Monday, 24 October 2016

'Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?'

Recently a friend told me that I should be exhibiting what I'm producing, and the same day someone else said that I should put my images on a site that allows people to choose an image and then apply it to a tshirt or an iphone cover. I appreciate their ideas and support. I may have another exhibition eventually, but I'm intrigued by what's behind these suggestions, as they're so far way from where I am.

My priority is making the images, seeing what's going to happen next. I don't care what happens to them after they've appeared, as long as they get to go out into the world. As long as they have a chance to come into contact with another human, who may or may not resonate at the meeting. If someone sees an image and something happens for them, my job is done. And if someone sees an image and nothing happens for them, my job is also done. My responsibility is to follow my own trail, make the image, and put it out.

If there was no internet it would be different. I would have to exhibit in order for it to be possible for the images to find people. But every time I put an image onto facebook there are potentially at least 200 people or so who might see it. That's 190 people more than is strictly necessary.

I'm not trying to make Art. I'm not trying to contribute to the history of 'special' people whom society has othered whilst removing ordinary people's fundamental need and secret longing to create things. I'm not hoping to be recognised, or to have a gallery ask to represent me. I'm not trying to persuade the world to hand over its money and give me enough of it so that I can pay my bills.

I could do that. I could do that if I was prepared to change what I want to do to fit what the people with money want. I could do that if I didn't mind spending a large proportion of the time I could be making art promoting it, carrying it to places, writing up invoices, making mounts and framing. But I'm not prepared to do that right now. I'm done with making creative products to fit other people's agendas, and I'm done with doing what I'm told. I'm done with organising and administration. And I'm done with gatekeepers.

The amount of money I would make if I did all of these things would never come close to paying my bills anyway. And even if it did, if suddenly someone somewhere decided to promote me because they thought they could make themselves some money by taking me on and it 'worked', I would then still spend most of my time not making art, and would probably gradually lose sight of the trail completely, overwhelmed by the comments of the gatekeepers, the market, and current fashions.

The trail goes down deep into myself and, if it stays true, can occasionally tap into streams that are not limited by my personal experience. This, to me, is a pursuit worthy of my attention. A worthwhile use of my one precious life.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA