A PLACE FOR ME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
It is common in our culture to be attatched to materials. Especially if your spent blood sweat and guts getting that thing. In my life I have seen this problem at it greatest when it comes to art. I have saved drawings and paintings from when I was five. Why have I done that? I think I have convinced myself to save those things because it marks a moment in time; a moment where I was someone else and to be reminded of that person somehow validates the person I am now. But theyre just things. It's just a bunch of stuff that I no longer need.
So, working through this last semester, I have been creating work that has to be destroyed before the summer break. This is one of those pieces. Now that the paper is ripped and crumpled from the two deinstallations, it is uterly useless and takes up space. In the trash it went. All the while there was a little voice in my head saying, "Save the paper! Reappropriate the materials into another fun project!" Unfortunately for that voice there is just no space in my apartment for that stuff to sit for months or years. I have also thrown out all of my old gestures and drawing exerceises from freshman year.
Again the question: "Why have I been holding on to this junk?!" Why do I hold on to any of these useless and unecessary things? All of those trinkets from your 10th birthday to that cool concert you went to. Do we think we are going to really forget the best moments of our lives if we get rid of everything? Forgeting those little moments wont change who we are right now. So make more space in your closet. And just pain over that super cool drawing you drew directly on the wall.
What does it mean to own something? Humans have a history of stamping their foot down, pointing at something, and exclaiming, “this is mine!” but what does that mean? Can anything really be ours? Our property? Our bodies? Our thoughts? There are many theories and speculations concerning these questions that we may never have the answers to. In nature, animals may mark their territory, but it may be taken away from them in a battle and become something else’s territory. In the teachings of yoga and ayurveda, it is believed that our bodies and our thoughts are not ‘ours,’ they make up a vessel that our soul inhabits.
Today I was a part of a discussion of a related nature: authorship in art. Where does ownership begin and end in art? An example that leads us to this question is thus:
an artist creates a piece of work, putting a certain amount of thought and effort into the piece. During the creation process, the artist is thinking about certain concepts and references that they are appropriating and allowing to influence their work. Then, the artist displays the work for the public (or ‘virgin eyes’ as I prefer to call it) to see. The viewers then react to the work on varying levels and interpret/perceive the meaning/narrative/concept of the work. Now, what if the viewers see the work in a completely different light than the artist does or intended? Does that make what the viewers take from the piece false? Or, because the artist created the work with intention and effort and the piece is ‘theirs’, does that mean that they have sole ownership of its intent?
My interpretation is that these questions, which circulate through the art world with as if the answers can validate what artists do, are completely loaded. This is because everyone will have a different answer at a different time and place. Everybody holds their own truths and perceptions of life, and this does not disclude art. If the questions are being asked because an artist is trying to figure out if what they are doing is meaningful or worth all of the trouble, then that is a result of their own insecurities.
For me, I don't care if I ever find answers for these questions, because I don't make art for any other reason then I love to create. How people interpret my work and how that compares to my intention is of little value to my life. Now, as part of my work I do put effort into my work and I am mindful of how people will interpret it, that is just a part of the process. I dont, however, become dismayed when someone takes it differently than I could have imagined. If anything, I see it as a gift when someone can look at a piece that you have dedicated weeks, months of your life to and show you a whole new perspective. Even still, that is not why I create work. Steven Pressfield said, “To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution,” (The War of Art), and that is my belief as well. All of the other questions concerning art that inevitably come about in the process are jokes for entertainment.
I rarely played board games growing up. My family plays cards. The first time I played Black Jack was when I was seven years old. My dad sat my older brother and I down at the kitchen table with a deck of playing cards and a plastic bin full of coins. We each were given ten dimes and Dad dealt the hands; we were allowed to keep our winnings. Throughout the years I learned all kinds of card games from poker to Uno and everything in between. With a deck of cards no one is bored. Every family event, whether it was a dinner, a holiday, a camping trip, or the weekly park day, there were cards and there were people up for some family competition. We would gather around extended tables extended longer with other tables on the ends, bring out the poker chips and pool the money into a red solo cup, and bring out the notepad and pencils. Before we were old enough to hold jobs, a parent or grandparent would chip in some cash to add to our Birthday savings. Then we’d play until we fell asleep on chairs, couches, and oftentimes the carpeted floor.
