Looming Deadline: Impending Anxiety Attack

In a little over a week I am supposed to be doing a performance here in town.  I voluntarily opted to do this, thinking that it would be a great motivator to flesh out some ideas and get the ball rolling for the semester.  And then I decided to double it up with a required performance for my Performance History and Practice course, still foolishly thinking I would be fine.  But I am not.

I still have no idea what I am going to do…

Well, technically that is a lie.  I have a general idea of the themes and concepts I wish to address, but I’ve got NO clue exactly what the performance will be.  And I’m fending off an anxiety attack because of this.  I swear I’ve been thinking about this for weeks.  Before school even started actually.  I’ve been doing research, and brainstorming… I haven’t gotten anywhere.

My intended concept for this performance revolves around reality versus expectations,  using the themes of failure, futility, and anxieties that I have been dealing with over the last year or so.  I was thinking about how hard I often making things for myself, frequently choosing the most difficult or involved manner of performing tasks.  This in turn made me reflect on the way that my expectations are often drastically unrealistic, and that disconnect between expectation and reality is very likely the source for much of my anxiety.  Additionally, for me, there is a factor of repetitious, and sometimes destructive, behaviors, because I refuse to give in, or to do something in any other way than I envision it.  In a word, inflexibility.

In it’s original iteration, the idea for this performance was a video of  me running and jumping for a tree limb, just out of my reach, over and over and over again.  Until I was exhausted, possibly bruised and/or bloodied.  That then evolved into a performance of me attempting to jump over a limbo stick that was placed at a height which I could have easily walked under.  Again, repeating this same pointless and destructive action, refusing to admit failure or adjust my behavior to a more appropriate course of action.  But the reason neither of these ideas came to fruition, is that I see them as a bit to literal.  Like one liners that will cause a laugh, but not provoke thought.  With the limbo stick idea, there was a factor of physical technicality too.  The performance is talking place in a space which I cannot permanently alter, making it difficult for me to construct some type of structure which would allow me to repeatedly throw my body against it and have said structure still remain standing.

And that brings me to my current quandary.  I have no idea what to do…

So I am going to continue to write about this and hope for one of my magical moments where everything connects and finally makes sense.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks doing research into Matthew Barney, specifically his Drawing Restraint series.  I will wax lyrical about my love of him in another post, but there are a number of things in his Drawing Restraint series that parallel some of the things I want to do or am thinking about in relation to this performance.

The thing about all of Barney’s work, is that it is informed by the practice of hypertrophic training.  Briefly, this is the way that athletes train their muscles at increasingly difficult levels in order to build up strength.  According to Nancy Spector, the chief curator at the Guggenheim (or The Gügg and The Husband and I sometimes refer to it) in New York, this informs the fundamental tenet of Barney’s practice:  Form cannot materialize or mutate with out struggle against resistance in the process.  In the grand scheme of Drawing Restraint, Barney willingly puts himself in ever increasingly difficult scenarios, using extreme lengths to create a mark or create form.  It’s really pretty fascinating.  Thinking about that, you see the desire to make a mark, or more basically to create, and then you contemplate the accompanying restraint and training required of creating.  So in this really beautifully, and mildly absurd way, Barney is challenging himself, level by level (a theme also seen in his other major body of work The Cremaster Cycle, to make a mark.  Barney is also a proponent of using art to overcome psychological division and conflict, which is very much right in line with where my thoughts are these days.

I’ve also spent some time looking at an artist, William Lamson, a fellow student recently brought to my attention.  In his work I see so much of what I want to convey.  There is this sense of tension and self-defeat in his work that I find completely compelling, particularly in his Actions series.  He very carefully choreographs events in his videos, expending tremendous amounts of time and energy in the process of creation, knowing that the moment he initiates the plan, he is actually pressing a self destruct button.  When you watch these videos unfold, you hold your breath with this feeling of anxiety and anticipation because you know exactly what is going to happen and that it is all going to be defeated.  You are watching self imposed failure.  The scary thing is, I can completely relate to the train of thought.  I can understand and predict the outcomes of my actions or behaviors, and see the possibility for failure.  In fact, no matter what, there is always a possibility for failure.  But that version of events is totally overshadowed and out weighed by the prospect of successfully executing something to my exacting expectations.  So really, it becomes about this tension between the reality of the situation and the expectation, about the inevitability of the out come.

Which brings me full circle back to the expectations versus reality thing.  And for some reason I keep thinking about this scene from 500 Days of Summer, one of my all time favorite movies, and possibly one of the most brilliantly filmed scenes ever.

