66. DANCE STEPS

Your feeling of lost-ness persists and you look around for solutions to it, ways to describe or resolve it, but nothing is really working. You try to blame things and others but none of the blame sticks. It’s like the universe is Teflon coated, easily washable and won’t allow any self-other antagonisms to succeed.

Most of your reasons for making a weekly art writing Blog seem to have dissipated. You lose confidence easily and don’t take criticism as well as perhaps you should. That is why you tried to conduct a non-judgmental art Blog. In fact, the only week when you tried to actually be more ‘professional’ and truly criticise a curatorial project you were subtly reprimanded by someone who accused you of “sticking the knife in.”

But if that were the case then it only seems to prove that criticism is dead, not possible, or at least inauspicious or disadvantageous to the writer?

You were also criticised, on another recent occasion, for Blogging too hastily, carelessly and omitting appropriate research. Fair play! that really is a pitfall and this criticism may have stopped you in your tracks and made you think long, hard and deep about this project.

Looking back, you are proud of a lot of what you have done here. Its not your best, most considered writing of course (that appears in numerous catalogue essays, Art Monthly articles, Third Text, Wasafiri referee journals etc.) but it was always supposed to have its own particular charms. So you hope it can survive and that you might get the chance to edit it one day into a little booklet or something like that. But it is starting to feel time to close this Blog down.

You don’t want to do that however without working through and thinking through the reasons why this is happening, and without giving the Blog every chance of living, of carrying on. After all, as you say, you feel you have done some good work here, of a kind, that its been fun and that the feedback and stats (7,200 viewers in the first year) have all been good.

Reading Omar Khaleif’s collection ‘You Are Here: Art After The Internet‘ this week didn’t exactly blow your socks off. So much of the writing about art and life online is repetitive and seems to be saying the same things you’ve been thinking and hearing about it for a decade. And yet, it is useful to hear other voices gently confirming and objectifying your own experience.

Most of all (hey, am I doing a review here?!) the book confirms the slightly nauseous and dystopian condition of online life, a new way of life that, basically, few of us feel proud of. ‘Human beings can do better than this’ is, you believe, the general sense we have of the time, effort, creativity etc. we all dedicate to ‘prosuming’.

Nevertheless, we can’t easily go back in time, so we have to work this out. We may start to make hybrids, like the recent artist’s self-publishing boom, enabled by technologies (that will make your book more easily and get you an audience more quickly) and yet encouraging the continuation of alternative or antidote to new technologies (haptic,’IRL’ experiences).

That is probably where you should be, what you should be doing more of. You started last year (see this link) with your first couple of books, but now things seem to have jammed up, as though someone stole the oil out of your engine, the gas from your tank and the air from your tyres.

But then, art life in London has always been ‘one step forward two steps back’ for you, and that is perhaps not a bad description, illustrating the artist’s life as more of a dance than a march, something that uses time and space in a creative, expressive, or decorative way, but without any particular purpose or direction (if only you could hold this thought.)

dance_steps

Your recent thoughts have been pretty bleak, barren and have often turned to politics (another dead-end in the UK in 2016). Its best not to think about art in conjunction with money, wealth, power, poverty. That’s always a nauseating ride. In the end you just have to make the best work that YOU can, with whatever time YOU can find, using whatever equipment YOU have and know how to use, with whatever contacts YOU have, with whomsoever wants to work with YOU, on whatever budget YOU have available.

Comparing yourself with wealthy artists, artists who don’t need to go to work, artists with affordable mortgages, salaried posts, inherited property, rich parents or partners etc. is NOT what you came to this city to do and is NOT art.

Even blaming this government doesn’t get you far. They are so far beyond the pale it leaves you speechless, or rather, dumb. Worse is surely on the way politically in the UK, and there is no sign, other than the brave junior doctors’ strike’, of any resistance. The British people, even the most feisty of them seem flattened by a wholesale, brutal return of upper class power and ideology, and the old ‘bread and circus’ tricks and handouts that keep the middle classes (the only people who can really make a difference) content enough to enjoy their moral outrage as a kind of hobby.

It feels as though it will take a generation to win back any progressive and creative and forward-looking optimism in this society, and then another generation to try and fix all that has been and is being broken.

doctors-m_3491255b

We should ALL really get behind the doctors now ( who would have thought we would ever have to see these noble, skilled, heroic and caring professionals so insulted and abused by such unfeeling mediocrities and jobsworths as is the current health secretary!) We should all support their fight and their principled stand against these unprincipled politicians. Otherwise, we should just be ashamed of ourselves and we will just deserve everything that we, and the next generation, get as a result of our spineless apathy.

