Within, the Project: Protecting
January 18, 2011
(This is a link-happy post.)
Here’s this #within project, me pledging to bury important pieces of information into paintings, and this documentation process to prove that I’m doing so. I’m not only burying this private information into the paintings, but I’m exposing the fact that I’m doing so. I’ve created this space to lay bare the project from the very beginning, the framework is set for exposure… and increasingly my thoughts turn to the value of keeping private things protected.
Biography as intrusion:
Last week, life intruded in unpleasant & unwanted ways, and I had to decide… to what extent do I talk about it publicly? What place does this have in other people’s information streams? I completed my contribution to @Platea‘s Project VIII, (all contributions are mapped out here at their blog). Here’s my piece: John Muir, and then something happened. The project became this discovery about what happened to an aspect of John Muir’s legacy, as well as what happened to me in real time (more specifically, to my friends) in the same week. I could have posted the work without explaining my personal connection to it, but it seemed to me that the piece wasn’t just the physical things I made, but it was the state of mind I had while making it, and the concurrent discovery/experience that happened. I posted it despite my hesitations. It seemed to be true to the work to do so. But it was inconvenient; the whole week was inconvenient.
Value & Cost:
Things have been quiet since then. But I move forward to find a voice for quietness. The value of privacy now seems so much more acute to me… there seems to be an increased value of protecting it (suffer privately, maintain public normalcy), and the cost of breaking it is intangible but real (voicing the personal & then what?) But there’s always the alternate… living in an open way paves the way for access. But access to what? And for whom? Who benefits? These are some of the questions I will explore as I work on project #within.
1. I’ve been reading the catalog/volume of SFMoMA’s Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870. I went into that exhibition last Thursday. I was raw that day, and the show was just too much more raw for me to take in. I walked right out, with one image in particular that haunted me into the next day. Some things are better not seen? But someone had to take that picture? Shouldn’t we see the kind of violence that happens in war? There’s value in outing the truth? I think it should be documented. But I still walked out.
2. I’m thinking about Ed Winkleman’s list from December: Top Ten Things I Didn’t Understand in 2010, in particular:
4. Why people were so willing to be so publicly concerned with how Marina Abramovic urinated during her performance at MoMA. I mean, I realize that hours and hours and hours and hours of waiting for one’s turn does tend to make the mind wander, but what ever happened to keeping certain thoughts to one’s self?
That last part- keeping certain thoughts to one’s self- has stuck with me. I think- yeah what happened to that? Above was re. crude/useless discussions, but I think, what about filters? And making choices about what to think vs. what to say? Choices have to be made. I want to explore those choices.
3. I’m thinking about performance artist Man Bartlett’s tumblr post: On the Conflation of Religion and Spirituality, in which he wrote:
A concern I have regarding expressing thoughts/opinions publicly about spirituality is that it will over-influence the reception of my work. I am very careful about how and when my beliefs make their way into my practice and how I speak about them. To that end I think it’s important that there are healthy divisions between personal life and artistic practice. However consider this a public proclamation that I often smuggle spiritual principles into my work.
I’ve discussed with a few artist friends about that concept of putting hidden information into work (Alexis Manheim, Joanie San Chirico) and also I saw Kianga Ellis’s interview with Jason Varone where he talks about that. We have this push/pull- this layered communication that happens and the slow reveal of experience we hope to unveil. I’m also struck by the ways various communities have their unspoken standards as to what is acceptable and what is less so, and this is true for the art world as well (as Bartlett described above), a world in which we celebrate diversity–to a point. In this way, the art community is just like any other. My membership in opposing communities all my life tells me this is an intrinsic human behavior that artists like to think they’re above. Sometimes I feel like I have a dual passport to countries that are at war. Sometimes there are cease fires, but the tensions remain.
4. Also last Thursday, I visited Catherine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and saw Jonathan Solo’s show entitled: Shadow. Kimberly Chun at SF Chronicle quoted Solo and discussed the development of his work over the past few years by saying:
“I thought I was a man, honey, till I lost my mother. It changed me to my core,” Solo says. “I had my own run-ins to relieve the pain, and so it became darker for a while, and in those moments, I started to really deal with myself.”
In addition Solo’s father was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a year to live; as a result, the artist reassessed everything, including his work.
Mostly I am just thankful that he worked in this way, that even with what was happening to him personally (which, I note, wasn’t just a part of the work he made, but he also didn’t hesitate to discuss the current facts of his biography with a reporter), he kept working, making, doing. Because he has worked & is working through his grief & despite his grief, it gives me hope that I can do the same. It presents a model to me, and this is in itself something that reminds me of the value of cracking open the door to what can seem to be a private matter… sometimes it’s just another way to be reminded that I’m human and OK. And that I can go on.
I had planned to write about sources of this #within project in some chronological order, but it’s just not happening. Instead, this is in its entirety, this whole blog, is a document of what is happening for me as I experience this #within. From start to finish, I am documenting what I’m doing. This is week #2.