Dealing with multiple limitations this semester – COVID-19, lack of studio and materials, cut off from communication, making work, eating and sleeping all in one room, chronic fatigue and chest problems, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be an artist, what it means to make work, and the conditions that surround this.
I don’t mean to sound self-pitying, in fact not at all. I wouldn’t call it a blessing, but I’ve found myself more invested in my practice because of these limitations than I was more. This, I think, is mainly down to no longer having to prescribe to ideas in my head about what makes a good artist or good art (i.e a lot of hours and lots of labour), because I cannot physically manage. Instead, I’ve had to reinvent myself as an artist and figure it out all over again.
This has been the main drive of my investigations this semester: looking in particular in what it means to participate the art world or not, and how to navigate my exit.
I don’t intend to pursue a career as an artist when I leave, and previously this has caused me a lot of insecurity, but because of the conditions this semester I have been able to carve out my own space for discourse, which has been really freeing. I realise I probably shouldn’t say that I don’t want to be an artist, but in saying that I think I am able to make better art as I find my own zone to operate in.
The Robots: Using the robot as a drawing tool has been the focus of most of my work this semester, which has come out of my discomfort and struggle with adopting an artistic identity. I spent a lot of time thinking about what gives an artist a right to be so, why are they so specially endowed, and the mythology of the genius artists touch. The robot has allowed me to explore this by making at least the initial creative and compositional choices for me that I am then restrained by. Dealing with so many restrictions this semester, it somehow seems easier to just increase them. I think that identity as an artist has been the main thing that has held me back in the past as I couldn’t wrap my head around it – in particular the decision making. I struggled with the idea of divine inspiration. By using the robot and continuing to impose more limitations – i.e by working in embroidery I have to work incredibly slowly and deliberately – I don’t have to struggle with this identity any more. I am a labourer, an executor. Moreso, by being a labourer, I am able to think and therefore to write.
An area that I have been really interested in this semester but pretty much unsuccessful in so far is beginning to bridge a path between my art and writing: two things that I have never previously managed to reconcile, and which I still struggle to do. I suppose with the dissertation making physical work became my sort of escape from words. But this is the kind of area that I want to begin to navigate.
I realised that I am interested in making work that defied language – I enjoy work that is based on feeling, sensation, experience, physicality, rather than something you can describe. I’ve figured this out over the course of the semester – I began with ideas of labour, of transcription (especially from a feminist perspective) – but these ideas that I pursued didn’t feel write. I realised that I was over conceptualising my ideas and trying to justify them, but what I was aiming for in the works I worship was an indescribable feeling when I encountered them. I love art and I love writing, and I think I can’t put them together because they are oppositional qualities – one defies language, one defies direct experience. It’s taken me all of semester one to figure this out so I haven’t really gotten anywhere with it – but it’s where I am headed, and I would like to experiment with ways to combine art and writing whilst dealing with the individual qualities of both.
I have always been interested in perception, previously looking at how art can change the way we look at the world. I don’t really get to see much of the world any more – as I get more tired I spend more time in my room. Perception and looking is still a big focus for me, and has been, but has become absorbed into my process and the way in which I work. I don’t want to work carelessly anymore – if I’m going to use my energy then I have to spend it carefully. I have begun making work slowly and laboriously in order to heighten perception more internally. To put that energy directly into the work that I make.