Take a Look…It’s in a Book!

I’m feeling a bit…disheartened recently.

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…

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I MAKE AAAAARRRRTTTTT!

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 Performance

Breaking the Bend/Bending to Break

Bleed 2

Bleed 3

Bleed 4

Fairy Tale Logic

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.

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.