If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.

 

Bear with me, this is going to be rambling and probably pointless.

I’m not exactly an avid Facebooker.  I tend to use it more as a news conduit and to keep tabs on/in communication with friends and family I don’t get to see on a regular basis.  I find the obnoxious over-sharing and stupid meme trading really annoying and totally overstimulating.  Especially given that people tend to share things with out checking it’s validity or ensuring it comes from a trusted source.  It’s just not my style.  Anyway, this afternoon I happened to see something that a former colleague from grad school had “reacted” to (why I see their reactions, I have no idea), which ironically ties into something my last post was talking about, which I had totally forgotten I’d even written.  The reaction was to an image of a banner that simply read:

“If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.”

Now, I have no idea where this image originated, or the context in which it was shared and then reacted to on Facebook.  But it hit a nerve for me.  I’ve been thinking about privilege and access a lot lately, it’s difficult not to.  From watching the current presidential race unfold, to seeing the effects of the current economy on those who were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, to the absurd and disturbing fight over transgender rights and sexuality… The (mainly rich, white) privileged seem to be desperately grasping for any control or supremacy they can maintain, and society as a whole seems to be trying to stand up against it and call that privilege into question.  It also comes up in my personal life as I consider things like paying for childcare, the ability to be a stay-at-home parent, and as it relates to my own artistic practice…

As I mentioned in my previous post, the ability to access and view art comes is made possible by a certain amount of privilege.  Fuck man, just making art can be a bit of a privilege (for which I realize, many artists fight).  And that upsets me.  I believe that artists should work to impact the world around them and to create experiences for their viewers.  For their art to be seen and shared.  Instead, I think that often times we work toward finding a place in a gallery’s stable of artists where our work can be shown, bought, collected, but those who have the money and access to go to galleries/museums/etc.  Why are we making work if it’s not going to be accessible to the entire population?  Why should our work only be available to a privileged few?  Why do we continue to work within and perpetuate this stupid, outdated paradigm?  Is it really the money?  Or perhaps the potential for fame?   Personally, I don’t want to make art that everyone can’t access, I could care less about actually making money off of my art (I have literally only ever sold a single print in my entire career thus far), and I hate attending my own openings because of social anxiety and introversion.  These are sincerely things that I don’t understand, and ask from a place of curiosity, with a desire for discussion on the matter.

I struggle, though, with ways of getting my art “out there” and “building my resume”, so that one day in the semi-near future, when it comes time to go on the job market again, I can show I have been pursuing my practice and I would be a worthwhile addition to a faculty somewhere.  I struggle with the knowledge that the vast majority of my work is not well suited for many galleries, museums, or art centers, and try to compensate by creating small bodies of work that can fit in those confines.  For instance, I’ve spent the last few months working on a series of photographic images that are totally abstract and inoffensive visually.  The only context or content is provided by what I say about them in an artist statement.  Just so that I might get another line on my resume.  And for every two or three applications I send out using that body of work, I send out another two or three of my other, more performative or conceptual work.  Guess which applications are more likely to receive acceptance?  What am I even supposed to do with that?  In my mind, it’s ultimately an empty gesture because I’m making something I don’t fully feel invested in and so exhibiting it is pointless, and that’s on top of the fact I know perfectly well that I’m producing work that will only be available for viewing by those privileged enough to visit said gallery/museum/center.

Then I think about when I do performance or video work out in public, leaving behind the context of the art work or the white cube.  Sure there are individuals out there who will appreciate it as art, smiling as they walk by, or nodding and saying “Right on” when they can relate.  But there are also many people who will be completely turned off by it, because they cannot relate to where I come from, to my privilege as a college educated visual artist, a cog in the wheel of academia, as a white woman from the upper middle class suburbs.  I can pull source material from Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me because I think her writing is beautiful and witty and valuable all I want, but again it becomes an empty gesture if no one understands the reference, is aware of Solnit’s work, or makes the connections I’m trying to facilitate about gender and society.  It’s not everyone who has time to even acknowledge that gender inequality still exists in a major way, let alone contemplate the impact that has on society at large, and their personal lives in particular.

Even my contention that having art online makes it readily available to any one who wishes to view it is still premised on the privileges of having both access to a computer and access to the internet.  Despite the fact that I often felt at times that I was one of the last people in the world to have internet connected in my own home, that is categorically untrue.  And I have had the benefit of having regular access to some sort of computer nearly my entire life.  This is not the case for everyone.

