WHAT IS ‘The Work of Art?” Conversations that began in an online forum, The Mirror, opened the discussions about this in early 2018.
After a year of ruminations, one key reflection is this.
If you don’t show up for the chance encounters in the places where you have no idea what’s going to happen, the art you make isn’t ever going to get to any place of real depth. Because it’s still in your own little bubble that you are working, and no one is going to make you ask the hard questions about it, to make it better.
A LOT OF PEOPLE talk about how you have to ‘get inspired’ if you want to write or make art. That’s not true. Anyone who does this in a serious way knows that it’s really about showing up and practicing, over and over. The whole ‘get away for a week and just write so I can finally get my novel written’ is so…’ [a segment of this has been deleted because it’s really personal and long-winded and not really a good idea to put in a public-facing post, erm]… optimizing for the things that you want. Knowing what those are. All that.
I had the idea to make ‘zines’ because I wanted to do something that would be short, sweet, made on the spot, and easy to put together and assemble and quickly share. I had this gigantic multi-tab spreadsheet and color codes, columns, sorted pages, unsorted pages, and so many exclamation points that I can’t even tell you how fun it was. My dearest friends know that it was, for me, a time of ‘crunching the data’ and seeing the ‘a-ha’ as and when it showed itself. You just can’t do it any other way. You have to get in there and muck around with a thing if you want it to tell you anything interesting. This is why we are doing ‘agile publishing.’ And ‘experiential writing.’ And, and, and. I wonder what F would say about all this.
But yeah. This thinking came after years of trying a lot of things (I do mean a *lot*) including salons, workshops, client gigs, lots of doodling about, some forays into showing art work, exhibitions at places that did open calls, artist residencies, actual 9-5 gigs for multiyear stretches (yes! not kidding!), and doing what people in agile development like to call ‘pivoting’ when it comes to regrouping and redesigning and adusting to market forces.
There are times when I wish that the market forces would evaporate and people would just see and know what ‘quality’ is, but then again, Robert Pirsig wrote all those bunches and bunches of words lamenting this same phenomenon and I can see that he only made peace with it when he accepted that just not all that many people in the world are gonna care about what you care about. Happily, I found Lila, his sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in a guesthouse in Melakka in Malaysia, and toted it with me back to Phnom Penh, and now have it here, with me, in… *somewhere else*. Somewhere new.
(On the way from ‘before’ to ‘next.’ And then… Riga.)
IT WAS FORTUNATE and disappointing to discover that someone I had imagined would find it very interesting to read Lila had not picked it up from the place I had left it for him, a small lobby of a place with staff who were wondering why I kept popping in and out, bicycle-helmeted, in my falling-apart outfits, asking about an obscure hardcover book. But it is an important book to me. It is for sharing with the people who are interested in the things I am interested in and that Pirsig was. Quality. Seeking it, questing for it. And when something or someone comes along that lends you a new angle on how to approach it (books can do this, people, places, travel, the scent of fresh rain after a few days of humidity, all of that), you know that it’s the most imperative in the world thing to do to sit up and listen. At least, for me. I’m questing S P A C E. And S P A C E attracts S P A C E. It’s like that. Abundance. Et cetera. But for me, subtracting things also helps me make space. Editing out what doesn’t work helps me better see the picture of the more important substance that attracts more of itself to make the whole. That is pretty esoteric. I should ask PH to comment, somewhere. I will. In S P A C E.
Does everyone want to hear about these things? No.
Does it matter to me that they don’t? Hmmmmm. *conflicted*
What is the role of the artist? To make art, but then, what the hell is the point making it, all alone?
Choreography, S P A CE
Talking with Susan Yeung How Wah in Singapore, a choreographer, helped a lot with starting this new thinking. (I ran into her by chance in November 2017, after hanging around that city wondering if there was a way to really make a ‘go’ of Atelier S P A C E | Singapore. I was wandering about the city staring at my feet, wishing it could all work itself out like magic. Then, boom. Into my life walked the expression of magic, herself.
I managed to meet her by the by, and talk with for a full afternoon at La Salle’s Lowercase Cafe, because it was there, and so were we and why not, isn’t this the stuff of art and design and making? Conversation starts it all, doesn’t it?
So we made a time and we showed up.
That was when things began, in a large way, with setting the stage for the seeding of S P A C E. I’m dramatizing, of course, but she is really full of brilliance. I can tell. You always can, right?, when you meet rare gems amongst our lot who are also asking questions, going out on a limb, and showing up to try the experimental, and the new. (Thanks, SY!)
Who would know better than a choreographer about how to get people to work together artfully? The more we talked, the more I saw the beginning of a pattern I’ve been seeing now for a few years when I show up with a big list of questions and ‘ask the expert.’ Like it’s an interview or something. It never works like that, now. It turns into a conversation. I hear people say, ‘DK… This sure is… different. You’re doing something I’ve not seen, but it’s making me think.’
I ask for advice.
‘No, I don’t have anything. Keep going. That’s all I can say.’
NEW 2019 FORUMS BEGIN. Such conversation spacemaking is exactly what S P A C E is designed to invite. Curious? I was thinking we could talk about ‘Statics & Dynamics’ this coming month. Who wants to know more? Ask me through the form here. Or, just subscribe to S P A C E to get both our weekly digital zine + the passcodes to our ongoing forums. These are the active spaces.
Data are data. It is the intellectual framework which one deals with the data that is at fault. The fault is with subject-object metaphysics itself… what Phaedrus was saying was that not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. It is nothing else. When Quality postulates they’ve done so because it’s better and that this definition of ‘betterness’–this beginning response to Dynamic Quality–is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based. When this understanding first broke through in Phaderus’ mind, that ethics and science had suddenly been integrated into a single system, he became so manic he couldn’t think of anything else for days.** The only time he had been more manic about an abstract idea was when he had first hit upon the idea of undefined quality itself. The consequence of that first mania had been disastrous, and so now, this time, he told himself just to calm down and dig in. It was, for him, a great Dynamic breakthrough, but if he wanted to hang on to it, he had better do some static latching as quickly and thoroughly as possible. —R. Pirsig
**Can so relate!