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.
While I may or may not have been avoiding blogging here recently, I have been up to many other things, including (what I hope to be) a really rocking collaboration with my friend Craig (you can find him over at Craig Ryan Studio). I’ve been sworn to secrecy on exactly what we’re doing because he’s terrified it will turn out terribly (maybe that anxiety is why we get along so well? lol) so I can’t go into specifics, but I’m going to share some generalities and pictures with you.
It’s really been a trip to work on this installation/performance with Craig because in a lot of ways we are total opposites. He’s a bit of a sociopath (I mean that in the nicest way possible), and likes to pretend he’s mean and too good for everyone, but really, if you take the time to get to know him, he’s an amazing person. I, on the other hand, and too damn nice for my own good and secretly hate most people. When it comes to our practices and the work we make, we are like day and night though. Craig is completely materials focused and has astounding technical fabrication skills. He wants to make beautiful things that people want to touch. Clearly worlds away from my own conceptual, relational approach, but in reality these two approaches met and made beautiful art babies. His technical/materials focus has augmented and supported my conceptual intents, and my insistence on having a theme have focused his sometimes erratic material investigations. It worked somehow. I’ve learned a lot about the way that I think and the ways that I share my ideas, simply through the contrast between our approaches and communication styles. It’s been fun and exciting and I think we managed to transcend our differing approaches to find a wonderful balance in what we hope to present on Friday. We’re both excited about what we’ve got planned. And that never happens.
While Craig and I each have drastically differing takes on what this piece will be or mean in the end, for me, this collaboration grew out of some things I had been contemplating a researching this summer, including ideas about the relationship between performance art and it’s photographic documentation, and the trustworthiness of photography in general. It was also driven in part by my desire to move into more relational works. I think that I’ve hit that intent on the head with what we have planned. But I also think that it’s starting to address some other really interesting issues, like mediation of experience, trust, balance, self-preservation, control and a certain amount of playfulness. I’d really like to look back at this and be able to say “Yep. That’s where my thesis work really started.” It’s going to be epic.
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.
Another thing that has kept me from posting recently was a visiting artist event in which I was involved. Although this one I didn’t know I was participating in until nearly the last minute…
FSU brought in Stuart Horodner as part of our visiting artist lecture series. He’s the boss man in charge at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and just recently published The Art Life: On Creativity and Career (Which was a really good book by the way), and one of the faculty arranged for public critiques to happen. Four grads were selected to have their work reviewed by Stuart, but we didn’t get told about it until a week before it was supposed to happen…
As I’m sure you can imagine, that was a little stressful. I was less worried about the actual critique then I was about figuring out how to install my work in the gallery. It was chaos for a little while… I had to go buy TVs and export videos several times, battle difficult projectors, paint things, oh and I had to read the book… But it turned out just peachy keen in the end. I showed an updated version of my Bending the Break/Breaking to Bend video, with a new audio component, and Fairy Tale Logic. Bending the Break/Breaking to Bend was pretty much installed as I had it installed at Working Method back in January, but I finally got to install Fairy Tale Logic the way I’ve always wanted to… On two monitors!
As a really awesome bonus, Craig Drennen, who is currently a studio artist at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, an instructor at Georgia State, aaaaaand the dean at Skowhegan, came down with Stuart to participate in the critiques. While my peers may or may not agree with me, I had a really great experience. The main thing that I wanted to get out of the crit was that someone, outside the hermetically sealed environment I have here at school (yes, that may be a little bit of a dramatic way to describe it), related to or understood the things I was addressing in my work. Between all the doubt and frustration I had been experiencing lately, this was really the best thing I could hope for. And I feel like I got that, as well as just positive feed back in general. For what ever reason, I found this process much less anxiety provoking than our usual reviews… Which I told to my committee head. The way that Stuart ran the reviews was critical, but constructively so. I sometimes feel that our committee reviews are not so constructive… But again, that’s my opinion.
For some more pics and info you should click HERE!
In any event, this was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in grad school. It came pretty close to the Guerra de la Paz collaboration last spring…but not quite as awesome! Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to show you how the battle scar I acquired during that installation looks now:
Why can’t grad school just be awesome experiences like these?!
Wow. How the time flies when you are busy having insane hair days and watching Hennessy Youngman videos….