So then where does that leave me?  I can be as radical  or alternative in my practice as I want, but does it mean anything if it’s inaccessible to the majority of the population, the very audience I want for my work?  Is it possible to create those experiences and effect that change I so desire if privilege blocks the audience?

Regardless of the answers to my own personal struggles here, I think its worthwhile to keep this idea of access and privilege in mind.  You can decry the evils of vaccinations and feel like you are challenging the status quo and big pharma and helping to open society’s eyes to the dangers of vaccines all you want.  But that view is not so revolutionary outside of your own context of the privilege to turn down what others would give anything to provide their children with.  You can rage against the machine about GMOs and organic foods and how that’s all we should eat, but you don’t live in a food desert where all you can find are sodas and pre-packaged foods at the corner 7-11.  You can  bitch about Uber surge pricing ’til the cows come home, but you still have a smart phone and ultimately the means to get around while there are others who must beg rides from friends and family or walk, all relying on increasingly nonexistent pay phones, phone calls “borrowed” from who ever is around, or even a pay-as-you-go flip phone…  We just all need to stop for a moment and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes in order to consider the fact that reality exists outside of our own little bubbles.

I don’t know what my point here is or that I’ve actually said anything of substance, but yeah… Privilege and access.

 

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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.

To Be or Not To Be (Conceptual)

Not wholly applicable...but still funny.
Not wholly applicable…but still funny.

More years ago than I really care to admit (or at least it seems that way), a professor asked the students of a photography course in which I was enrolled, whether we defined ourselves as photographers or as artists.  I have no recollection of what context this discussion was happening in, nor what anyone else around me said about the matter, but I do remember shooting my hand up in the air instantly, declaring that I was a photographer.  Of course.  Duh.  When my prof asked me why that was I also recall being a little confused and somewhat defensive as to why I was being questioned on this point.  I said something along the lines of:  Well, I am a photographer because I take pictures, and use a camera, and it is easier to explain myself as such to other people because they always assume I mean painter or sculptor when I say artist, and I take pictures damn it.  Such a rock star answer from my brilliant 20 year-old self.  For whatever reason this moment has stuck with me for a long time, and I’ve thought about it frequently in recent years.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that at least one draft of my letter of intent for grad school applications involved this story.

For all intents and purposes, I am still defined as a photographer by some people… Like my family.  Try all I want, I cannot seem to make them understand what I do.  And since I frequently teach photography, my students assume I am a photographer.  But thats sort of par for the course I think…  I also just sort of love photography in a totally nerdy way, and so people just sort of assume…  My point here, if I really have one, is that I think I’ve fallen on the other side of my own argument, despite what others think, and despite my love of photo.  I am not a photographer, and in fact, despite my ridiculous, undying love of the photographic process, I’m beginning to believe I never was, at least not in any traditional sense of the word/occupation.  Which sounds super weird coming out of my mouth, but if you think about it in the context of the photographer versus artist question, and a few other things, it makes absolute sense.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on this blog a time or two about how much I. F*#$*@%. LOVE. PHOTOGRAPHY.  And that I have a deep, nonsensical adoration for being in the darkroom.  This is all completely, 100% true.  But that love has also, in some ways, been my undoing since I graduated with my BFA.  While all of my work has been conceptual in some sense, my training has always been to turn my concepts into a tangible object.  It has also instilled the rather rigid view in my mind that in order for one to be productive, one needs to be constantly, physically making things.  Obviously my realization a few months back that I just didn’t want to make objects any more completely contradicted everything a good deal of my notions on art making.  Talk about  cognitive dissonance.

The really funny thing here though, is that looking back, I never really cared all that much about the physical photographs themselves.  I rarely printed more than 1 copy of any image, and frequently found ways to get around matting or mounting them (because to quote a professor, my mats were always “caddywhompus”).  I will take my cameras just about anywhere and do just about anything with it, meaning they get the crap beat out of them.  My negatives… well let’s just say they’re not really kept in archival or secure conditions.  But I persevered in my quest to be a photographer-artist person.  My work became photographically based installations and objects.  I tortured myself finding ways to turn experiences and ideas into a traditional art object.  I struggled in stupid ways because I refused to step away from photography.  I had allowed it to define my practice and myself.

