also, I always drag my feet when it comes to video editing.  It’s the worst.  I’ve also started what I hope will be a massive photographic installation revolving around the birth control pill, but I started to get really frustrated with the images I was getting.  The pills are so tiny that getting nice, sharp images of them that are well lit is difficult using the gear I have.  But I also don’t want to invest in a single lens or something silly like that JUST for this project.  Besides I really only need a handful of shots to make the entire thing happen.  I’m letting it sit on the back burner right now until I can resolve the best way to capture those images.

Spacey & Dreamy

I’ve been feeling incredibly spacey and dreamy as of late.  It’s been an odd sensation, because there just hasn’t been a time or a reason in my life to be that in the last few years.  I’ve been focused and intent on all things, and there was no space for being slow, or day dreaming.

I’m not sure if this is because I’m tired, I’m smitten, or because I’m still sort of in shock about being in Chicago and being so damn happy.  (I mean really, it’s disgusting how content and happy I am with life right now.)  Or perhaps a combination of all of those things.  I’m still having a rough time adjusting to my “new” schedule… You’d think after almost two months I’d be in the swing of things, but I am not!  Part of it, I think is the constant stimulus and need for processing.  I’m nearly always surrounded by people, whether it’s students at work, or randos on the train home.  But there are always people, there is always noise, there is always SOMETHING vying for my attention.  And for me, that’s a lot.  I get easily overwhelmed by sensory input.  In fact, the only time I am ever alone anymore, is when I’m at home!  (I am increasingly happy about my decision to live by myself for this reason alone.)  Anyway, all of that is exhausting to me, and takes it’s toll physically and mentally.  I also have not allowed myself a moment of down time.  I get up in the morning and go, go, go all day.  My time on the train is spent reading, I work straight through my lunch (because I have no other option right now), I go straight to the gym after work (while reading on the train again!), then I come home and eat dinner while studioing it up.  I didn’t even realized I was doing that to myself until just the other day, when I was like… “Well no wonder you’re burned out by the time you get into the studio at night!”  So I’ve started to allow myself to watch a bit of TV or something equally inane while I eat dinner and decompress from my 12 hour day.  I definitely need that, and so far it seems to be helping.  Even though it cuts in to studio time, I think it evens itself out in the long run.  I’m better able to focus, and am more productive in, say the two hours I have after I eat dinner and watch PowerPuff girls for 45 minutes.  Where as I used to walk in my front door, drop my things in the studio and fire up my computer while I went and warmed up dinner, then ate and tried to work simultaneously.  I would always get distracted, or need to get up and get water, or whatever… So even though I may have gotten an extra hour or two in the studio that way, I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything. And while I’ve been maintaining my typical Sunday schedule of grocery shopping, cooking, chores, and laundry, Friday nights and Saturdays have increasingly been given over to a wonderful gent, with whom I’m quite smitten. So while that is technically down time or time off from the grind of work/career and responsibilities, our time together is exhausting in it’s own way (in the best of ways, of course).

Basically there just need to be more hours in the day, and I need to up my caffeine intake.

Seriously though, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to time manage and prioritize, and I’m starting to feel as though I’m not doing so well at those things right now, despite the fact that nearly every minute of my time is planned and accounted for.  My anxiety about not spending enough time in the studio is growing.  At best I get 2.5 hours in there most nights of the week (well, Monday through Thursday).  I get about 1.5 hours in studio related reading done on the train every day.  And occasionally I’ll get 4 or 5 hours on a Friday night, and maybe a few more on a Sunday after my chores are done.  That’s barely 20 hours a week on arting.  I feel like that’s a really low number.  I’m just terrified that my practice is slowly going to wither away as my life is taken up by my job and my other responsibilities and relationships.  That’s my biggest fear right now… :/  Again, though, I have to remind myself that I can’t do everything all at once.  That it is actually OK to do things slowly, and at what ever pace I can manage.  Otherwise the anxiety starts to win out.  It hits me the worst when I have to run errands around town.  Chicago is such a freaking huge city, and I use public transit to get everywhere, and so sometimes it just takes a really fucking long time to get to where you’re going (Not that owning a car would make it any faster though).  Like, planning and executing a trip to Lowes is it’s own special kind of time and energy suck.  It just takes a lot of effort. So there are times where I have to accept the fact that I’ll be on a bus/train for almost three hours just to get to where I’m going and back.  And I feel like that is lost time, because what am I going to do on the train for 90 minutes?!  I could read, but I still feel unproductive!  I  need to recondition my brain to understand that this is how life works in the city, and that I’m not really wasting time, and that everything will be OK… I just need to get better at managing when I go where.  So I’m not just going out to Lowes for one single thing, or just returning library books, but rather I’m putting errands together, doing things on the way, or need to get multiple things in one far-flung location.  It will be ok.