But on a serious note, I’ve been struggling through a great deal in the studio lately, and haven’t been able to achieve a whole lot, thus have avoided posting. My main battle currently, is that I’ve forgotten how to relax and play, both in the studio and in my life… This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s completely true. I’ve been taking everything so painfully serious that I was essentially paralyzing myself and my work. I couldn’t even watch a movie or cook with out feeling guilty that I wasn’t making art. I feel kind of dumb that at nearly 30 years old, I have to reteach myself how to play, and that I have to learn how to have fun. What has happened to me!?! I sincerely hope that this is not a mid-life crisis because I am clearly not old enough for that…
In discussing this with faculty, the nearly unanimous advice was to attempt to work more intuitively, or at least a little less conceptually. This is a challenge I have embraced, but it’s freaking hard. Like really, super, PAINFULLY hard (at least for me). I’m sure if you’ve read this blog more than once, you’ll have picked up that I have some anxiety and control issues. My anxiety often comes out in situations where I feel out of control or sense that I am losing control, so to embark on any endeavor in which I do not have a plan mapped out is absolutely terrifying to me. My process, simply, is this: I have an idea, I plan it out to exactitudes in my mind, and I execute it. A to B to C to… You get the point. So I’ve been fighting that in the past few weeks, trying to accept that sometimes playing is OK, and that I don’t always need to have an explanation right away. Along with that, understanding that my practice cannot always be actively making things… That reading, watching movies, writing, and thinking are all part of the process, and I need to do those things just as much as I need to actively make things.
So, in answer to the call for action I’ve been given by faculty, I’ve started playing around with a bunch of stuff, and I have no idea where ANY of it is going… But here are some pictures!
This first bunch of images comes out of my trip north to Chicago for SPE. While the conference was OK, the best part for me was going to the museums and galleries to look. This series came out of a bunch of photos I took at the Art Institute, which I intended to act as visual notes for myself to share with my students and to possibly incorporate into future lectures. But… Once I uploaded them to my laptop, I was kind of frustrated by the fact that my reflection or shadow was in many of them. I was irritated because I wouldn’t be able to use them as slides in a lecture… But then, there was also something about them that, creatively, I was intrigued by. Many of these photographs or objects that I was documenting were part of my art historical and photographic education, and I was fascinated by the fact that, as they had become part of me, I had become part of them, but I had also, in a way appropriated them for my own use. It was also weirdly fitting that these “happened” while I was in Chicago, because I spent a good deal of time thinking about how I felt completely out of place at the SPE conference, and feeling a bit like a fraud. Anyway, I’m trying to continue playing with this idea, and have created the following images…
Again, playing with historical sources. I don’t know where these will go, but that’s OK. I just have to keep telling myself that. It’s OK if I don’t have the answer right away…
I’ve also delved into some material experiments…
I’m really quite skeptical about these in particular. As with most things, I find myself asking “why” I would or should do this… But people tell me that the reason will come and I should just see it through. So we’ll see if they go anywhere. I think the main thing for me is that I have these little things on the side to play with in the studio in between working on other projects. I figure that I can work on them until I start to over think them, or get frustrated, or start to ask “why”, and then put them away for a little while, until I forget that I was frustrated, and the work on them again. Slowly… Slowly I will make progress away from my obsessive compulsive control issues…
You’ll notice that all of this experimenting is centered around photography. For better or for worse I thought that if I was going to do something that I had no plan for, I might as well use things that I was familiar with on some level. The husband doesn’t necessarily agree with this logic. He sees it as me reverting to photography when I could be doing other things, but I think it’s good for me to have at least some variable to which I am accustomed. As for other people, well, the feed back is mixed. We’ll see how it plays out in my reviews two weeks from now.
So, what else is up at the old studio? Hmmm…
How could you? I mean, it’s the banner for this blog… In any event, it’s turned into this:
It’s become this insane visual representation of my thoughts and plans. I’m kind of considering making it a piece in and of itself… Mainly it’s been incredibly helpful as a way to remove myself from my thoughts, and see connections between the ways I’m thinking about the things I’m working on that I may not have put together otherwise. Its nice because as I’m working in the studio, regardless of what I’m focused on, if I have a thought, I can jot it down on a post-it and slap it up on the wall, then continue with what I was doing before. I can then go back later and consider these pieces at my leisure. I’m thinking that images may find their way in there soon. I love this because it’s so completely nerdy and me… Also I get a strange enjoyment out of using office supplies.
Finally, while it’s been awhile since I’ve done a performance, I’m planning on doing one next week at the 621 Gallery Art for Dinner benefit. I still have NO idea exactly what I’ll be doing, but I want to somehow play on the audiences expectations of what will happen, either by priming them with specific information (like a very leading title) or setting them up somehow to encourage very specific expectations of what my performance will be, and then having the performance somehow go against those expectations. My hope is that this will then put the audience in the awkward or uncomfortable position of having to confront disappointment or even anger that in a way they themselves created. I have no clue how to do this, but I know that it must be done. Suggestions? I could really do with some, because this is how I feel about it right now:
I’m in flux, which is a place I hate to be. I’m frustrated because I see things I like in my work, but I don’t like the way in which they are appearing, and I haven’t the slightest idea how to make it “right.” It’s also not helping that the MFA studios are moving to a new facility and so I won’t have access to my things or my studio until January, and that I’ve been focused on planning Working Method’s trip/exhibition at Fountain Art Fair… I feel so discombobulated, disoriented, and distracted! It took me two weeks to write this post…
To sum up though…Basically, I don’t know the next step I need to take…
So, as always, when in doubt, I’m reading books and looking at art. (Art Basel Miami is this week!) Remember that list of books I posted awhile back? The one I said I wanted to have read by reviews over two weeks go? That’s OK if you don’t, because I almost forgot about them too! Yeah. I only got through half of those books. F in the research category for me. But those are what I’m reading now, so that counts for something right? The two I’ve found most interesting thus far areComplete and Utter Failure by Neil Steinburg and The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. (Here’s a link to a TED Talk that pretty well summarizes a good portion of the book…Watch it, it’s really good!) They both bring up some really compelling issues that seem to dovetail quite well with the direction I’m headed. They also re-contextualize the concept of failure, pointing out that what we view as failure may not actually be failure depending on the circumstances.
