Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Not fun / not art?
Earlier this week I wrote about my daily art project, which requires me to collect text from the newspaper or other printed sources and paste it up into a "poem" or other presentation. I said I was feeling overwhelmed by the collection and sorting of my raw material, and still didn't feel as though I totally understand where this project is going.
One of my readers left a comment on the post: "I see a daily art activity as being something FUN with little to no background work. What you are doing doesn't sound like fun and it doesn't look like art."
(So I take it she's not going to do a project like this in the foreseeable future.)
I thought about this comment for a while and decided I needed to write about it. Not so much to have a debate, but to make sure my own thoughts are in order. Having committed to this project, with 327 days left to go, I would like to feel that I've made a good decision and am going to accomplish something, even if I'm feeling a little iffy right now.
I've been doing daily art for all but one of the last 17 years and I've learned that such projects usually surprise me. I think I know what I'm planning to do, and then it doesn't work out exactly that way. I encounter obstacles, which either get overcome or get creatively avoided. New ideas sneak in and make themselves at home. I learn things and incorporate them into my daily practice -- and often they slop over into the rest of my life and art. So feeling in early February that I don't quite understand what's going on is perfectly normal.
I differ with the reader on the part about "little to no background work." If something requires no work I'm not sure it's worth committing to doing it 365 times. True, I don't want my daily project to take up two hours, but I also don't want to dash it off in two minutes. To my mind, the point of an art project, daily or not, is to stretch your brain and your art muscles, to do something that challenges you, or improves your skill, or produces something worth having, or all of the above. I don't do art for fun, I do it to say something, to learn something, to make something.
That's one reason I commit to a daily project rather than just promise myself "I'll make some art when I can." The fact that the daily art gets made even when I'm sick, or busy on another project, or on an airplane, gives substance to the work, a new dimension that wouldn't be there if I just made stuff every now and then. The fact that some days obviously involved more work than others is part of the texture of the project.
So yes, I'm having fun, if you define "fun" as feeling good about what you're doing, that you're accomplishing something. The fact that I'm wrestling with logistics is part of the fun; the fact that I figured out how to use sticky notes to organize my little cuttings is part of the fun. Each time I discover a new trope -- such as this one, in which I present every name that appeared on the front page of that day's newspaper -- it's exhilarating, realizing that I'm going to come back to that again, and over time it will be interesting to compare the different versions of that trope.
But is it art? In some ways it's very little different from my collage projects, where I used text every day. I've given myself new latitude this year to focus on the words rather than the images, which reflects my growing interest in poetry and poem-like wordplay. So maybe the art is a little less visual this year and a little more verbal, but it's my project and if I say it's art, it's art. (Isn't that the whole point of postmodernism?)
Stay tuned. I'll be making this stuff for the rest of the year, and I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, you can see all my daily art here.
And to everybody -- thanks for reading, thanks for commenting!