Yes, you could blame all of this too, but in the end art and art writing has to just be itself and do itself, despite all. You feel you have to apologise once again, and you have to decide soon whether to stop this Blog, or go on apologising and thinking and writing through this Blog-Block, a little longer …

Oh yeah! just to mention, you did see the great exhibition on Tibet at the Wellcome Collection, and you did see a great film called ‘The Great Beauty‘, both “HIGHLY recommended” (but is it YOUR role to recommend anything ? ? ? …

04 Monk drumming at Lukhang temple © David Bickerstaff

Tibet’s Secret Temple, Exhibition, 19 November 2015 – 28 February 2016, Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE, UK

 

la-grande-bellezza1

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) directed by Paolo Sorrentino, 2013

8 thoughts on “66. DANCE STEPS

  1. Everyone should stop criticising your efforts to be an art reviewer, or an artist, or even your political take on things. Your self doubt is naturally what happens to anyone who dares to push themselves into any direction that is new to them. Just get on and do it, regardless. Good luck.

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  2. Blogs are experimental quick writing, not necessarily as considered or precise as a book or article. That’s the point of them – they fit in to an overall picture and are not the sum total of all writing that’s around at the moment, not the sole way to judge a single artist/writer/ practitioners work. Like social media they can be a quick way to get a throwaway or personal, or ill thought out reaction to something. They’re valuable in that. You may not consider your blog to always be your very finest work of literature but it doesn’t matter because it’s just an informal snapshot of a particular time in your development. People are reading it and it has value. Ignore anyone or anything that makes you feel otherwise. And speaking as an artist and writer who has had bad reviews, well yes they hurt a bit but I wouldn’t think badly of the person writing them as a review is not a definitive truth- just one person’s take on something. Everyone has a right to an opinion, so people who criticize your reviews have a basic misunderstanding of what it’s all about. Ignore them too….

    Also, yes It’s been continually shocking over the last few years just how the public do seem to have rolled over and accepted a return to times of the ruling public school elite. I think the mainstream media has a lot to do with this. Protest is one thing, though not continually voting them in is the easy way to deal with it, but whether from fear or just depression people do seem to have swallowed a lot of the dubious stories dished out to them and so we limp on. Which is why it’s even more important to have voices like yours somewhere accessible. There are all sorts of miserable dystopian views about virtual life but at least at the moment the internet is a way for voices be heard. It isn’t everything but it’s something.

    I like reading these musings when They drop in to my inbox. Whether I agree with everything or not isn’t the point. It’s a good blog. Keep writing through it all.

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  3. Paul, I’ve been reading your weekly blog religiously ever since you started it. It is exactly this self doubt and sentiment of keeping going as a (struggling) artist in London no matter what that draws me to it.
    I left London years ago, probably mostly because I felt that I would not want to continue to be a struggling artists. I do not regret this decision, although I feel rather nostalgic about ‘London’ sometimes. Your blog keeps me very much in touch with London, the way I knew it and used to love it. What is going on politically in the UK seems tragic for artists (and others of course) and a part of me is actually glad not to be part of this right now.
    I sincerly wish you will keep going with your blog. Even if it sometimes (more often recently) it sounds rough and unedited, this actually gives it a certain edginess and keeps it alive.
    Thank you for taking the time to write.

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    1. Hi Carina, I recall the name very well and am trying to place the face (sorry, it gets like that, because of teaching, all the faces and names). Thank you for your encouragement. I prioritise honesty and believe it will act like a magic magnet taking me to my mysterious goal, in the end.These comments help a lot orientate what the Blog is, what it could or should be etc. Hope your career is going well. I must admit, I envy anyone who has been able to make a clear a choice about which city to live in and seen through their decision. I still feel I am clinging on here, after 30 years, still asking and hoping to be allowed to tay (if I give 110% of my time, energy and talent to pure survival!)

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  4. I have been regularly reading your blog more or less from the beginning and I am so greatfull for your writing. I really have been looking forward reading your reviews of shows , books, films which most of them I wouldn’t know about. Your personal struggle always felt universall and close to issues I struggle myself with in my creative work. I am sad the blog will stop but I understand. Thank you for your writing up till now.
    Ania

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