In a previous post I wrote about Kairos and Chronos, different forms or modes of time. The former seems to better describe the time that artists need and, at our most ‘artistic’ live by, while Chronos seems to describe the time to which we reluctantly comply, imposed upon us as really our greatest inconvenience or injustice.
And yet, the two are not so clearly distinguished, and nor is one one simply good and the other simply evil. We need to go beyond any such simplistic binary dualism here. We will always need to see, feel, use and experience time in a multifaceted manner.
Hence, whenever I am asked to write, I immediately ask for a deadline (and a word-count). Parameters like this really motivate me, as does the sense of an audience, a context, an ear, an editor, a readership.
Having my writing published in a professional context might just have been the biggest thrill of my life. Once, I recall, as a rather lost character, in those hermit-like ‘wilderness’ years between BA and MA studies, consulting – in a rather unprofessional and informal way – the famous leader of one of London’s most famous MA courses. He briefly looked at some work I had handed him (in a format that was almost impossible for him to judge with the naked eye) and responded with just four words: “Do what thrills you”.
This may sound simple enough, making the artist perhaps feel rebuffed while also making the artist think about pleasure, freedom, subjectivity, fun etc. And yet this wise teacher’s words were, I knew immediately, a kind of puzzle and a provocation. In fact they dug deep and probed my aims and motivations and I can honestly say they still do, maintaining the currency for me to continue considering them here, many years later.
Art students, emerging artists, and perhaps even established artists (we might justifiably say) are always trying to work out what to ‘do’, what it is we should or must ‘do’ especially given the fact that art’s especially expansive license seems to invite us to do everything, anything and nothing.
But this may be where Kairos comes in useful. While Chronos might make objective demands on us and, as noted above, both oppress and motivate us, it is only Kairos perhaps that will enable us to choose, to decide -if not for ever, if not for the foreseeable or merely near future, then at least for now – what it is that we should or must ‘do’. As all artists will recognise, just knowing what to ‘do’ changes everything, at least until the next time we don’t know what it is we should or must do.
Towards the end of those aforementioned ‘hermit’ or ‘wilderness’ years I wrote a short story that emerged from the experience of intense studio life and studio living. The story is called ‘A Perfect Picture Of What to Do Next‘. I later edited it and published it in my first little book, titled ‘Where Is That Light Now?‘.
‘A Perfect Picture Of What to Do Next‘ is a story, and quite oblique, and yet I believe it might just contain the core, the kernel of everything I learned during those seven very concentrated and isolated years. Just knowing what to do next, what you should, could and must do, is somehow the key to it all. Perhaps that is so obvious that is of no help at all. But I also do think that it helped me, and continues to help me, and that it might help you too.
I’ll just illustrate this post with one or two images of the little book to which I have referred above.