I just have to keep telling myself that.  And maybe make some art about it.

Still Alive and Kicking (But now in Chicago!)

Fair warning… I have no idea where this is going.

I’ve been absent for well over a year now.  This blog was even hidden from public view for at least six months while I decided what to do with it.  Should I just delete it, and all the art thoughtz that went into it?  Or perhaps just leave it as private permanently?  Should it go public again, and I delete only the things that relate to my professional practice and make this an entirely personal blog?  Should I rename the whole damn thing?  Should I just start over on a new blog?

Yes.  I’ve actually been thinking about these things for over a year.  And, with so many things having changed in my life in that time span, I’ve really been missing this blog, especially the long drawn out art ramblings that always, in some magical way, seemed to clarify my studio adventures.  The Anxiety and the Artist so encapsulates everything I am.  I cannot totally divorce my personal and professional lives, nor can I erase something that documents the changes and growth in my life.

So here we are again.  I find myself with nothing to do on a Sunday, because my normal routine has been disrupted due to some banking issues.  Thus, I finally have the time to do what’s been kicking around in my head for the last month or so.  Start this blog back up.  It’s a good time to do so, and I think an important time to do so as well.

In many ways, the concerns I voiced in my last post are very much in the forefront of my mind, but I feel less… Rushed?  Less like things need to happen NOW?  But also so much more complicated.  Some of that is because I’ve gotten a “real” job and I’ve moved out of Tallahassee.  I feel possibilities now.  I feel like I’m making progress professionally (even if only incrementally).  So now, in some ways, I’m totally content being alone.  I don’t have to worry about anyone’s motives or intentions.  I don’t have to fear the moment where compromises can no longer be made and one or the other has to sacrifice and be resentful, or there is a parting of ways.  I just don’t feel the pressure to try to find a partner any more.

Even more basic than that though, is just the amount of brain space that dating takes up.  When I thought I was going to be spending another year in Tallahassee, I decided back in February that I was over dating.  It just took up so much time, effort, and brain space.  I wanted to cocoon myself in my “studio” (read: bedroom) and make art.  Apply for jobs.  Basically focus.  So I had deleted my dating profiles.

But then, oh but then!  Out of the blue I got a job, moved to Chicago, and was like, well why the fuck not!?  (I still very much maintain the mindset of “Why the fuck not?  What’s the worst that can happen?)  So I started up again.  And I have been enjoying it.  It’s been a great way to start to see the city and meet people.  I get to have sex again (something that was incredibly rare the last six months or so)!  I like feeling the possibility that I can, in fact, connect with another human being.  That I’m not an android, or such an introvert that I want no one around me.

I’m torn though.  It’s been difficult enough to get settled and get the studio (yes, I have a studio again now!) set up.  I keep running into technical difficulties.  The space is currently cluttered with boxes of studio things that I have no place to store right now (and clutter is distracting to me). I’m still having a hard time adjusting to working full time from 8-5 for a full 5 days a week, to commuting 45 minutes each way.  So I’ve not been as productive in the studio as I would like, much less in getting out in to the art community or *shudder* networking.  That’s giving me a certain amount of anxiety, but not unmanageable amounts.  I just have to keep reminding myself that not everything can happen all at once.  And I’ve only been here for a month (as of tomorrow).  Dating is… While not taking away from my practice (because I firmly believe I need to have a life and have fun in order to function as both an artist and a human being), taking up brain space.

