One thing I have tended to notice about my life is that when I intend to do something I initially have a reasonably simplistic view of what I’m trying to acheive. Over time I realise that making that decision to proceed in a particular direction is merely a starting point and that which I learn and cultivate in moving forward has far greater consequence than I first intended.
Case in point is the Art As War. Right now I’m reading a book entitled “Shop class as Soul Craft” by Matthew B. Crawford which is basically a set of arguments, and a discussion around those arguments, about the intrinsic value of DIY, though it might be more appropriate to call it UDIY or understand it and do it yourself… with the intention of being more spiritually and physically aclimatised to your world by the act of understanding and doing the work, in and around physical realities, that adds up to ones ability to survive… well.
To reiterate, shop class is the system of the Northern Americas whereby youth is taught to use tools to make things as well as machines to ease that labour. Its kinda funny but I always had an intuitive need to buy and master tools after an early realisation that without this form of knowledge I would be at a disadvantage in a world full of things I wanted… without the tools required to fix them.. nor an understanding of how things worked.
It seems that this book explains that I am one of the lucky ones. One of those who chose to go upstream and against a current that said knowledge as an abstract commodity, university education, was of greater value than physical skills. One of the lucky ones who is able to see the world through eyes that see the validity of something worth owning by the catalogue of skills that I already have plus those I can entertain aquiring as opposed to those without those skills who can only see through eyes that see all in regard to costs and earning power. But also, and this is where it gets interesting, it seems I’m lucky in so much as this collection of skills, and what they can do for me, ties me into a sense of self that is anchored in a relationship to the physical world that, on one hand, I am master of, and on the other, that I am subservient to… and that this attachment, through interaction, and responsibilities created thereof, allow me a quietness of spirit many in our modern world don’t even know exists… but is the carrot offered by marketeers in every new product that offers freedom from toil.
So back to my original subject which is the Art As War exhibition and it seems that now the room full of handmade objects steeped in mindful significance is not only about the idea that this lifestyle led by artists is akin to that of a nation at war… but is also much deeper now in its discussion about the cause we artists, still in favour of traditional methods of creating art, fight to have understood by those who view our pieces.
That being that in attempting to bring into reality these things previously unseen that we do battle with ourselves. That we fight against the unknown as we try to figure out how these things will be made and how they will look. That we take risks with previously unused materials and make mistakes that could sink all our hopes as we strive for a more thorough understanding of ourselves through our undertakings with the possible full realisation that the thing itself, created, is of no consequence beyond a record of something acheived… and not the thing itself at all but the fact that we did actually bring this thing into being through determination and perservervance.. allied and alloyed to all the other little realisations of self that accumulate when we take the risks involved to follow our decisions to their final ends and the responsibility to self that all this entails.
One of the hardest things I find about this life as an artist is mediocrity is very good at playing dressup. That is to say that I often come across very convincing arguments that favour such a life… responsibilities, commitments etc that I am sometimes almost convinced that what I do is worthless and not worth my time, or anybody elses… but then I realise what the results would be if I gave into these arguments, I remember!, that I don’t want to be sad and self important and have to talk up my skills beyond what they are or always be harping on about the great things I’m going to build as opposed to the real things finished which aren’t so grand but at least I’m doing something.
Actually I’m kinda thinking that I’m getting more flak from around and about because I might actually be acheiving something these days and this upcoming show may actually be the first real flowering of the skills I’ve taken 48 years to acquire. Not that I’ll be reaching a zenith in any way but that it may actually be time to put the oxygen masks on as the air is getting rather thin up here… metaphorically of course.
Hows that for talking up myself without having the goods? Maybe it is intrinsically useful to define how one is going to win the War at the onset of the first battle. Maybe defining greatness prior to it’s creation is part of the equation but at the same time maybe the ability to see the work as the greatest acheivement, not it’s physical reality as a finished article, but the nature of doing and sitting comfortably within a set of skills and an understanding of self, and ones place in an enviroment… within a feedback ring of cause and effect, and being able to ascertain, without neccessarily being personnaly involved in a show of primacy, that bringing ones time in and around oneslf is… the obvious thing to do.
I think one of the primary things about being involved with materials and skills in an artistic way is that one learns what needs to be done… and does it. Adding the concept of time as a fluid medium that can resonate with a sense of vision is part of that. The scale at which it all operates is a measure of our resonsibility to ourselves and those around us.
And if you still have more time available to you… look up Susan Sontag… shes a great critical writer.
“In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.”
from against interpretation… an essay.