It wasn’t until I got to grad school that it even occurred to me that my practice could be entirely conceptual, and that I needn’t rely on photography.  But I kept fighting that, trying to turn ideas in to something tangible, trying to make emotions and experiences concrete.  Attempting to find excuses to make photographs.  I’ve also felt a great deal of pressure (whether real or imagined) from various sides to be less conceptual and perhaps more intuitive.  Most of my peers here are very materials based and object focused,  offering critiques and ideas which lean in that direction, because that is how they think and what they relate to.  Even faculty has been trying to prod me into making things.  That’s what all of those material experiments and photographs were all about.  But I feel more and more disinterested in all of that…   Because even if I’m taking my old negatives and damaging/altering/manipulating them, they are ultimately still a thing and will be displayed as such.  Yuck I say.  Yuck.

There’s also this entire guilt aspect to wanting to make objects… I mean, as I said before, that’s the way I was trained (for lack of a better word).  So not only do I feel badly for ignoring what I was taught by some amazing people, I feel super criminal about not using my studio, if that makes sense.  I mean, I’m not building things, or painting something, or what not…  I spend more time thinking, reading, and experiencing things than I do actually making.  Its probably like an 80/20 split.  Thinking versus making.  I keep thinking to myself:  Shouldn’t I be making better use of the facilities?  I don’t know about any other programs, but its kind of like a mini contest among grad students around here as to who spent how much time in the studio doing what.  It’s like this silly reverse peer pressure thing where I feel like since other people are spending hours upon hours locked into their studios, I should too.  Even if there is no reason for me to be in there.  And on top of that, there is some serious guilt tripping thing that goes on when the faculty talk about how amazing our new studio facilities are and how we should be making better use of the space….  Ah.  It’s like a really great recipe for an anxiety attack.  And we all know how good I am at doing that.

In any event, I think a huge part of my graduate school journey thus far, has been coming to terms with the fact that I am, in actuality, a conceptual artist.  Not a photographer.  Not a photo-based artist, but a flipping conceptual artist.  Acknowledging that the object holds little importance to me other than as a record of the experience…  And it has been an insane struggle.  Especially in this last semester.  I don’t know why I keep fighting myself on this.  I don’t know why I can’t just ignore faculty and cohorts who try to aid and abet me in my self defeat.  But in the last few weeks I’ve become much more comfortable with this idea… Ideas.  I want ideas and experiences to be my art work.  I don’t want to make things anymore.  And if I do make things, they will be in support of a performance, or an installation, most likely completely ephemeral and not meant to be turned into an “art object.”

So while I will most likely always love photography like the big nerd I am, even though I will probably never again be a “photographer”:

I AM A CONCEPTUAL ARTIST, AND IT’S TOTALLY OK TO NOT “MAKE” THINGS.

As my friend Sunny would say:  D. U. H. Courtney.

D. U. H. Indeed.

Whoops.

Hi.  I’m going to tell you a secret… I’ve totally been putting off (AKA avoiding) writing a post.  Which is why it’s been two months.  TWO MONTHS!  Whoops.

Whoops
Whoops.

By the time the semester was over (two weeks after my last post), I was completely brain dead, between thesis writing, grading my student’s work, final projects, etc.  As such I never got a chance to write a post before my final reviews (which went pretty well, just in case you were curious), and then the joyous month of May came.  This is actually probably a pretty good thing, because knowing me, I would have posted excerpts from my ridiculous thesis draft… *Shudder*   Anyway, May is my favorite because there is literally NOTHING that I HAVE to do.  There are always things I want to do, and probably should do, but no pressing deadlines, no anxiety inducing readings to complete, no meetings… So I kinda took a vacation… for the whole month of May.  Whoops.   I went camping with friends, spent entire days on the beach drinking, went hiking, cooked and baked up a storm, sat in my backyard reading…  It was pretty swell.

 

Sunset on St. Joesph's Peninsula. I saw dolphins here for Pete's sake!
Sunset on St. Joesph’s Peninsula. I saw dolphins here for Pete’s sake!
20130510_0046
I mean seriously… Who’s going to do important, grown-up things while there is this?!

20130510_0067

 

 

 

DSC_0100

And who wants to be in the studio when they can be exploring this!?
And who wants to be in the studio when they can be exploring this!?
Different day, different beach... This is why I <3 Florida.
Different day, different beach… This is why I ❤ Florida.

IMG_0593

Some how this is the only cooking I photographed...
Some how this is the only cooking I photographed…

 

But here’s the thing… I was in the studio a few hours (like max 4… Shhhh, don’t tell my faculty!)  for most days, putzing around, but not actually doing much.  I was also doing some seriously voracious reading.  In fact in the month of May I read more books than I have in a long time, and they weren’t all for fun.  Bet you can’t guess which ones were for fun and which were for research!