At the same time however, every time I hear another friend is pregnant, or I see friends totally content in relationships, I feel like my heart is being ripped out.  I feel a profound sense of sadness.  I want those things just as much as I want to focus.  Just as much as I need to make art.  I feel/hear my clock ticking, obnoxiously so these days.  My body is fucking with me.  My periods now come every three weeks instead of every four.  As if even my ovaries know that I need to get a move on, and so they’re trying to be helpful by speeding up the turn around time or something.  All the while just wasting their time (and my eggs!  Jerks…)  I love the idea of having some one to share my life with.  I crave having the ability to get a hug whenever I need one.  To feel loved…  However, given everything in my life, all of my experiences, and my motivations/plans for the future, I’m not sure that I can even allow that to happen.

As I was unpacking my studio in the new apartment, I came across a hunk of Post-It notes, hastily pulled from the wall in my previous studio *coughbedroomcough* and chucked into a box with my studio desk stuff.  I started unpeeling them from one another and sticking them on the wall that will eventually be the whiteboard in my studio.  And then I came across one that said “I don’t dare allow myself.”

Just let that sink in for a second.  I have no idea when I wrote that, or why I chose to keep it.  But at some point in the last year, that thought crossed my mind, and I jotted it down, stuck it to the wall with all my other Post-It thoughts, and kept it.  I don’t dare allow myself… If I allow myself then compromises have to be made, sacrifices follow, and I find myself in the exact same place I barely made it out of in one piece with my marriage.  If I allow myself, then I might start hoping, I might get expectations, I might start planning, and all of those things will be dashed and I will be hurt and disappointed.

My long and drawn out point here, is that, on some level, I’m not sure I can not allow myself to be enveloped into a relationship with any level of serious commitment, despite my desire for just that.  I think I’m too skeptical and pragmatic at this point in my life to believe that finding someone who can (and will) love me unconditionally, as well as want the same things that I do, and support me in my career, is likely.  I can have fun trying, but I don’t think that it will actually happen. I think that’s where my disinterest in dating comes from… I mean, why waste the brain space?

But still, even though they seem like a pipe dream, I want a committed relationship and a family.  I want stability.  And I don’t know how to get past the skepticism and pragmatism to make it happen though.  To let go a little bit of that control I have in being alone and focusing on me…. I just don’t want to do so at the expense of my professional endeavors.  And that’s a fine line to take.

Agh! Those Personal/Professional Boxes Again!

Hi there!  It’s been an age since I’ve posted here.  A totally inexcusable lapse on my part, but I hope you’ll forgive me… This blog had to be placed extremely low on my priorities list in the last 6 months.  So low that it stop existing.  Sorry about that.  I promise I will be a better blogger in the future.  Would it make you feel better if I told you that I’ve been trying to write this post for going on 3 months now?  No?  Well, it was worth a shot…

From here on out however, this blog is going to be much less about studio happenings, and more about the personal side of my artings and life.  Never fear, there will still be studio updates… They’re just going to be taking place over at a blog hosted on my professional website.  While my life does inform my work a great deal, I’m making an effort to separate my personal and professional life as much as possible… You know,  job hunting and such might be hindered by a blog about what an anxiety ridden person I am.  Or potential employers discovering how incompetent I really am…

Of course, a lot of things have happened since the last time I posted about the clock ticking for me and my thesis.  I had to produce both my written thesis and my MFA thesis show, my marriage fell apart and eventually ended, I applied for an obscene number of jobs (and got none of them) I graduated, I moved, I had an accident, I dyed my hair pink again, I attended a SHIT ton of therapy…  Basically all of the things had to be taken care of at the same time when all I really wanted to do was to curl up in the fetal position under the covers and cry… and maybe sleep.  Basically January through May was the most miserable time of my life (second only to my time spent in Erie PA).  But that’s OK.  Shit has to happen.

So here I find myself, with my terminal degree, still in Tallahassee, and no idea of what the future holds for me.  But you know what?  I’m actually really comfortable with that idea.  I’ve spent much of the last several years obsessing over the future, and planning things, and being terrified of what was going to happen.  I’m tired of that.  I just want to enjoy the life that I’ve fought so hard to have, even if it means I’m not exactly where I want to be in my career or personal life.  My new philosophy is:  “Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?”  Because, let’s be honest, I’ve already survived what I thought would be the worst things in my life.  Let’s fly by the seat of our pants for awhile, shall we?

