Monday, July 20, 2015

Transience and the Production of Self



I was in Warsaw last week for a few days to mend my heart and to get out on London. It was a good trip, necessary, re-aligning. I was taken care of by a friend who I didn’t know so well going there but knew we would get closer and we did. Being somewhere else is a remedy but it is also a salve. A salve that heals but doesn’t fix anything right away. What is this all about? I’m not sure but things like travel, healing, time and the perspectives of circumstances is on my mind and somehow I think it relates to art or at least a way of living that can be artful.

The question of, “are you an artist,” is inevitably asked if you happen to be involved with the arts or hang out with artists. I usually glibly and sometimes proudly say “no” and feel some sort of cultural relief at the truth of it. Let’s face it there are too many artists and most actually aren’t but they cling to this title, this category, for one reason or another. I think to mostly define and accentuate their being alternative, non-normal, and special in some way. So there’s that but there are actually, actual artists and you know who they are. They are just a certain type of crazy, brilliant, and weird, that can’t be faked with MFAs or seals of institutional approval.

Now, these artists are all over the place. They are mostly in major cities because that’s where the scenes happen and that’s where money and opportunity reside. Before, like in the 70s etc., being in a city was vital to an artist’s chances of making it, in whatever scale that meant to them. Today, this is not so. Today, being flexible, dislocated from a specific location and being uber global is de rigueur. I know I’ve bitched, remarked and bemoaned the negatives of this trend but taking my little jaunt to Warsaw made me realize that it can be generative and possibly necessary too.

The generative part comes in the form of newness and destabilization. When I say, ‘being somewhere else’ I don’t mean going to another city, town, country and hanging out with the same people over and over again ( à la what happens at art fairs). I mean being in a new someplace and being alone, being in rooms full of strangers and saying ‘hi’ to as many of them as possible. The newness of these situations enhances a form of excitement in your brain and body and it makes it shift into animal mode. It’s social Darwinism and it can be thrilling and/or terrifying. The destabilization comes from how you shift in awareness of your self. You are not You in this place. You are you but not The You that you usually are and that is liberating if embraced. The re-invention of the self is possibly the most generous thing one can do in having fun with identity and messing with all the baggage of how that is constructed.

Artists are exceptionally good at movement of their bodies and the building of networks through the interactions produced by this. Part of me thinks (the negative part) that this is being forced on artists and arts professionals as a necessity of relevance in the art world. If you don’t schmooze than you lose. The other part of me thinks that maybe artists and the like are the progeny of the explorers in the tribe. If everyone stayed put in the village then how boring would that be? 

The desire to travel and to be in another place and to meet, re-invent and to discover oneself and others is a gift that we have now have seamless access to with all the planes in the sky. But with this ease should come responsibility or at least curiosity. It’s a tragedy when people travel without  openness to the new place and people and it’s a shame that only the monetarily able have the flexibility to do so. Also, the ozone people! The Ozone!

That being said, it’s a privilege to be able to be transient, to hop on a plane or other moving machine and to see the world and meet the people in it. Many people argue that with globalization and all that, culture and societies are getting more and more homogenized. Yes, this is true in many ways, but from what I’ve seen and the places and people I have met, I am enlivened by all the difference, all the specifics and all the pride people have of their home and their history.

Art is about this, this connecting and conversing and all those boring words like dialogue and community and blah, blah, blah. It’s true though and I hope those that are weird, fabulous and vulnerable, are open to where they are, where they go and that they bring that energy into their art and way of living.