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/The Chamber of Secrets 

Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography 

Photography Changes Everything

The Antidote:  Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

After Photography

Photography: History and Theory

The Unphotographable

The Great Gatsby

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Photograph 

 

 

Aaaaand, on those camping trips, hiking expeditions, and beach days… I spent a lot of time filming somethings which one day I will post up here, as well as talking and thinking about my work/practice.  But I kept avoiding writing a new post, because a) it had already been a long time, and b) that meant it was time to put my thoughts into words and to admit somethings.  Also I’ve been having serious guilt/anxiety attacks about NOT being in the studio.  And if I’m not in the studio, how could I justify spending time writing a blog post?  But you know what?  Not being in the studio has been the best thing ever for me lately.  My month long vacation has allowed my brain to reset and I feel like I’m in a really good place.  I’ve got tons of stuff I want to research, and a few ideas for work that I’m pretty excited about.  

In any event, I’ve got somethings on tap for the rest of the summer, even though I haven’t started most of the things on my to do list, like start the job application/hunt process.  *sigh*  I should probably talk to one of my committee members about that soon.  New posts soon with actual thoughts and art in them.  Even though I’m back working at Lafayette full time this summer (which is awesome but exhausting), the next six weeks should be pretty productive.  The husband got a residency for six weeks at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside in upstate New York, and he’s leaving Wednesday.  And everyone else that I hang out with is either going on vacation or moving away :(…. Sooooo, I’m on my own, which is a great excuse to lock myself into work mode and ignore the wider world.  Love it!

Now, I need to go photograph those shoes of mine… Yes that’s still a thing.  We’re on week 19.  And I hate it.

WMD_WK18_0006

 

 

“I don’t want an art that points at a thing, I want an art that is the thing.”

I’m sorry for any typos or nonsense in here today… I’m tired and in a rush, but wanted to finally post something.  Please don’t grammar Nazi me right now!

While it’s been some time since I’ve posted on here, rest assured it was an intentional silence. I needed some serious time to decompress and recover from Fountain, and to process all the millions of arts I saw while I was in Miami for Art Basel. Also I’ve been experiencing what I am going to call an existential art breakdown, so the last couple of weeks haven’t exactly been the best for me to be writing about my work, or really any art in general. I was doing a lot of thinking about it, but my thoughts have been all over the place. Also I need to put my blogging pants back on because I have to contribute to blogs for two of my classes this semester.

Now if you can stretch your minds back to the beginning of December/end of November-ish, I am sure that you will recall (or at least I’m going to pretend that you recall) that I was going back and forth about my video works (specifically Bleed), and the artifacts created therein. I was also struggling the same way with my waterlogged notebooks and the images I had created of them. Well right around the time I left for Fountain, I realized that while I really enjoyed making things, like those photographs and prints, I just didn’t give a crap about them once I was through the process of creating them. So then the entire time I was down in Miami for Fountain and Art Basel I had this thought kicking around in my head as I looked at art, trying to find some inspiration to move forward in my work. After two days or so of this, I had another realization. I hated walking through these huge fairs and seeing painting after painting, sculpture after sculpture. I was profoundly disturbed to see video art presented as paintings, in frames, hanging on walls. Photography was boring me… People, PHOTOGRAPHY was boring me. I felt no connection to, and very little interest in these objects. The work I saw that I was most compelled by were live performances or all encompassing installations. Environments and situations where I could have a reaction to the art that was happening in real time. In short, I think I hate art objects. Which would explain SO much about why I’m not satisfied by the photographic prints I create anymore, and even why much of my video work isn’t sitting particularly well with me right now. This also really goes a long way in clarifying why I liked the random detritus that comes out of my performances and videos so much more than any intentionally created objects.

So after spending a week in Miami, I came home, finished my semester, and started to freak out. I see this realization as a rather powerful indication that I need to focus, and focus hard, on my performance and installation work, however I feel extremely uncomfortable about this. It is my process to work in a very organized manner, going from point A to point B in a methodical, intentional manner… And I don’t think that approach is very appropriate for creating performances especially. When it comes to performances, it seems like no matter how hard I try, I cannot control nor plan for every aspect of what willor even might happen. And as we all know, out of control is not a place I like to be… So I find myself in this completely self-created predicament… Completely confused and flipping terrified to move forward.

Stupid art objects, ruining my groove.

Well… OK, it’s not the object’s fault. Let’s be honest here, my work has been headed in this direction for some time, and I think I’ve been fighting it with out even knowing I was doing so. But it makes me feel less like an idiot if I can blame the inanimate object. Because I spend a good portion of my time feeling like an idiot lately.