It’s the intersection of those two things though, personal and professional, that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about… Because I’m fairly certain that it played a huge role in the destruction of my marriage.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a number of other factors that helped bring that relationship down, and I am certainly glad it is over, but, I think that you should learn from your mistakes and walk away a better, stronger person.  So, I think about these things.  A committee member of mine at FSU has this thing about Personal and Professional boxes, and how they never quite sync up.  Either things are going fantastically in one and not the other, or both are kind of mediocre.  In my head, I kind of scoffed at this when he first talked about it in a class… But, I feel like I’ve been in that latter category for the last 6 or so months… My thesis was created at the expense of my divorce, which resulted in some pretty lackluster work, and my life in general was a mess for quite awhile.  As I move forward, I think about these boxes being at odds with one another… Meaning that I can’t have both a successful professional life as well as a successful personal life.

Now, I’m not interested in having a “woe is me” moment here.  I made some decisions, some turned out badly, some are great, others have yet to reveal their consequences.  But, to reel this line of thought back into what I was originally saying; I feel as if my personal and professional desires are often in conflict with one another.  In the context of the relationship with my ex, I wanted to have that marriage, as well as my career… I wanted to start a family, he wanted to focus grad school…  I’m starting to feel there is no way to win.  That, perhaps, we cannot “have it all” as the feminists would say.

As I’ve returned to dating, and have been forced to rethink my plans for the artistic/academic career I want, these things haunt me.  It’s all very convoluted though.  It’s not just that I want a career and a personal life.  It’s that I’m an artist, who very much wants to be in academia.  To put it rather bluntly, there are a fuck-ton of artists with MFAs out there, while there is an inversely disproportionate number of university teaching positions.  This is because becoming a professor is one of the few ways that artists can both be guaranteed a regular paycheck and get various types of support for their artistic research.  Once you get tenure, no one wants to leave that kind of security!  Shit, son.  I want that type of security.

In any event, this means that there are few open positions, and the ones that are available, can have the highest requirements in terms of experience  and knowledge base, and no one will blink an eye or call foul.  With hundreds of people applying for a single position, why not be choosy?!  Most of the photography teaching positions I was gunning for “preferred” anywhere between 3-5 years of teaching experience not including teaching experience accumulated while in graduate school.  This is frustrating, because it basically precludes my applications to a VAST majority of the positions available.

Then, how to get those years of teaching experience so that the search committees don’t just laugh and throw out my applications?  Well, a combination of adjunct positions and visiting professorships (although, most of the visiting/short term gigs seem to require just as much experience as the permanent ones).  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of adjuncting… Basically it means that you are contracted to a university, semester to semester, paid a flat rate for each course you teach, and have no job security, much less benefits or things of that nature.  Both of these options are depressing to me.  One means I scrounge around where ever I’m living, hoping that I can piece together a living through adjuncting and some other type of job.  (Because, come on, who is going to relocate for a job that has no guarantee of being there when you arrive?)  The other equates to me being a nomad for several years (should I be lucky enough to get any of those jobs).

To me, all of this seems to make having a personal life impossible.  If I’m constantly moving around, then how the heck can I build a long term relationship, much less start a family, with out having to ask my partner to sacrifice what they want while I do what I want?  Or, conversely, I could compromise, and stay put some place where there is a possibility of adjunct work, but have no promise of work from semester to semester, much less financial stability.  But then, what happens once I’ve found a full time job and have to move for reals?  It makes me want to give up on the idea of a career in academia.

Then I wonder what I would do, as an artist if I decided not to go into the university system.  I want to teach, I do.  I sincerely enjoy it.  Then maybe I teach high school? (I have, by the way, applied for a certificate of eligibility to do so.)  But teaching high school, you have no support for your artistic career.  You’re not going to get sabbaticals, have the opportunity to apply for research grants, or have access to various facilities needed.  And, from my perspective, you’re not going to get to teach the things you’re most interested in, or work with the level of students you’d like to… But, you’d have a guaranteed paycheck, you don’t have to be nomadic, and you still get to teach… and maybe make art in a spare minute or two at night… If you have some extra cash laying around…

Conversely, I could just say fuck it to my career for a period of time, take a job doing whatever, start a family, and enjoy that aspect of what I want in life, then try in the future to go after the academic career.  This seems like a terrible idea though… Imagine, sitting in an interview, being asked why you got your terminal degree in 2o14, but did nothing with it until many years later.  Something tells me “Oh, I wanted to settle down with my partner and pop out some kids” would probably not be a widely accepted answer.  I also live in terror of doing this and then never actually reclaiming my career.

