Tuesday, May 5, 2015

individualism and doubt

There is a part of all of this rationalizing and discussion of art that seems incredibly false; individuals pursue being artists and make money doing so.  The value of art and what an individual artist is paid for a particular piece of work must be acknowledged and considered in terms of expression; there is at least part of the purchase of an art work that is due to the individual that is "expressing" (or, to state it differently, part of the value of an artwork is due to the individual that produced it*).

Understandably, this is theoretical in nature; most artists make very little money off of their work.

Doubt, though, comes from how effective of a measure of value this is.

I've talked about the complexity of the concept of the individual as a sort of doubling, but now I'd also like to add the complexity of individual expression is also a matter of othering--othering within each individual.

Doubling of the individual isn't exactly the only way that the complexity of individuality reveals itself, but it is an easy argument for a richer concept of the individual, and there is something about a binary relationship that seems coherent in terms of individuals and aspects of their individuality.  I think it is important to note that the doubling does not refer to an emotion (i.e. the binary relationship is not happy - sad) but rather refers to two "units" of individuality--that the individual, despite its etymological history, is two units.

When there are more than one units of individuality, there stands the chance for othering.

Doubling and othering are not the same thing in most cases, but within a creative individual, I believe that they are not only parallel to one another, but exacerbate one another.  If I am at a point of self-doubt in my studio practice I am the one making individual expression and the other, the one that is working against my self expression, the one that is questioning each act in the studio.

You can hear references to this in writing about art and even in popular culture.  This morning on All Things Considered there was a story about the Islamic Art Now exhibition at LACMA and UCLA professor Ali Behdad referred to the artists in the exhibition as having "double consciousness", referring to them being both Muslim and secular.

How this most often manifests itself in my own studio practice is the doubling/othering of the artist that paints for the act of making and the artist that thinks about the market and what artists are required to do to have success.  Some times these individuals within me are in agreement and work together, but most often it is a negotiation between one (making work because I am alive) and the other (a working class person navigating a world of high priced commodities and affluent people).

The implications of this are quite profound, but also come with the possibility of ending anyone individual's studio practice, but I believe that the dialectics between one and the other are fuel for fire in the studio, or at least have the possibility to be fuel, if the differences within each of us are acknowledged and discussed.  Conflict is a strong motivator in terms of making art, and I believe that this is a conflict that can be harnessed.

*Obviously, forgery complicates this idea.

Friday, May 1, 2015

individual expression, part 2

Visual art has the misfortune of being both instantly culturally significant and out of reach for most people.  It is confusing to be an artist involved in production of images and objects that are simultaneously accepted as having cultural value and not representing the culture that they are apart of by the value of the market associated with the work as products and commodities and the perception of esoteric or hermetic subject matter.  Of course, artists are accepted within their field and do not have to deal with this precarious relationship as much in galleries, museums, and other institutions and people associated with visual art (and the art world--though Ben Davis has made me consider this term more and want to use it sparingly).  

As artists and the ones producing art work, we are seen as both "talented" and "skilled" for the work that we make but should be limited in how we talk about the work, or the work is our primary mode of communication and gallerists, collectors, curators, and critics have authority to talk about the work.

This is, of course, not true for all non-artists working in the field and there are very many that are true supporters of individual artists.  There is something about this relationship and history that has put artists at a disadvantage, though--when it is acceptable for artists to only rely on what their work looks like and rely on that to fully communicate their ideas, their work, and the context of both, I worry about artists' ability to represent themselves and one another as a group.

The inverse of this, of course, is the mindless buzzword talk of certain artists--talk that often seems to come from a place of insecurity.  I'm sure it seems idealistic to state, but what I'm talking about is an honesty and earnestness in communicating and contextualizing ones own artwork, including owning up to parts which we don't have figured out yet.  It is a great misfortune to speak about ones work as though everything is figured out or solved--anyone who spends time in the studio knows that it is self-doubt, questioning, and internal dialectics that make us return to the studio, over and over again.
We loose some of this when we allow non-artists to talk for us in a way that does not encourage and include dialogue.  Enough of the position that artists shouldn't talk about their work--the history of that is born from times when art was produced out of patronage or for churches and assumes that each piece is a perfect and complete piece in and of itself (individual expression, again).  People who take the position that they can speak with authority about a work without including a dialogue or listening to the artist is not truly supporting artists but has another agenda in mind.