I’m coming to believe that the experience that is created via performance or installation is so much more meaningful than one created by a passive viewing of an object. Performances and installations are often interactive, requiring a much more active experience, one that won’t likely slip out of your mind so quickly as a painting on a wall. To my mind this is a much more meaningful exchange. Call me crazy (and I most like am the spitting image of the crazy artist stereo type right now) but I think an art should stick with people… Kind of bug them, or pop up in their minds every now and then as they go through their daily lives, giving them something to think about or process for a long time to come.

The only piece I’ve done since I last posted was for January First Friday at Working Method. I had the entire front gallery to myself, and after having forgotten about the fact I had the January First Friday show until a week before, had to figure out a way to use the space. Several anxiety saturated hours followed my recollection. I didn’t want to just show old work because that would be silly. But I didn’t really have any new work. So what did I do? I did a performance. I set up a “fake show” of some large photographic prints from my High Tide performance and projected the video from Breaking to Bend/Bending the Break BUT my “real” show was to act as a survey taker, asking gallery patrons to fill out a survey about the gallery and art in general.

Here it is:

Final Questionnaire

Why did I do this? Probably because I’m insane. But the answer I’m sure my committee would prefer to hear is as follows: I was thinking about how it would be so easy to just have a show of old work… Prints, or videos I could project… and how most people would know. But I would know. That got me thinking, of course about failure. If I took the easy way out and threw some crap up on the wall that I didn’t care about, or that was not my best, or was kind of old, I would be being lazy, and subsequently my show would be a failure in my view. That in turn got me thinking about how shows can be categorized as successful or failures etc which led to the re-contextualizing failure thing and blah blah blah. To give credit where credit is due though, it was my husband’s suggestion to use the survey and we fleshed it out from there.

Now what I’m doing, is taking all of the responses and quantifying them so that I can use the numbers to skew the perception of success or failure for the show/ gallery itself. I must say I’m preeeetty proud of myself, I’ve made a database and have figured out how to use that database to calculate results and create charts/graphs from. I feel very business like while I’m doing this. Too bad I can’t do this for my taxes…

 

Here are a few images from the show, but I’m waiting to get the rest from a friend who helped document. I’ll post some more later.

 

BendBreak_0002 BendBreak_0029 BendBreak_0069 BendBreak_0094 Breaking to Bend poster

I think, regardless of how much this actually fits into success/failure, it’s a project that still has some potential. For instance I could base an entire show around what type of art was highest rated, or what a specific age demographic found appealing. I could also continue to create surveys to gather data about more specific aspects of a show or a work of art… It can also become this hugely collaborative on going performance. Making art with strangers! However I’m not sure how many of my participants got it… Thats ok though!  There’s also a certain amount of absurdity in this whole thing, which is only increased by the people who don’t understand it to be a performance or art…

Now I need to go do some work! More images and new things soon, I swear!

 

PS The quote in the title is from artist Tania Bruguera.

I Found Transcendence. At a Sticky, Chipped Formica Table.

No, seriously.  I did.

I was at the point where I was going to break this morning.  I was feeling as though I had completely lost control and focus, and that I was never going to accomplish anything. I was so tense it was insane.  And then I decided I wanted a doughnut.  But not just any doughnut, I decided to have one from Donut Kingdom.  So after my slog at the gym this morning, I scooted on over to the tiny joint.  Oh god.  It was the most amazing thing ever.  I had a doughnut and coffee, and suddenly everything was OK again.  Somehow that doughnut magically granted me the mental fortitude and emotional strength to get through my day.  In fact I had a smile on my face the rest of the day.  All because I sat down to eat that sugary, diet destroying breakfast treat at an icky Formica table.  I don’t know why, but for those few, quiet moments, I experienced transcendence.
Maybe this means I should start eating my feelings again?
Then again, maybe not…
I don’t think it’s been a secret that I’ve been a little on the edge lately.  I have been working incredibly hard on a number of things to prepare myself for reviews next week.  Namely the videos that I worked on trying to shoot last week…  *Sigh* Additionally, I’ve been putting together a scholarship application and several show submissions to  hopefully get my new work exhibited some where other than Working Method.
All of this has been for the single reason that I intend to exceed my committee’s expectations completely.  And no, this isn’t a joke about my crazy expectations/anxieties/failures.  I’m for realz yo.  At the risk of sounding paranoid and semi crazy, I feel as though there is a great deal riding on this review.  I want to prove to them at the outset, during this first “official” review, that I want to be here, I deserve to be here, and that I have what it takes to achieve the goals they set for me and that I set for myself.  Needless to say, I’ve been driving myself up the wall trying to do all of this.