Anyway… Now I’m just ranting.  Basically, it seems to me that myself and my fellow academically oriented artists are in a bind.  There are not good options.  And that makes me sad.  While I realize that I can make whatever I want happen in my life, the process seems rather grim.  And I think I make this all the more difficult on myself because I don’t want to move anywhere there is a possibility of snow…




I am at the 92 Day, 23 hour, 58 minute and some odd second mark until my thesis show opens.


And I am struggling.  But what’s surprising about that?


You see, I have once again gotten myself into the difficult situation of having come up with this insane idea, but of having no clue as to how to pull it off.  Aren’t I nice to myself?


My initial proposal went something like this:


For my thesis show, I would like to create an archive of a performance through documents and artifacts.  The performance which is evidenced through this archive may or may not have taken place.  There is potential for the archive could be created out of found objects, repurposed materials, etc.  These materials would then be presented to the audience in such a way that they are then required to piece together the “narrative” of the event.  Conceptually, I see the performance revolving around the themes of failure and success.  Preferably, I would like this to take the form of some type of universal failure or experience with failure, something which would compel the audience to invest time and energy into discovering the story.  The main idea behind the archive and its manner of presentation to the audience is that, while it documents and shares an experience for which the audience was absent, it also mediates and distances them from that same event.  This inherently creates misunderstanding, miscommunication, and potential meandering in meaning.  In this way the archive in the traditional sense, fails performance art, in that it cannot provide a clear or concise replication of the principal happening for posterity to experience.  Nor can it hope to truly preserve artist intent or meaning through time.  As our cultural references and understandings evolve, the documents  themselves remain stagnant.

The contents of this repository will be as wide ranging as possible, but operating within the traditional confines of an archive.  I intend to include photographs, video, sound recordings, writing, any props or objects used for the performance, as well as any artifacts created through the performance itself.  These documents will be incomplete in someways, forcing the viewer to use all parts in conjunction with one another in order to obtain the “full picture.”  These various parts will be displayed throughout the gallery, almost in “stations,” to both explain and mediate the performance for the audience.  I also anticipate providing the audience with some sort of takeaway which could function as a map, a treasure hunt, or something which would help them to tie together the various pieces of the performance.  This takeaway could then become an additional piece of documentation.  Photographically speaking, I am considering two options.  The first is having images which change periodically, and the second is presenting images that were supposedly printed with disappearing ink.  In the first option, images could be rotated on a time table, or a small group of images could be displayed on a screen or projected for a finite period of time before changing, never to be seen again.  In the second option, the images could be printed in disappearing ink, or just be stated to have been printed as such.  The audience would then be forced to rely on written captions or titles, or another individual to describe to them what was in each frame.  Similarly, the video component would be designed so that it could not be relied upon to share the narrative in its entirety.  I see it as either taking the form of a soundless video, projected or played on a screen.  Or it could also simply be a glitchy video which periodically drops out, or becomes pixillated so visual information is lost as well, similar to the way that Digital TV received via antenna is unreliable. When it comes to any objects included in the archive, I’m anticipating these being presented much as traditional art objects or historical artifacts in a museum.  Moreover, I plan on incorporating some type of sound or written element to supplement the object.  This could take the form of an audio track variously describing the original object, the history of the object, discussing the use of the object within the performance, or maybe just the sound of the object being used.  Alternatively, this could also be accomplished through a written placard accompanying the object. As a final piece of the archive, I intend to have an audio feed that provides audience members with a general interpretation of what the performance and show were about.  To accomplish this, at some point during each viewer’s experience at the gallery, they will have the opportunity to enter a sort of “confessional,” in which they can share their interpretations, impressions, or experience of the performance.  This will then simultaneously be recorded and broadcast into a “listening station,” where others may go to hear this second hand audio archive of the performance.  As with the presentation of the objects, this could also take the form of a written archive if the audience were uncomfortable with speaking or being recorded.  Additionally, I would somehow like to incorporate other audience generated archive materials, such as pictures they took, or social media posts they made relating to the show.  This could then be incorporated into the presentation of the performance in the museum after the opening….


And then it goes into discussing research routes and technical challenges.  Sorry if you read all of that.