When I was little all of the relatives lived within a ten-minute radius of each other and we would have weekly dinners at Gramma’s house. The game would be playing on the big TV (probably the 49ers but I honestly don’t know), my Bapa would stand outside on the deck smoking Marlboros and yell through the screen until his face maintained a sweet cherry-red. Then he’d come inside and take his seat at head of the table and join in on the next round. Repeat. There was nothing ever quite like a table of thirteen-or-so people playing Nerdts and yelling all night. The energy is intoxicating.
When I first learned how to play Nerdts my hands weren’t big enough to properly shuffle cards, which resulted in the classic fan-and-swirl move for too many years and I was always in negative points. Even still I couldn’t get enough of the game.
Nerdts has rules, and if you don’t follow the rules-or you win too many times in a row-you received a dozen angry voices threatening your eardrums. And that’s when Bapa’s wasn’t the only cherry face in the room (it’s amazing we could still hug each other at the end of the night). And here is how the game works:
First, you place twelve cards in a pile face down with a thirteenth card face up. Next to that you place four more cards to the left of the pile also face up. Once the “go” is sounded you flip through your deck of cards by threes (always threes) and play a game of solitaire…with everyone else. Once the first ace is out on the table it’s game on. You are allowed only one playing hand. To avoid slipping up, keep your deck in your non-dominant hand at all times during the game. The goal of this game: get rid of your stack of thirteen card and play as many cards out at possible while outsmarting your opponents and playing your cards much faster than them to their complete despair. If you should get rid of your “pile” you then can proceed to shout, “nerdts!” at your leisure for an extra twenty-five points, therefore ending the game. Mind you, if you should choose not to shout it immediately after moving your pile in order to play more points, then be wary of the other players nerdtsing before you do. This may seem obvious but you wouldn’t believe how often it has happened. Always guaranteed in this game: shouting, dramatic arm gestures, and cherry red faces. Classic.
I had always found it interesting how my dad would never play Nerdts with us, it has happened twice in my lifetime, but that was because I never saw or could understand who he was. There are always new things to learn about people because life is ever changing; especially those who are closest to us. I never really saw my dad for who he was until he told my mom to leave when I was nineteen. I was a sophomore in college. Very few people know that my parents are separated because I got tired of telling people; not because I don’t want people to know, but because everyone’s reactions are full of the expectations of a traumatic experience, a “life-changing event.” There are so many things in this world that can change a life that I don’t understand why most of the things placed in this category are labeled as traumatic. Was my parents’ separation life-changing? Yes, of course. Has it been a traumatic and wounding experience? No, it hasn’t, so stop projecting. At first I was shocked and confused and wouldn’t speak to my dad; but that lasted for only five days. Once I knew the truth from all three sides I became overcome with the most welcomed sense of peace; because, I finally had the chance to understand my parents as separate people, as individuals. I now have the opportunity to learn things about them that I would have never known or understood otherwise: Things about life, relationships, choices, consequences, and how strengths and weaknesses can dictate your life without you realizing. This, to me, is a gift. Now I see and understand qualities of character that drive my mom to love playing cards and my dad to feel otherwise. What’s even greater is that now I understand two sides of myself more fully than before: one that sits and laughs while games are sounding in the background, and one that plays cards.
"We have, in our brief lifetimes, all the moments we need to take responsibility for how we choose to be in relationship to what is and to what might be if we follow our hearts and our intrinsic wisdom. This opportunity invites us all to engage wholeheartedly, each in our own way, in an ongoing adventuring in the domain of the possible and the not yet realized."
-Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2012-01-01). Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life (Kindle Locations 1348-1351)
For me this quote is about accepting the present. We spend so much time holding onto things that don't exist anywhere but in our minds--memories, events from childhood, our futures and what they might hold. What is important though is what is happening now, and what we can do to make every moment the best it can be.
Im not worried about technological advancements overtaking craft, or humanity, for that matter. As long as there are artists, there are those who challenge the contemporary world. By this I have inferred several things:
- Artists preserve "humanity" and "culture."
-To be an artist is to question the world and challenge to answers.
-Artists push the boundaries of thought.
-The contemporary moment, the NOW, will always struggle between holding on to the past and trying to be in the future. It is the task of every artist to enlighten the world on NOW.
Although NOW is the only thing we can live in, people struggle with their awareness of the present. Instead, people are constantly predicting, planning, and striving for the future, and/or are re-remembering and trying to be in the past, and they don't know where they truly are. It is an exhausting way for us to live.