Three-or-four years ago I had a conversation about a certain artist who, for a goodly percentage of the year, entirely shut himself (for I am fairly sure it was a “he”) off from art practice and instead did nothing other than absorb other culture. When said artist (who, although I still can’t recall his identity, is by no means hypothetical) returned to art creation, his perspective had altered slightly, thus his output remained fresh. I have gone from Ruscha to Turrell and back again trying to remember who this artist was, but this is ultimately of little importance here: I know first-hand that this method works (to some extent), because I myself employ it. To churn out artworks continuously implies the Deleuzean Body without Organs in its empty, non-productive state, whereby influences pass freely through the body without assimilation or re-direction. Thus cultural influences enter the body without being processed, fully understood or given new form in an artist’s work, rendering the artist less of an Artist and more of a casual consumer.
I could have used the Summer months to commit to serious study and develop my practice, but I honestly cannot imagine this having as positive an effect on my outlook towards my work as my considered abnegation thereof has afforded. I would eventually have become that Body without Organs. Which, although is sound and remains a method which has (so far and touch wood) never failed me before, brings to the artistic its own problems – or rather problem – in that it can be frustratingly difficult to find a way back into art creation. When everything one has created in the past is passed (and the artist has been so in name only for several months), the artist must then find a way back into a daily routine of the practicing artist. There is usually (and perhaps necessarily) a period of re-adjustment to endure before the artist has fully returned to working at his or her full tempo – a matter of weeks during which any and all new elements and perspectives recently absorbed find their “voice” and those which remain adapt and assimilate these new factors. While this happens on the most sublime level, its results are quite often remarkable.
As an artist, one of my main concerns is how I coherently string my work together, given that there is little in the way of commonality running through it. As previously mentioned, many of the things that interest, concern or catch my attention in any way are sometimes superficial and fleeting, two words which I use advisedly. “Superficial” here does not necessarily mean shallow or vapid, but rather refers to the way that elements of a thing have the power to interest me, while other elements do not. I do not consider this a vacuous habit. Nor do I say “fleeting” in a way to imply that my attention span is limited: I believe that it is now nigh-on universal for an individual to scan rather than contemplate, to briefly consider an object and how it connects to known objects as opposed to deep ratiocination. This is only natural in a world that is literally overflowing with (what I shall for the sake of brevity call) “stuff,” and it is not so much that we don’t have the attention spans anymore as it is that we do not have the time to consider it all. I sift through stuff retaining those elements that not only have distinct form, but which also – in some manner or small way – relate to other elements of other forms. This is how I liken my output lately to A Thousand Plateaus, in that the various chapters of said book (on the surface) bear little relation to one another, but are ultimately joined by a consensual (between Deleuze and Guattari) linguistic thread. This is precisely the way in which I work, akin to Walter Benjamin’s ragman, picking through the clutter and debris of culture and society for that which shines (another advisedly-used word). Much like Jason Rhoades and many like him, this is how an artist feels compelled to work in the Twenty-First Century being walled-in on all sides by ephemera and consumables. What the artist then chooses to make of the “things that shine” is by and large an approximation of what said artist would do with traditional materials. Here then we see nothing more than a material shift in artistic practice, while I strive to maintain traditionalist media, for whatever reason makes sense to me to do so at any given time.