There are several problems with this idea, despite the fact that I am so excited about it and have the support of my committee to take this risk.  The first of which being, I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT THE PERFORMANCE IS GOING TO BE.  And I can’t piece together anything else until I nail that down.  Frustrating!  Like I mention in the proposal, I want it to related to failure, but how do you make failure completely universal?  It’s pretty crucial in this situation I think, to make the performance something that is relatable and understandable in terms of theme and content.  Otherwise I feel like there would be NOTHING for the audience to grasp since there are several layers happening here, and I’m not 100% certain that everyone in attendance is going to understand that as I look at it, archives are failure…  Something, something, something, something?

I submitted that proposal in December, and have approval to attempt this madness, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about what my performance might be, if it were going to be live, or take place before hand, how I might engage the audience in piecing together the archive…On and on.

For quite sometime, the only conclusion I had come to was that there had to be a live performance (the night of my opening at least), so that the distinction between experiencing the archive and having a first hand, potentially participatory experience could be made for my audience.  But then, how do I make sure that ALL visitors to the show can experience that contradiction?  I can’t perform in the museum the entire time the show is up.  I can’t afford to pay performers to perform in the museum the entire time the show is up.  Do I make my audience become the performers?  And how do I keep the performance hidden, secondary in some ways, so that the audience could experience everything else first and THEN discover the live performance?  Should I make some sort of scavenger hunt, where the performance becomes the pay off in the end?  And how do I ensure that my audience complies?

Then over the last few days, I’ve started to think that I’m attempting to combine too much into this show.  Trying to use too many ideas simultaneously, and that I should try to simplify where possible.  This also made me think that maybe I should try to really simplify my intents for the performance itself, and maybe attempt something on a smaller scale…  But I still didn’t know what it would be.

But I think I had a small break through today.  In one of my posts from November, I talked about how I was thinking about playing telephone (almost literally) for a performance, and shared my discovery of  an essay titled The Viral Ontology of Performance Art.  Something else I read today (also out of Perform, Repeat, Record) started to make me think about performance telephone and Viral Ontology again.

  “Documentations magic lies in its explosive power, it shatters the reclusive planet inhabited by the once-lived into a radiating galaxy of astroids.  Each astroid carries some memories of the once-lived, each in turn extends, renews, or replaces the vitality of the once-lived; each has the potential to grow into a different planet.  Thus, the once-lived lives again and lives on not as itself per se, but as itself altered: dismembered, redone, augmented, partially replicated, diminished, burned into ashes, or consumed as legends.”

Suddenly I remembered a game a member of my cohort taught me and that I would frequently play with the kids at Lafayette Art Camp.  It’s called Telephone Pictionary.  To play this game, you sit in a circle with the other participants (as with traditional Telephone, the more people, the better), and each player has a stack of paper or note cards.  On the top card, each participant writes a word or phrase.  They flip it over and hand it to the person sitting next to them.  That person looks at the word or phrase and attempts to draw it on the back of the same piece of paper.  The drawing is then passed to the next individual who looks only at the drawing, and writes out a short phrase or word that describes what they think the drawing is of. And so on and so forth.  The pay off obviously comes once the cards have made the full round of the circle and come back to the original owner, where the evolution of their original word or phrase is seen.

And I thought… Why can’t that be the performance?!  It’s so perfectly simple.  It doesn’t require anyone to constantly be performing.  It’s wholly participatory, but un-agressively so.  It creates it’s own archive by default.  It’s subtle enough that it doesn’t make a spectacle of itself and could be taking place in a self contained room…  It’s so flipping simple and perfect, it’s brilliant.  It embodies the very idea of viral ontology and audience centered experiences I’m so keep to explore.  It is also sort of the very definition of failure, and I don’t even have to manipulate the situation  to create the failure!  Why am I so obtuse sometimes!?!

I’m not entirely sure how this all fits together into my crazy scheme yet, but I think I’m going to test run this idea at the 621 Cabaret in a few weeks.  Every year 621 Gallery does a fundraiser in which local artists and performers create an act and then put on a cabaret style show, and since I’m sitting on the board this year, I got suckered into performing…  But I think it might be a good venue to explore this idea, if I can make it happen with in a 10 minute time frame…  Always gotta make it hard on myself.


More soon.

