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.

 

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.