for a long time, i considered art to be the only thing that was truly mine, and the only thing that gave me value and worth as a person. i felt extremely alienated from the world and extremely alone due to various reasons related to trauma, abuse, and other difficult circumstances. i clung to art as the only thing that gave meaning and purpose to my life, which was true enough, and as the only thing that gave me an identity, which wasn't true at all. i thought i had to choose between art and love-- that in choosing art, i had to give up on a "normal happiness." i thought i wanted and needed something greater than "normal happiness" to cope with having it denied to me.
art was the only thing that felt true and beautiful and pure. the world was corrupt, cruel, with no place for someone as soft as me. art was my only salvation, the only place where i could feel understood and desperately carve out a place to exist in. i felt a fatal urgency to "make it" somehow before i got pushed out of the world for good, and yet i wasn't strong enough to fight for myself. art was an escapist fantasy for the me who was always the sacrifice. it wasn't that i wanted to become someone else; i just wanted to disappear completely. i didn't want to have to fight, i wanted to remain pure & fragile and protect my idealism & naivety, in order to reject a world that i thought rejected me.
i sold pieces of my art, zine copies i personally printed and bound, commissions for other people, shows for $3-5 donations, freelance gigs that didn't pay well but were enough to live on for a month or two if i didn't think too hard about taxes. i made rent and then some. i would apply to dozens of jobs a week. every rejection was incontrovertible proof that i was fundamentally unsuited to living in this world. i desired to be saved, but i had no one to save me. i needed my art, but i had no money, no family, and no connections to "break through" anywhere in the "industry." and even if i found an "in," was that really what i wanted? i knew the art that sold in a market wasn't the art i truly wanted to make. i felt torn between wanting my art to remain the one place i could truly self-determine, and depending on it as an escape from a world i didn't feel strong enough to live in.
art is my primary method of relating to my self, to others, and conceptualizing the messiness of being human and the absurdity of the world and my place within it. it helps me understand how i got here (physically, philosophically, existentially) and where i can go. art, like science, is a methodology, with hypothesis, analysis, contradiction, and conclusion. art is inextricable from the sociocultural and political contexts in which the art exists.
for example, the painting is never just about the painting, it's about the how the artist had the time, money, and connections to make it, why they made it (not just the artist statement (which is fucked up marketing), but what they're trying to prove and to who), how it ended up in that gallery, who has access to the space, where the money came from and where it's going, how cultural value is transferred between individuals and institutions. the rave is never just about the rave, it's about who organized and ran it, how well they organized it, who they got to perform and what their relationships are like, how much everyone got paid, the history of the rave location and what demographics were drawn with what kind of marketing, if and how it got raided, and how it all coelesced to communicate (or fail to communicate) the intentions of everyone involved.
what's happening inside of you when you experience a piece of art? are you consuming it passively, or are you engaging it actively? how it will affect you and and how you move through the world? what does your response to it tell you about yourself? are you thinking about how this art makes you look to others (you're aware of the transference of cultural value but don't know how to articulate or admit it)? are you using it to decorate yourself, or are you trying to find an answer to a question you have yet to ask?
are you consuming me? are you trying to find me? are you trying to find yourself? are those really separate questions?
i can never be completely known, yet i strongly desire to be understood. my art is born from this tension. in the way i want to be known, i try to know others through art. we will never truly understand each other, but because i care, i want to try.
in your art, i want you to show me what you are made of. i want to feel the true energy with which you live your life and the type of passion you feel for yourself, others, and the world. i want to be taught something new, given a new idea or feeling i wouldn't have known otherwise. i want to know who you are when you're alone.
art is not an escapist fantasy that you use to hide your ugly and pathetic true self behind; that's ontologically dishonorable. rather, art is a methodology with which you see and make sense of the reality of everything that already exists and intentionally guide the formation of your values and sense of self and how you want to live. good art shows me who i am. how else could you ever know?
i. marketing is the language of all war.
under capitalism, both the artist and the art are commodities, objectively and inescapably. usually people realize that art is an object or an experience to be bought or sold, but don't get as far as to acknowledge that the artist is the marketing, not just the "brand." the art is the object, the artist is the packaging, and if you as a person aren't marketable, the art will never claim a significant enough market share to support the production and marketing teams behind it. in this way, you aren't much different from a soda bottle or a snow globe. "experimental art" is just another form of marketing that sells the idea of subversion while repeating the same exploitative structures as any other industry. it's okay to be a scammer, just be honest with yourself and do it right: scam rich people, not your own community. confront and analyze the reality of your circumstances, have a real strategy, and get creative. operating on idealism and sentimentality alone is what gets your people killed.