I just keep watching it over and over again.  Obviously the content is not what I am trying to get at, but there is something in the format that really intrigues me.  The whole movie is brilliant really (and it doesn’t hurt that Joesph Gordon-Levitt is in it, or that there’s a lot of Regina Spektor’s music), but this scene has stuck with me since I first saw it back in 2010 or so.  And no, I didn’t go out of my way to find a JGL connection here.  It was a totally organic happening!

I think the question here is how do I put this all into the meat grinder and distill it into something?  Can some one answer that question for me?  Is that like asking someone to do my homework for me?  Nah… We can just call it an artistic collaboration.  😉
So, no magic moment yet, but maybe it all just needs to process?

 

Oh, and of course, the video clip is not mine.  I wish.  If it were I wouldn’t be in the position I am!

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Overflow/Overwhelm/Overcome

Since I spent an aggregate two weeks on this show (not including the actual time it took to create the work), I’d thought I’d share with you all the fruits of my labor.  I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to upload the video projection component of one of my installations onto youtube first.  That, sad to say, did not pan out.  Apparently it’s too long.  So, what I do have to offer you is A TON of pictures, and a shaky cell phone video of the installation itself…

I am actually incredibly pleased with the way this show pulled together and the response I got from the audience.  I really can’t believe how well it turned out.  It was, by far, the smoothest installation and opening I have ever had.  Everything went as planned, no sudden, dramatic obstacles reared their ugly heads, I never once freaked out.  That is a MAJOR accomplishment for this control freak.
So how about some pictures before I blather on more?  OK!

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, the first room at WMC was dedicated to a re-installation of Flawless…We shall hence refer to it as Flawless II.  Originally, I had thought that I would need two pieces to properly fill the space in that front gallery, but after I started installing and saw how Flawless II was taking shape, I quickly revised that decision.  I’m glad that I did, because the room would have been way to cramped and the pieces would not have had any breathing space.  I think the resultant installation came out beautifully.  Much more like the crashing wave I originally envisioned.  I installed it sans video component this time, and I loved it all the more for that.  But I think I might still add a different video…I had the suggestion of actual waves.  What do you all think about that?  We’ll see what happens… For the meantime I’m putting this piece to sleep.  Maybe I’ll recycle the prints into something else…

The back room at Working Method housed a video installation which I suppose I am calling Overflow.  The video component was an approximately 20 minute loop of a kitchen sink filling with water and, get this, overflowing!  The video was projected onto a plastic sheet with water running down it at various times.  The water collected in puddles and pools on the floor (at one point even leaking under the wall into another gallery space…whoops) which viewers had to walk through.  The resultant foot prints actually wound up making a fantastic trail through the front gallery space.  Additionally, some of the water seeped under the plastic sheeting and through the bottom of the wall between the front and back galleries, making some excellent effects on the Flawless II installation.  The final bit of the Overflow installation was that there were cans hanging from a frame on the ceiling, dripping water down onto the viewer periodically.  It made for some awesome audience reactions.

If you would like to see the video documentation, it will magically appear if you click this link.

Overall, I am incredibly proud of the way my show turned out.  I really got some great feedback, and the audience really seemed to enjoy the work over all, particularly the older (say over 30) crowed.  They truly appeared to make a connection to the work in the way the younger visitors to the gallery did, with a few exceptions.  One of them being a freaking adorable little girl (about 6 or so) who came in with her mother.  This little girl asked me some really good questions, and really seemed to understand what I was trying to get at by “making it rain” in the gallery.

So until the next time…Joseph Gordon-Levitt and make some art!  😉

The Artist Statement….*Duh Duh Duuuuuh*

I apologize for having not posted in the last week, but I’ve been busy getting ready for this:

It is that time of the month again!  First Friday!  And some crazy part of me decided it would be a great idea to organize a show…only I wound up being the only one willing to show this month….everyone else seems to be out of town or in an awkward/bad place with their work.  Whoops.  That’s OK, solo show for me I guess!  The work shown will be a rework of Flawless (sans video component and some changes in the installation) and a new video installation piece that I just recently “completed.”  I put completed in quotes because I’m still not entirely satisfied with it, but it will be good to take it out for a spin and see what kind of reactions I get.  I will eventually get around to posting up here for all to see.  But first I need to export it from Final Cut…Better get on that.

So instead of writing witty or insightful blog posts, I’ve been sweating my butt off at the gallery (it’s been pretty hot here in FL) installing things, working out logistical stuff, designing the lovely promo piece you see above, and desperately trying to write an artist statement to have posted at the show.  Oh the chores and secret delights of being an artist!

