Don't Go AloneSmall Drawings and Surprises
In the aftermath of a “happening” disguised as a solo show, I’m still digesting what I have learned, as though to convince myself that I’ve engaged in an experiment.
I spend a lot of time drawing small interior and figurative scenes in my journal. It’s habitual, almost like nervous foot tapping. In the next stage of this creative process, I re-appropriate my own habit as part of a deliberate and constructed thesis. What do I think of my thoughtlessness? Where is the art in day to day life?
The show, like any other fabricated situation, is like a marble machine. Marbles represent people, and the laws of physics represent their behavioral tendencies. It’s all a matter of puzzling out a design that plays to the nature of your marbles/audience. For example, people seek out comfort. I gave them masks, but after sometime everyone wore them as roof-shaped hats. One person whose large head couldn’t fit into the design of the mask started the trend, and the others followed. But not before engaging the intended purpose of the work. The straw-holes I provided for drinking proved quite effective–viewers utilized them without any direction.
As I had predicted, the audience developed attachments to their masks, and began to compare the functional discrepancies.
I heard phrases like –“Oh you got a really good one–you have both eye holes and a larger mouth opening.
Friends described the content of drawings to one another despite that they could easily remove their masks and look–and many did. Discovering the details of “your” drawing through someone else is somehow a far more engaging experience than simply looking at the image. It plays off the sense of ownership and the gratification one feels from identifying with a unique signatures. Our circumstances are precious, a source of pride and a release from the crisis of making active choices. (There’s a reason it’s always a treat to see that Forrest Gump is playing on TV, yet we are not constantly watching it.) To the extent that we remain comfortable enough, we enjoy, and sometimes prefer, not to have choices.
What I observe here is a microcosm, and participants would then let go of their drawings so that new temporary attachments could form.
In the original concept for this exhibition, I imagined a more elaborate, confined course for participants to simply “roll” through without room for questioning. Skylab’s gallery is arranged so that when guests exit the elevator, they may either turn left into the kitchen and living room for the trail blazers living in an running the space, or they may turn right and enter the gallery. There’s little space for anything else. About 16 feet directly in front of the entryway of the gallery space, a two by three feet rectangle has been inexplicably cut away on the wall where it meets the ceiling. A mostly seamless doorway below leads to a woodshop of horrors on the otherside. Michael Geiger requested that I respond to the space, and so I saw a ramp going from that opening down to the entryway. A conveyor belt felt too complex, so I decided on an incline and adding wheels to the face of each mask. During the opening friend and artist Noah Markoe remarked that of all the things he imagined taking place, he had no idea that wheels would be on his face. In pursuit of functional design, we find invaluable nuances. It’s similar to how drawing from observation provides an endless feed of original patterns and value structures as opposed to drawing from memory or abstraction.
I imagined the participants as two dimensional lemmings, either following my orders or going home. The main gallery would be sectioned off by white curtains, a seamlessly churning mechanism would all but force a mask on to the next guest waiting in line to enter before they or anyone could think of seeing the drawing on the other side. With limited masks available, some guests would be invited to either play board games in the living room, sift through copies of poetry zines, or enter the gallery with a paper bag mask on their heads. That idea was scrapped.
And the show, could have been refined to that with more time and knowledge, but then I’d be forced to discuss the intellectual weight of Monopoly as an alternative to my exclusive show. One’s imagination provides details that only damage art. We are extraneous, parallel, apart. Consider how George Lucas used cutting edge special effects to ruin Star Wars
In my imagination, the masks rolled down the inclined plane–but in practise, even the slightest disruption to their direction wedged the light weight object against the guide rail. What appeared to be conveyor line emerging magically from a factory of wooden masks functioned mainly as a crooked, impractical shelf. And yet, it still worked. The control afforded by the linear dispensing of masks works as an implied concept, but only distracts from the true substance of the exhibition: small drawings and other people.
Young artists often adapt concepts to suit the unexpected lapses of their works. Perhaps out of laziness or nihilism. We have a hypothetical vision. We hypothesize against ourselves: Am I talented enough, clever enough and so on, to realize the image in my head? But art doesn’t have to be a means to a specific end. It could wander and map strange territory. Instead of measuring how closely they achieve a specific goal, we could dissect the transparent process of making without the arbitration of success versus failure. Conceptual hollowness feeds in the womb of undergraduate critiques, where for some deranged reason we tell the audience our initial goals so that they can inform us how severely we have failed. The key to becoming a successful artist is to wait for the results to irrefutably unfold, and then tell everyone you foresaw and crafted each meticulous element. Every drop of sweat, every fiber of dust adrift–named, claimed, and dollar-signed in the list of works.
I imagined a message book on my face for people to sign. Luckily I ran out of time and resources to drag further attention to myself.