A Press Release…

It’s been a lazy, kind of busy holiday… But I’m back and better than ever.  Fired up to finally pop out this thesis and the accompanying arts.  An update on that another time.  Today I just quickly want to share with you all the press release for the Live Amateurs exhibition I’m participating in, which opens this Saturday!  Feel free to share it around.  :)  See ya kids soon.


LIVE AMATEURS at MINT Gallery-Press Release


Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 6.25.31 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 6.25.47 PM


Hi.  You guys might have noticed things disappearing around here…  Like my portfolio, or cv, or all the other things that got deleted.  NEVER FEAR!  I’ve finally set up a website, and all of that professional-like stuff is now at courtneyethayer.com.  So you can wander over there at your leisure and check it out.  I’ll still be posting studio updates and all of my random tangent-y goodness over here, but since it’s about time for me to be professional and respectable, I needed to split the blog from the portfolio.  Hopefully you all hang around anyway!




Theising (I’ve turned it into a Verb…)

Holy cow.  I have no idea why, but man did people blow up my blog last weekend!  My phone was literally buzzing and beeping every 5 minutes for about 12 hours.  That’s never been a thing before… So thanks to you all who came and checked me out here, and for everyone who also started following me as a result.  It’s nice to feel special every once in awhile.  I apologize if I don’t follow you in return, but I can’t keep up with everything anymore.  Rest assured you are noted.


I’ve been terribly absent recently, and for that I apologize.  A lot of things went very wrong back in August, and then my marriage kind of started to… unravel.  And I went into survival mode.  Which means I was functioning on a day to day, minute to minute basis, just trying to keep my head above water.  Seriously.  My brain was elsewhere.  But now I’m back on track, and that’s happy!  I’ve been digging through my “sketch books”  (in quotes because I don’t actually ever sketch… EVER), and pulling out all the random ideas I wrote down but forgot about.  Then through a very scientific process I am calling The Whiteboard, I’ve been sorting them out, making connections, and basically trying to understand what my thesis is actually going to be.  You see, I’ve been theising hardcore.  I’ve also been working on a professional website, job applications, teaching, and drinking copious amounts of coffee…Well, copious for me anyway.


Back to the theising…  As it stands right now, the written paper will probably revolve around my failure/success research as well as my interest in the way that photography mediates and fails as a tool for documentation.  I’ve been reading a really great book about Performance art and archive, Perform, Repeat, Record:  Live Art in History which has helped me to clarify my thoughts as they relate to performance and photography, as well as introduced me to the idea of a viral ontology of performance art.  The essay this idea comes from (The Viral Ontology of Performance), was written by Christopher Bedford.  He contends that a performance cannot be limited to it’s “originary” event.  Rather, he says it “[S]plinters, mutates, and multiplies over time in the hands of various critical constituencies in a variety of media, to yield a body of critical work that extends the primary act of the performance into the indefinite future of reproduction.”  I’m really drawn to this idea for two main reasons.  The first is that it implies that any document made during the originating performance, cannot and should not define the work.  As I feel that photographs fail to capture the performance fully anyway, this makes perfect sense to me.  Secondly, the idea of a viral ontology extends the ephemeral nature of the performance.  The performance happened within a certain time and space, which cannot be recreated or made concrete outside of documentation.  Since these documents are all that exist, and not the  thing itself (unlike say a painting), they move forward in time, being constantly re-contextualized, re-interpreted, but never concrete.  I’m not sure that makes sense…. It does to me though.  In any event, I’m excited about that.


The work itself is 99% likely to be performance and installation based.  I’m playing around with some ideas involving playing telephone (almost literally…) and mediating the viewer’s experience of the performance in order to address both the ideas of failure and the primacy of my viewer’s experience in the context of my work.  I was considering doing something with handing out fake awards to my fellow MFAs that constantly moved around all night….  Buuuuut maybe not.  In any case… This shit is real.  It’s happening.  In like less 6 months.  Crap.  I’ve now given myself an anxiety attack.


That Whiteboard thing I mentioned earlier?  Yeah… Not joking, it is my scientific process.  This is what’s been happing in the studio lately:


There is just something about writing that helps me focus.  It is so way better than sketching.  ;)  Hopefully I’ll be back on track with the blog posting now, but I make no promises!  Have a peachy keen evening… I’m off to eat some dinner and check out a visiting artist lecture here at FSU.