In Complete and Utter Failure, Steinburg proposes that most of what we consider failure is self-assigned and therefore an interpretation open to debate. He goes on to say that failure is mostly a function of time, framework, and perspective. This is something I think is very valid, particularly in relation to looking at the quiet, personal failures in which I am most interested. These perceived failures (say ceasing your climb up the 50 foot rock wall half way, even though you set out to climb to the top) do not carry the consequences of true failures (your harness snapping halfway up the rock wall). And yet those perceived failures are perhaps more emotionally devastating, carrying added weight in our perceptions.
Something else out of Steinburg’s rather entertaining book that stuck with me, is a discussion of failure to match your past performance in your most recent endeavor. He framed this conversation around a mathematical principal known as regression to the mean. Basically, as I understand this, if there is an average level of performance, then a person who exceeds that average is more likely to perform closer to the average in their next attempt in order to help preserve that average. The example Steinburg uses is Michael Jackson and his phenomenal success with Thriller, and then his subsequent (still successful) records that did not sell as well as Thriller. I would really like to use this concept in a performance somehow. I think its very relevant, especially seeing as our culture seems to be laboring under the impression that each outstanding achievement must be succeeded by yet a greater one, and so on, ad infinitum. I feel like I’m on the verge of making an artistic break through with this idea…. But who knows.
Now, in Iyengar’s book, she talks about the psychological idea cognitive dissonance, which essentially means having thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes which are inconsistent with your own actions. She writes:
“For most of us, though, it’s not so easy to reconcile the multitudes with in us. In particular, problems arise when we experience contradictions between different aspects of our selves, or between our beliefs and our actions… Admitting either alternative will threaten some of he most central elements of her sense of identity as a reasonable and authentic person…. [I]t can lead to anxiety, guilt, and embarrassment.”
Again, I feel like there is something there to be used in my work. When we strive for our extreme expectations and fall short, the emotional disturbance felt is that of cognitive dissonance. It then becomes a matter of how we justify this disconnect to ourselves… What story we use to explain away the difference.
So close to something, so far from something. I’m finally going to post this now…
I haven’t actually posted anything about my art recently. I lot of random pictures…and frustration, but no art. If you actually follow this and like to hear about my art, sorry about that. But rest assured, I have been CRAZY busy with a million things… Here’s a list of some of them:
*I shot A TON of video
*I did a performance
*Turned that performance in to a video piece
*Worked on some of the photos I posted up here awhile back
*I applied for a scholarship to attend the SPE conference in Chicago in March
*I submitted my work to 3 shows
*Helped to write a proposal to get Working Method Contemporary into FOUNTAIN ART FAIR/Started planning for WMC’s trip to Fountain
*Managed to fill up my entire 750 GB laptop hard drive with video files and had to panickedly run to the store to buy a 3 TB external hard drive to get the files OFF of my computer so I could use it.
*I flooded the MFA warehouse (during my panicked run to the store)
*Read books about Failure and Control and Perfection
*I nervously watched the election results
*I DIDN’T clean my house
*I cooked AMAZING butternut squash mac and cheese
*I got to be a unicorn
*Cleaned my studio
I’m sure that there was more than that, because that doesn’t seem like very much. But rest assured I did stuff, I’ve just forgotten most of it. Which reminds me… I need to send a link to this crazy shindig of a blog to my committee. HI GUYS!
My other excuse for not posting the stuff I’ve been working on recently is that it takes FOREVER to export them from Final Cut to a QuickTime file (anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 or 5 hours), and then another FOREVER to upload them from the hard drive to youtube. 4,834 minutes (according to youtube) to upload a 4 minute QuickTime?! Come on now The Internet, you can do better than that. So I’m trying a different upload method this time, but the videos may not have as good of quality, sooo… Don’t judge me for that imaginary viewers. Thank the academic gods that I get to take a video editing class in the spring. I’ve never taken one before, so I will finally learn how to do things the right way, rather than the “Courtney Seat of Your Pants Special” that I’ve relied on for the past 4 or 5 years… Shhhh, don’t tell anyone I don’t know what I’m doing.