ii. all warfare is based on deception.
they tell you to do what you love. is marketing what you love? your fans are trained to consume you and your work, not to engage with your work or see you as human (maybe that's what you want?). they'll look at you with hungry eyes. they'll project onto you and idealize you until you betray them by virtue of not being an idea, then throw you away like a used condom. you pack up the messiness of being a human and throw it in the basement for the sake of your "career," but in repressing that you act out in other ways. you hurt the people you can't use. you're scared of getting close to anyone. you need to know who you can trust, but there's no one you really trust, because you can't even trust yourself. the boundaries between self and other are completely dissolved. they mythologize you, they reflect a distorted portrait of yourself back at you. the person in the mirror is so much bigger and more perfect than the you in your body. you believe the you in the mirror is the real you, and the you in your body only exists to serve the myth of the mirror. you're empty and you don't know why; actually, you do know why, but you have things to lose and you think you can't afford to lose them, because without them you believe you are nothing. so you turn away from the existential dread of having to face yourself. you choose hedonism as your primary method of distraction and empty, noncommittal fulfillment.
all you can see is what's right in front of you, all you think about is when you are getting your next show, you don't know how things work because you've never volunteered your efforts for others, you don't talk to regular people because you think you're too good for that, you fawn over anyone with a little more clout than you and kiss ass for your "career" because you think that's gonna "get you somewhere," you sleep with your fans because you think you're a rockstar or maybe a god, you cannot see beyond your own self-absorption and you take anything less than beaming praise or maternal enablement as a personal attack, because you've tacked your entire sense of self worth onto something that is not even real. you have a ranking of people in your mind from most useful to least. being a CEO makes you mean and alone and so so scared. you're estranged from the pure you from the beginning that only wanted to be a little less alone. you try not to think about it. left to your own devices, you become the type of abuser that lurks in the circles of younger artists, relying on your name to take advantage of those more vulnerable than you. we all know that it happens, but no one says anything because they're trying to do the same thing, or they don't feel like they have enough power to make any meaningful change in the way things go around here.
when you've internalized the belief that your only worth is in the product you provide, you think others only interact with you when they want something from you, because that's the only way you interact with others. you do your little dance when they tell you to dance and pick up the treats they throw at you when you do a good job. you can't conceive of someone wanting to spend time with you because they enjoy it. after all, what is there to love about the you that is like this?
you threw everything else away for your art. so what? did your art ask you to do it? did your art tell you that was what it wanted? is it your art's fault that you've become so empty?
your art is like your child. you take care of it, you nourish it, you raise it as best as you can within the morally grey chaos of the world. it's precious, so you want to give it the best resources, platforms, influencers that there are. you want to see it grow up and fulfill all the wishes and dreams that you have for it. you need it to bear the weight of all the expectations you have for yourself but are too scared and weak to chase after alone. you shape it exactly the way you think it should be, ignoring its protests or complaints as childish immaturity. you know what's best for it, because you know everything about it, inside and out. you blind yourself to how fragile your art is, and wonder why it does not fill the yawning emptiness in your heart.
do you and your art still talk, or is it kinda strained between you now?
this might not be how it is for you. maybe you're aware of all this, and are trying to find a different way of navigating the quagmire of the "market" "art world" "scene" while preserving some of your original intentions. maybe you're jokerfied and committed to playing the game and scamming ignorant people in silence. maybe you're jokerfied and want no part of it whatsoever. maybe you see or know something that i don't. maybe you're just tired of it all.
there is no way to move forward without internalizing the truth that art does not exist in a vacuum, and is intimately related to the logistics surrounding the art object + event, the wider cultural topography it and you exist in, and the labor of creating culture in a society that devalues and fetishizes creativity. art is the art and it's everything around it too. art imitates life imitates art, but art is not life and can never be life. you as a person are still the basis, and if you don't live passionately, your art will stagnate and become contrived sooner rather than later. you don't actually need art to be a crutch for shaping your identity. you are much stronger than that, and it's a huge disservice to yourself to believe that you're nothing without it.
because, you will die one day. you Will die one day, any time, any moment, and so will i. death & temporality is a gift that gives meaning to the time in which we were alive. to defeat the fear of death that holds you back from your potential, you must live well. follow desire (the embarrassing kind), and honor the people who show you the truth of who you are and who you can be. to live well is to live such that you can die a worthy death. don't die without ever knowing who you were. i just think that would be too sad.