If any of you have visited my artist statement page, you well know that all you get is a picture.  A pretty freaking awesome image (from one of my photographic series), but a picture nonetheless.  You might be asking yourself why an artist might be writing a blog and posting about their own art work, without also posting an artist statement.  That is an excellent question my dear imaginary readers!  The answer is quite boring really.  I decided suddenly that I needed to have an artist statement page, and put one up.  I didn’t have (and still don’t have) an artist statement to post there, but figured I’d put up the page to A) Give me motivation to write a new statement, and B) Continually remind me that I wanted to put an artist statement up here.  It only proved useful in the latter.

In any event…I think the more pressing question, is why I don’t have an artist statement to begin with.  This is also a good one.  When I moved down here and started grad school…I had one.  I had to have one to apply to grad school in fact.  I’ve always been pretty good at writing artist statements.  It’s not a difficult chore if you are familiar with your work and your process.  If you’re good with art history, that’s just a bonus.  However, after starting my work down here, the thematic explorations of my work began to change drastically.  I also began to veer away from my medium of choice, photography.  As my work was in such transition (aka crisis), I found it incredibly difficult to even attempt to write an artist statement.  It took almost the entirety of the school year for me to even begin to understand thegeneral scope of what I was trying to explore and express visually, let alone organize and verbalize these ideas.  While I’ve had more time over the summer to think about it, I’m still very much struggling with writing an artist statement.

I said before that writing an artist statement is simply a matter of knowing your work and your process…and I certainly think that is what is hindering me now.  In a realm that I am relatively new to (performance and installation), and having had my process changed so completely in the last year,  it’s hard for me to get a good perspective on what I am doing and what I want to say.  I also feel that I am struggling because I don’t have a good grasp on a vocabulary for performance and installation.  All in all a ridiculously frustrating situation.  Have any of you dear imaginary readers struggled with this?

Bah.  Everyone things being an artist is so easy…but that’s a rant for another day.  Rest assured I will have the darn artist statement written by Friday, and will post in here for all the internet world to criticize sometime in the next week.  Until then, have a happy Fourth!

 

Flawless

The big project that I spent about a month and a half working on this last semester, was a video/printmaking installation.  Oh man…was it a killer project to create.  In one weekend I spent roughly 40 hours, over night, in the printmaking lab, then the countless hours of video editing (I had about 20 hours of video to go through), plus installation and nervous break downs…Ugh.  I’m still not quite sure how I pulled it off.

The initial conception for this came to me as I was trying to fall asleep (as my ideas are wont to do), back in December.  As with much of what I worked on this past year, my thoughts were revolving heavily around my need for control and what fed that need.  I have a terrible fear of doing anything poorly.  If I am going to do anything I have a perverse side of me that demands that I do it absolutely perfectly…Flawlessly as it were, irrespective of whether or not I have any experience with said something.  The anxiety comes into play when I realize that my aspirations to perfection cannot be achieved as they are probably pretty unrealistic.

Having pondered this at length, I decided I would create a screen print (something that I do know how to do), but I would video tape the process of printing my edition, which would be rather large (It wound up being about 120 prints).  The idea was to illustrate an obsessive, repetitive action, that while technically correct, could still yield mistakes.

These mistakes were recorded on video, and then covered up using white ink (the paper was white), and I would start the print again from scratch.  So some prints made it through the entire process with only the correct 4 layers of ink (for each corresponding layer of text), while others became chunky, bubbly, curling messes of ink.  I wound up with about half and half, in terms of “flawless” prints and “not so flawless” prints (as I called them in my head), maybe a few more good than bad.

Originally, I had envisioned installing only the good prints on the wall, with the video projecting over them, and the bad prints maybe laying around on the floor, or crumpled up in a corner.  I had wanted to cover the wall from floor to ceiling, but since I didn’t have enough good prints to do so, I had to incorporate the bad prints into the wall installation.  I decided to play up the messy prints by mounting them on foam core so that their curling was exaggerated, and the differences between the good and the bad were more quickly apparent.  Additionally, as I was installing, and fighting myself over the fact that I was having a hard time making the prints line up perfectly, in the back of my mind I was thinking about how my anxiety often comes in waves.  I can see it towering over me, and about to crash down, but I can do much to stop it.  This sparked the idea to continue running the prints up the wall, onto the ceiling, and back down.  That may be my favorite part of the whole installation.

I have plans for this project in the future, but I think it will be separated into two distinct pieces…a wall paper installation and then a video piece.  But enough explanation, here are pictures…because I know that’s all anyone wants anyway!

Photos are mine

Here are links to the documentation of the installation as a whole, as well as to the video itself.