Anyway, back to making art. I’ve been trying to explore much more subtle areas in the concepts of failure and control. I think I’m starting to make progress in that direction, but it’s coming slowly. One of the things that I’ve realized about myself is that I am an incredibly literal, straightforward person. I also gravitate toward extreme opposites, hence my tendency to create work which is black and white in terms of interpretation or content (I feel like there is a photography joke in there somewhere too…). I want a clear, concise direction or outcome in which to head. I don’t operate well with uncertainty. It’s hard to reel that part of my personality in, and to embrace those uncertainties. I’m trying though… So here is a list of some of the videos I’ve been working on (They will all eventually be links to youtube, but since it is still taking FOREVER to upload my videos and I would like to publish this post some time before the end of the world…)
High Tide was a performance I did a few weeks ago on St. George Island, a state park about 2 1/2 hours west of here. What you see in the clip is about 4 minutes of an hour long performance where I laid perpendicular to the tide as it came in (at high tide). It was sort of a last minute kind of thing. I just got this idea of laying in the tide as it came up, and I went and did it. I’m not 100% sure what my intent was for the performance, certainly something about control, but I couldn’t say specifically. For me, there is something there about the necessity to accept the fact that there are some things that you cannot control. Going into it, I really had no notion of what would happen, except that I might get covered in the sand that the tide carried in over me. I had NO idea that the tide would eventually take me, swing me around, and push me down the shore. I had no control, except to roll myself back over after the water flipped me. I wasn’t smart enough to think of wearing ear or nose plugs so there are the involuntary jerks of my body trying to resist the water, and I’m kind of torn as to wether I like these or not. I think I may have to sit with this piece for a while longer before I can make that call..
Bending the Break/Breaking to Bend, was an extension of High Tide in some ways. The same day I did High Tide, I also shot some footage of me trying to fight, or stand up to the waves which would frequently knock me down. Pairing those two shots together seemed to get closer to some of the ideas I’m trying to work on in terms of control and quite, subtle failure. Again, I’m not sure I’m completely happy with it… I feel like it might need something else, or just some closer shots. Everything seems so far off right now. I’ve also had it suggested that I need to rethink what I’m wearing. Which, me being me, I never even considered wearing anything but a bathing suit. My thought process went something like this: “I’m going to the beach. I am going to the beach to shoot a performance. I am shooting a performance in which I will be in the sand and water. I will wear a bathing suit, because that is what you wear at the beach.” End of story, no further consideration. See what I mean about being painfully literal and straightforward?
Clearly the Bleed videos are influenced by my experience with the ruined notebooks. I’m playing around with the water and how many pages and stuff like that, but ehhhhh… I don’t know… I think I’m much more attracted to the artifacts created in the process of shooting the video than the video itself. I think this might be the case too with the photographs of my ruined notebooks I’ve been playing around with. Here are some quick snaps of the objects themselves…
See! They are so much more appealing. I don’t know what to do. I think it would be a little extreme to continue flooding things just so that I could take pictures of the things that were water damaged. Also, living in Florida, I feel like that could be misconstrued or some what insensitive, what with all the hurricanes and flooding that happen down here routinely. On a semi related note, is there a water equivalent to pyromania? Because I think I might have that…
Fairy Tale Logic is my rework of …lies expectations…the performance I did back in September. What you’re watching is sort of a mash up of how I envision it being displayed. Ideally, I’d like it as two separate projections or screens, each playing one side of the “conversation.” Obviously I don’t have this luxury on youtube, so you get a bastardized version of it.
The entire time I was working on this, I went back and forth on how I feel about it. I spent the better part of two weeks reshooting this and another week editing, so I’ve spent a lot of good old quality time with this video. I’m concerned that it feels to forced and stiff, where as the performance itself was much more organic and unscripted. I do like it better that it’s just me in a room by myself, but in doing that I feel like I lost some thing… It also seems some how more insincere. Maybe I just need to not look at it for a few weeks and then re-watch it, because at this point I know the damn thing back and forth.
That’s pretty much the wrap up. I have some other things I’ve been working on, like those photographs of the ruined notebooks and the liquid light tests. Buuuut, neither of those are in any state to be documented or shared… I’m a little lost with those two. I would like to say “We’ll, you can’t win them all” to myself, but that feels like a cop out and that makes me feel lazy. SO instead, I will just say that I will win them all, it just might take me awhile… Just remember…
More another day… And check back, I’ll have links up to all of the videos as soon as I can finish getting them uploaded.
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.
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’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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
Analysis paralysis, grass is greener syndrome, longing for the road not traveled: How the success of the women’s movement has left us stumped in the face of limitless options -- and how to get over it.