I’ve accomplished the majority of what I planned to do.  I have finished shooting and editing 2 of the three videos I planned, I did a second performance, I applied for a scholarship to attend a conference in the spring, and had have submitted works into three shows.  But I haven’t finished the project they wanted me to finish, and two other things I started early in the semester have fallen by the wayside and no progress has been made on them since my last committee meeting.

In any event, new images of the performance I did last week, as well as the other things I’m tinkering about with soon.  Hopefully some video too.

The Weekly Round Up (Diane Rehm Style!)

OK, maybe not really Diane Rehm style, as I don’t have an amazing radio show to which I can invite intelligent experts to discuss things in a civilized manner, but I can do my week in review!

Awe, who am I kidding, there’s no comparison.  Diane wins.  But that doesn’t mean you can leave!

I digress…

(I’ve always wanted to say that!)
So what did go on this week?…

I started my week off bright at early with a 9:30 am committee review Monday.  That meant I had to be up by 6:30 (I am not a morning person…even with coffee) and out the door by 8. Ugh.  In any event, if you remember in my last post I said I had committee reviews right then and there, but that only 1/3 of my committee would be present.  Yeah.  I wasn’t lying.  2 of my 3 members didn’t show up, so I had to reschedule a meeting with the 2 lazy bums who didn’t show. (Just kidding!  No one on my committee are lazy bums, they just had other obligations!  Don’t hit me!  I love my committee!!!!)  So I had that.  And I feel like it went pretty well.  They gave me some good feedback, and it was actually a good energizer for the week as an entirety.  It also helped give some directions to a few things I’ve been floundering on a little bit.

As a result of my reviews, I had A LOT of things to think about and work through.  The first of which was something I’d already been pondering, which was how I define failure, success, perfection and expectations.  These are things that have been running through my mind since my studio visit with James Elkins, but my committee gave me a few more insights and ways to approach the problem.  I started by going back to the dictionary and thesaurus to see what the actual definitions to these words are, and now I’m trying to trace the meanings these words back to my own interpretations to see how the line up, and perhaps find out where my versions originated.  Then maybe I can understand what these words mean to me.  If that makes any sense to you.  I also had a professor suggest that I look at the way my family defines these terms and see how that impacts my understandings.  I plan on sitting down to do that soon.

I also fried my brain reading song lyrics and poetry trying to find something to replace the excerpt from Art & Fear I used in …expectations lie…  I’m looking for something that is subtle, but much more relatable (Huh.  WordPress doesn’t think that’s a word.  Interesting), about expectations and/or failure.  The excerpt I used was, while technically appropriate, refers to a very particular, closed system, and I want something more widely applicable.  My committee whole heartedly agrees.  There were some crazy suggestions flying, like finding a country song, because those are all about failure…. Um, yeah.  I don’t know so much about that.  (I can’t stand country music).  Anyone have any suggestions?  I need to find something soon, because I have plans to re-shoot that video with in the next week.  I want to have the new version edited and finished for my November 9th reviews.  I have considered using Ben Folds Five’s song Brick, because it has always made me think of failure and expectations, but I’m not so sure.  I did a couple of test shots, and it just doesn’t seem to flow well.  Perhaps because it’s written to be sung, or perhaps because I think I sound weird.  Who knows for sure?  No, I do know… it’s less about me hearing my own voice, and more about the sound of the words as spoken units.  It’s also awkward that it’s from a male point of view, and it is being recited by a female.  Oh the troubles of my life…

 

Moving on, as Ms. Rehm would say.

 
I did something I love this week… Going to the library!  I do absolutely love going to the library.  I am a nerd like that.  Libraries are totally awesome.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t for pleasure.  It was all business.  I went to look for books on failure (which are surprisingly few) and perfection (there seem to be many). This is my current reading list:

Perfectionism:  Theory, Research and Treatment

The Queer Art of Failure

The Art of Choosing

The Success and Failure of Picasso

Failure!:  Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices

While I love to read, and these books are really interesting… It takes FOREVER for me to get through books anymore.  I barely have time to read most days.  BUT I must read all of these by my next set of reviews.  That is my goal.  I want to glean what I can from these books and see if I can apply anything to my work.

NEXT!

