Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Words and fun

The Swamp of Re-delusionment is my newest sculpture which is currently in the exhibition called
Curious Environs at The Art Museum at the University of Memphis)

The things I find these days that motivate me to write here are not few and far between as much as they are things that I have not found words for. In fact, I have adopted a new conscious practice of finding words to describe the things about art, emotion, creativity, flow, inspiration, contemplation, etc, that I have been struggling to find.

I have been in numerous conversations (especially with a particular friend here in NYC who knows most of the ins and outs of my life at the moment) where it's like I'm thinking out loud. I start feeling very confident about what I'm about to say because I know it so well in my experience and then I find that I start talking and it all comes out "fluffy" and actually obscures what it's trying to express and even my own understanding of it. It's really like I'm thinking it through out loud as opposed to having my thoughts fully formulated in my brain first. I have talked to other friends about their own art writing and understood that they have had similar experiences: the struggles to describe the really deep and profound things they experience. Unfortunately, in our society and many cultures within it, the ability to express something in words is one of the only ways that our thoughts are made valid by others. In fact, I have (mostly unconsciously) based much of my self worth on what I am able to express, in order to seem smart or wise. Suddenly, I am in the midst of something I am not smart or wise about and find that my fear of seeming as such actually impedes my ability to learn from it and actually become smarter and wiser.

Beyond external validation (which isn't sustainable anyway) a truth about finding words for our abstract experiences is that it allows us to do many things: communicate and connect with other people about similar experiences, to teach about these experiences and skillful ways to act with them, to notice the places where we are stuck, etc. Being able to put things into words doesn't have to be an obligation fulfilled, it can actually be a way for us to expand our understanding and capacity to deepen our life experience. The only unfortunate thing about all this is that school often lays the obligation heap on thick and leaves off (what I think of) as the MOST important part of expression: the fun part that is rooted in profound, intimate experiences.

That said, here are the places I have been finding words for my experiences lately:

The truth about all of our thoughts is that they aren't our own. Everything we have ever said or thought about, we heard somewhere else. Therefore it seems skillful (and FUN!) to choose where my thoughts come from and also to try and figure out where the rest of them came from in the first place.

Anyway, FUN is the key word (have I said it enough yet? Maybe I need new words like absurdity, celebration, buffoonery...) Don't take my word for it. Remember the last time you dragged your butt to the computer to write a paper or artist statement or whatever so that you could finish a homework assignment or apply to a residency or school? Now imagine you are writing the same paper but that the subject is more deeply rooted in something you have actually experienced, not just read about. Do you think you would have more to say? More passion to find words for it? Have something that someone else could learn something about you from? Be inspired by your experiences of joy/sorrow/humanity? I think so.

1 comment:

Dustnspace said...

I really like what you are investigating here! Its amazing how much time we waste thinking about what we have said to others and how it reflects upon ourselves. It is so true that the act of communicating is a learning process. I find it so gratifying to read essays on art and artists by the people who's main focus is to be able to put those very abstract concepts into words. I try to consume it -save the concepts and terminology as if it were my own but of course it dissipates over time. The more I ingest the closer I come mentally to holding the reins in the abstract sphere of art/life theory.

I think there is another aspect of what you stated here: the MOST important part of expression: the fun part that is rooted in profound, intimate experiences.
I was reading statements made by Carsten Holler and he was criticizing the cultural focus on utilitarianism -as such a banal approach to existence. (Words themselves are a utility!) The Art Academia lot necessarily has to function in this rational sphere. The FUN is really the irrational as is joy and excitement which is a submission or connection with the moment and all the forces at play internal and external (profound, intimate experiences- as you said). Moments where you would rather not be reducing your mind to words.