january 14

I wasn't sure if I would continue blogging after I returned from Iceland.  I used to blog.  I like to blog.  It requires me to reflect on my work and be firmer about things I'm thinking about.  So it's a good thing.   Now will I blog every day, as I did in Iceland?  Well, no.  I think regular life will not allow me to keep up as I did, but for now, I'd like to make it a weekly occurrence- much like I used to assign my students in their capstone.


On counting.

A friend of mine gave me the book, Bluets, by Maggie Nelson in response to my Iceland blog.  It's wonderful.  Nelson is a professor at CalArts and begins the book by confessing that she tells people on her hiring committee that she is writing a book about the color, Blue, yet she had not started it.  And this went on for some time.  When people would ask how her book is coming, she would say "Great!" yet would only have a few bulleted lists.  

The book is broken into a numerical list, which at first, seems hardly a narrative but it progresses into almost a journal, both of self confession and discovery.  It's been such a wonderful suggestion by one of my new friends here at my new job/life in Wilkes Barre, PA.    

Yesterday, I had done some work in the studio, an experiment really (that I have all my fingers and toes crossed will work), and then went to lunch at one of my favorite local haunts.  I took the book along because I found that I am WAY TOO tied to both my phone and computer lately and it's making me feel brain numb.  

I read passage 100.  
100. It often happens that we count our days, as if the act of measurement made us some kind of promise.  But really this is like hoisting a harness onto an invisible horse.  "There is simply no way that a year from now you're going to feel the way you feel today," a different therapist said to me last year at this time.  But though I have learned to act as if I feel differently, the truth is that my feelings haven't really changed.

It's funny.  Since last year, I have dedicated a majority of my studio practice to a type of measurement, certainly counting has been part of this.  I actually began this whole thing by measuring my arm span (Length of my Infinite Love), then I counted present breaths- almost as evidence that I could be not bogged down in my insecurities and sadness.  I did that for 200+ days and then seemed to lose interest when I couldn't be still and present anymore.  Maybe that is part of this too.  

counting up the pile of counted present breaths

A friend of mine and I had a conversation a while back about how similar our work is yet how different.  I remember defending myself about all this record keeping I seem to be doing about my existence.  I told him that I almost want there to be proof to my living, thinking Self.  He argued that isn't that really what all artists are doing?  Good point.  It really is (and really we weren't having a disagreement, he is just so good to play devil's advocate)- but I really wanted it to be completely dialed back to the operation of it all, not necessarily the cause or a visual diary per se.  

[I have somewhat grown weary of artists trotting out their stories of suffering for all of us to see- somewhat of a "Look at me and all my suffering.  I have suffered far more than you have.  Pity me."  This could also be because maybe I was once one of those artists and although I didn't think I asked for pity, I got plenty of it.   It just was NOT a way to move on.  In fact, it just perpetuated the grief and was way too difficult to feel as though things could progress.  Of course, the feeling for viewers that "you are not alone" isn't a bad thing- but as an artist moving forward, nope.  It kept you locked there, drowning in quicksand.  And I don't want attention for drowning, nor surviving, just being.]

I realize that my work is somewhat navel gazing.  I have always felt that once I get this Self thing understood, I could move onto the bigger problems of the world.  I also have always felt that if we understand the Self, we can understand others.  I think I even state here, somewhere else on my website.  

So I am documenting this existence which has been riddled with the internal struggles of being OK.  There are so many frustrations that being OK creates because once you get to this place where you can state "I am OK" then you want to move on and be completely OK with others.  Once you realize everyone else is not on that same timeline, or better yet, not even thinking about this timeline, then it becomes an even bigger question "Am I really OK?"

Herein creates the problem, and this is when I question every aspect of "OK-ness."  In some respects, I pay tribute to the sadness I have felt; in others, I stand with my emotions and celebrate them- the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

I am working on a show for later this year (I can't believe I said THIS year).  It is tentatively called A Measure.  I am chipping away at my longing, my sadness, my presence, my destruction, my stillness, my alienation... my OK-ness.  I do want to remind you that I am not necessarily re-counting events of my life, more the effects of it.  I think however that even though I have spent this past year doing this and anticipate spending this next (almost) year doing this, that Nelson might be correct.  I don't know that I will feel any different, in fact, I probably won't feel much different, but I do think the mere recording of OK-ness might allow for others to get on the timeline.  Perhaps maybe then I tackle, "but am I REALLY OK?"   Who knows.  

Nelson mentions that she got really good at seeming like she had a tremendous emotional growth yet maybe felt just the same that year later.  I suppose if one looks at their wounds, the pain starts off as sharp and quick but eventually dulls and fades off.  Sometimes we are snapped back to it if we torque ourselves the wrong way and it is a quick reminder that it was once there... and perhaps to remind us how we don't want to go back there (or makes us yearn for more depending on what it is and what we want from it all).

Am I OK?  I'm OK on a a level where I once was not.   Am I really OK?  That is debatable.  Current life events are certainly dredging up things I am really scared about, but that is for another day.  OK on one level opens up for more things to be OK about.   Life becoming endless things to count.