It hit me this week how much I love making things.  I realize that sounds odd coming from an artist, but I don’t often get to make things anymore.  One of the things I find hardest about doing performance work, is that when I am finished, I have nothing to show for it, except maybe some photos or a video.  There is no concrete, physical object.  Now, I’m not saying that you must make objects to be an artist, but (for me) there is something satisfying about having a final product to show for all of the (occasional) blood, (profuse, literal and metaphorical) sweat, and (inevitably for me) tears.  It also makes me fee like I did something besides think a lot and then do something that perhaps in another context would simply be a normal, every day action.  Besides, it’s cool to make it look like my studio is a buzzing hub of activity.  I’m trying to find a balance in my work, to where I can do performance, but there is still a object generation component as well.  It’s tricky…

Needless to say, I don’t often need to make things in my studio, which is slightly troublesome, since working elsewhere is distracting.  BUT when I do get to, I get all giddy and intense (like camping).  I also love going to the hardware store for these projects and pretending like I know what I’m looking for/doing.  And that my friends, is exactly what I did today so that I could build this:

What is it you ask? Well… It’s for a video I’m working on.  What can I say, Kate Gilmore inspired me.  I kid you not, I spent hours watching her videos on Tuesday.  I’ll have more pictures and hopefully some video up here soon.  I’ve been trying to shoot this video for awhile now but keep hitting road blocks, like reflections, EVERYWHERE.  No joke y’all.  I had to spray paint my tripod matte black because of all the reflections I’m getting.  I literally had to leave my studio yesterday because I was getting so frustrated with it.  I will be attempting it again tomorrow.

 
What else?

I’m working on some liquid light tests for my old friends, the Flawless prints… It’s going.. slowly, but surely…I feel like I could spend the next five years trying to make these work. I had it suggested that I should do them as cyanotypes instead of using liquid light… Damnit.  Why didn’t I think of that?!  Oh, that’s right, because I have next to no familiarity with alternative processes… FAIL.  We’ll see what happens.  I had a little brain flash in relation to these the other day, so it might work out after all.

Speaking of photo processes… Remember how I waxed poetic about how I love photography?  Well… I still do, no worries there.  In fact, I (finally) get to start teaching photo in the spring here at FSU.  Awesome.  I found out, not through an official announcement, but via an email from a non-art major student who wants to take my class.  I feel like there is a metaphor for my life in there somewhere…

So that was the weekly round up.  Not nearly as cool as the Friday Diane Rehm show, but I can always pretend right?  Like when I pretend I am Julia Child or Jacques Pepin while I’m cooking.  Everything tastes better that way.

 

 

 

 

Expectations, Monica Cook, Serendipity, & James Elkins…

Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long now…  I’m not joking when I say I barely had time to sleep the last few weeks.

So where did I leave off?  Ah yes.  The performance I am temporarily titling “…expectations lie…”.  You can view a 10 minute video clip of the performance here. The over all performance was about 45 minutes, and I’ve edited the video to reflect that time lapse a little bit. I’m not totally happy with the documentation, but that’s OK.  I plan on recreating this as a video piece in it’s own right.

Anyway, as I discussed before it was my intent for this piece to center around the idea of expectations versus reality and some what self destructive behaviors.  Now that I think back about it, the reason the 500 Days of Summer sequence was sticking in my mind was because it was an example of an internal or mental set up of expectations. Many of my pieces thus far have focused on external physical actions, that didn’t necessarily portray the psychological aspect of what I was attempting to address.  And subconsciously I must  have realized this because as I brainstormed, I began trying to find ways to impede or damage myself mentally.  Well, I came up with the idea to attempt to recite something, flawlessly of course, and for each mistake that I made, I would be forced to take a shot (of vodka).  For me, it was the perfect representation of frustration in action.  Trying to do something, over and over again, but failing each time, and chastising yourself each time, makes it harder and harder to live up to you own expectations.  So I ran with it…even though it seemed like a really bad idea for my liver.  But then again, I didn’t really expect to drink as much as I wound up drinking…

 
I won’t bore you with the exact details, but it took me almost a week to come up with something appropriate for the recitation…I finally settled on an excerpt from a book entitled Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

It’s the tiny bit at the bottom of page 34 through to the second full paragraph on page 35.  To be completely honest, I’m still not 100% happy with what I chose, as it’s a bit too theoretical and screams “Art!”  I am still looking for something more subtle and applicable to all types of expectations, not just the ones that relate to art making.  But it served it’s purpose well.

I also developed this idea about having an on going internal monologue calling out my mistakes and generally telling me how worthless I am.  It worked pretty well… You can see/hear the results for yourself on the video.  Here’s a few stills if your too lazy to watch or you’re like me and your internet is too slow.

