Away From The Studio, Towards an Immanent Art

Of course, today I could write about politics, but I have sworn not to let my Blog become overwhelmed by my own political passions, which I express elsewhere.

I also swore not to allow my Blog to be, what you might call ‘neurotic’ i.e. a self-regarding vehicle for my own sense of, and history of frustration, difficulty etc. I want my Blog to somehow rise above these.

I don’t want it to be an artist’s diary or a lecturer’s diary either, and in recent posts I have written about what might make Blog writing unique and how to tune in to what it does best and does in particular.

Perhaps the best I can say today is that my circumstances, and those of the country have changed significantly, both as a result of the election and because we have now entered the Xmas break.

I actually carry a lot of responsibilities with me into the ‘break’ and have a few huge tasks to do for college despite the ‘break’. On top of that, all through the busy term I have been keeping safe and sacred the promise to myself to write-up this or that idea into a publish-able essay or article, and so, this becomes another responsibility, a responsibility to myself, to my ideas, to the idea of the article etc.

I’ve probably written this before on my Blog, but I am someone who finds it difficult to relax. To me there always seems to be a backlog of undone, uncompleted things, things that I could do, things that I haven’t achieved, things that I haven’t resolved or shown the world that I am capable of doing.

I recently published an article on the theme of ‘juvenilia‘ other articles on ‘the archive’, and these were partly motivated by the fact that I have a large archive of works that I made before I became professionalised, rather late in ife, around the age of 40, and that I believe are just as worthy of attention as anything I am making or writing today.

This also fascinates me, as it challenges a normal sense of ‘values’ according to which our mature work is more valuable than our immature work. It can feel dangerous to let art, philosophical and abstract thought lead us into a vertiginous world apparently without values, or with entirely relative values.

But, it seems to me that we have to visit that realm, and to do so consistently, in order to challenge and test whatever value system we are applying to what we and others are doing, saying and making.

We well know the spectacle of the ‘successful’ person whose success seems to come to corrupt their contribution and themselves. Equally, we know that something made by a child, or by ourselves on first encountering a new medium, can be filled with a spirited enthusiasm and inspiration that cannot be replicated by years of training and experience.

I recall, many years ago, when I was trying to ape the better supported studio artists around me, by using humble housing benefits to keep a flat going in which I painted a room white and carried out artistic experiments, I said then to one of my colleagues ‘you have to be able to do this when you can’t do it’.

I always knew that this statement was important to me, and I often think of it. What I meant by it was that, an artist in a studio, allows the studio to impose several preconceptions, including the idea that the artist in the studio is preparing for something, and this means that what they do at any particular moment is preparatory rather than thinking of every act as summary, definitive or perhaps ‘immanent’.

I realise now that questioning this preconception and deciding that everything the artist does must equally be considered as art, was one of the things that allowed me to surrender the idea of being a studio artist and sent me out in the world again, with my thoughts, my steps, my conversations, my notebook, my snapshots etc. etc. all accompanying me as art.

While the studio artist can have good and bad days, it seems to me that ‘you have to be able to do this when you can’t do it’ The ‘can’t’ is also your art!

The greatest gift of new technologies is perhaps not the new things they allow us to do, but, more prosaically, they allow us to do the old things that we always wanted to do but can now do much more quickly. Last week, mysef and my partner, the artist Bada Song, launched a new book which was made in a few months, but which, at another time, with older technologies, would have taken much longer to make.

This kind of acceleration also leads us closer to the kind of ‘immanent’ condition I describe above, in which the gap between art and life, can and can’t, naivety and sophistication, inexperience and experience, idea and realisation, thinking and making, art and world are all narrowed or closed.

Of course Blogging too does this. I switch on my laptop, link to the Blog site where the imperative ” +Write ” flashes in the top right-hand corner of my virtual page, commanding me to start, no matter how I feel or what I am thinking.
Half an hour later what I have written is ‘Published’ and potentially available to a large, international audience.

This changes everything, and this takes me closer to what I discovered as a studio artist who left the studio behind. This change seems to validate my reasons to walk away from studio art. Thus technology can lead us closer to the condition of ‘immanence’, a concept I have for so long (since my Masters studies) admired and been interested in.

Perhaps I will write about ‘Immanence’ in more depth next week. But who knows? The whole world will have changed again by then. And we can only hope, for the better!

Finally: one small, creative political response I made to the election this week was to post a YouTube of a song I wrote some years ago but which seems to have taken on new meanings in light of the election result. You can hear it – here!




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