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.

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