Over all, I’m really pleased with the way the performance turned out.  My anxiety level was pretty high as I planned this, and it reached extreme levels as I started the performance (You can totally tell at the beginning of the video…It’s pretty funny actually).

The fantastic thing for me however, was that a few days before the performance occurred, and I was lucky enough to have a studio visit with an amazing artist named Monica Cook.  In much of her work she has this play between chaos and control going on, so I was looking forward to talking with her about that.  My visit with her was completely beyond my wildest dreams!  She was really supportive of the ideas I was using, and liked the performance I had planned.  Her encouragement really helped me get over some of that anxiety and just do the darn thing.  It was fan-tastic.  I wish I would have remembered to record it… I totally forgot to turn on the audio record app thingy on my phone.  😦

I also had this really great conversation with her about serendipity and deja vu.  Just the day prior, all my notebooks that I keep my research, brainstorming, and notes for teaching in got soaking wet somehow and the pens I use are most decidedly not water safe…

I really kind of freaked out.  To say that I was distraught would be an understatement, and I had actually gotten so upset I threw away my notebooks.  I didn’t even know what to do.  But then as the night progressed and I thought about it, there was something to these notebooks.  Even Eric thought I should do something with them.  So I went the next morning and rescued the notebooks from the trash can in the photo lab.  I showed them to Monica during my studio visit and she agreed that I needed to use them to create.  We discussed how water keeps popping up in my work, and this so called destruction was actually serendipity pointing me on my way.  We both look at serendipity and deja vu the same way… that it means you are on the right track and things are good.  Its funny to me though, that water is somehow finding it’s way into my work.  It may sound odd, but I’ve always felt a very definite connection to water, even as a child.  I loved hearing it rain, and being on beaches, things like that.  To go all astrological on you, I’m sure it’s somehow related to the fact that I am a Sagittarius, which is a fire sign.

In any event, I’ve been playing around with these pages for a few weeks now.  But I’m still not sure what they will become.  I’ve shot some photos, and I’m also working on a related video.  Both are still in an awkward, undefined stage, but I’ll share the photos, as the video is completely incoherent right now.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with these, as just photographing these objects seems too easy… I also think I just like the original object more.  But that might be my own biases.

I’ll talk more about this later maybe, but the other happening that kept me from writing, was that James Elkins came as a visiting scholar to FSU.  I was on the planning committee for that and so spent a day driving him around, which was pretty cool.  I also got a studio visit with him, which again was a great experience.  I DID remember to record that one.  🙂

One of the things Elkins said to me about my work was that I needed to find more of a grey area…  Where the topics of success and failure are not so clearly defined.  I think this is really great feedback, but I’m not sure how to do this.  He also got me thinking about how I define perfection, or the opposite of failure.  Elkins pointed out that to understand the failure, I should try to understand what perfection is.  I don’t have an answer for that right now, but it’s something that is rolling around in my head currently.

So… Busy times here in the studio.  Lots of studio visits, lots of thinking, and lots of experimenting with stuff…  Right now, I’m waiting for my committee to come in and do reviews once again.  Although, apparently only one of my committee members is going to be present. And I even showered, put on nice clothes AND make-up.  Yeesh.  Its OK, I get to do it again in a month.  Wish me luck!

Art & Fear belongs to the aforementioned authors.  All of the photos in this post are mine, but the images from my performance were taken by Samantha Burns.

This Will Have to Tide You All Over for Now…

Hey imaginary followers!

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a post, but many things have taken place in the last few weeks that have gotten in my way.  Like WordPress crashing and my half written blog post disappearing into the digital ether…  But the bottom line is that I still don’t have a blog post ready for you, and unfortunately I don’t have the time to write a good one…  So in the mean time I present to you a pictoral version of my last two weeks.  Feel free to write your own captions or stories to go along.  It might be funnier/more interesting this way!

monica cook

Ellen Mueller

I swear I’ll get a real post out about what’s going on in the studio pictures as well as my most recent performance… It just won’t happen til the beginning of next week.  There is SO much going on right now!

Most of the images are mine, or are borrowed from the web.  Paintings from Monica Cook, performance stills from Ellen Mueller (except the ones of me…those are mine, fair and square).  Books from respective authors/publishing companies.  Fountain logo property of Fountain Art Fair, Working Method Contemporary logo property of Working Method Contemporary Gallery.  Did I miss anything?  I hope not.  If I did I’m sorry, and IT DOES NOT BELONG TO ME, IT BELONGS TO YOU.