I remember there was a moment in my studies at the School of Art where I realized that I would never not be an artist. It seems funny to say that now, but I think I was haunted by a productivity mindset that if I wasn’t creating something, ideally something of value, then my status as an artist could be revoked.
Subconsciously I think I believed “value” to mean something someone would spend money on. Whether that is a product someone would buy, a work a gallery would pay me to exhibit, or an idea a granting body was willing to fund–my status as an artist hinged on that value.
I had this moment of realization as I was working in the clay studio. It was joined in a string of thoughts that included the realization that I didn’t have to make mugs to be a clay artist, and that I was in love with the material itself and it was going to be a life long affair. Or, to paraphrase spoken word artist, Shane Koyczan, I found my voice and remembered I was an artist.
“Whether it is with food or building robots you will know your medium the instant you realize how in love you are with what it brings out of you”Shane Koyczan
I will never not be an artist.
Knowing I am an artist however, doesn’t solve the how to be an artist. With so many avenues, so many mediums and so many ideas, knowing I was an artist was only the first step into becoming one.
As tempting as it was, I didn’t quit all my jobs. I did not want income to be the the primary motive behind my practice. In the same way I am allowing myself the freedom to not let gallery exhibitions and grant funding be the primary motive behind my work. I am not opposed to either of these, and will likely submit my work for funding and for exhibits, but this is not my primary motive at this time.
Instead I am giving myself five years in a tiny cabin to intertwine my life together with my art so that they become a single fabric. As I attempt to attune my personal life somewhere on the periphery of colonial capitalist structures, I am wanting to do the same with my art practice.
I am curious if I can find value in my cultural labour outside galleries, and grants, and products? Is there is a way for my practice to be relational, tethered to life and less of a competition against other artists and makers?
My intuition tells me that the first step is to erase the hard line between art and life.
I doubt my intuition even as I write, or at least I am unsure on what happens when you remove the structure.
It feels a little vulnerable. Like having my body altered in a performance. Maybe it is a social practice I am after, or a five year performance, or a five year site specific installation. I am not really sure.
Blurring the line between “real life” and “art practice” with no clear picture feels risky.
But I am too curious not to try.
So here I go: five years in the woods. Five years to inhabiting a liminal space. Five years of practicing something different with my art. Five years where my life is my art is my praxis.