24th May 2014: The How and the What
Two minutes ago, my friend was suggesting in Facebook that contemporary artists are steering towards the how and the what. I felt it would be interesting to talk about those two words today.
Eva Hesse once said something like this: making art is so easy, everything else is hard. I agree. I mean, of course it's easy, since art can be anything.
Anything? Not something particular? The problem lies in the abstraction: "anything" never really happens as such.
As a performance artist, for example, I'm truly free to do whatever I want on the stage. Yes. But I'm still a human being: I'm in connection to other people (in this case, the audience), materials and beings and concepts of the world affect me & I usually wish to affect them back.
What I do on stage is never anything, since nothing ever starts from the beginning, fresh. Christina Kubisch once said that artists always drag their histories and obsessions along to new projects.
I've told the following story many times. I once imagined a box in my mind. The box had a lid. I tried to remove the lid from the top of the box. I couldn't. The lid and the box could not be had apart. There were always a thread of some kind keeping them connected. I tried to imagine two other things and attempted to pick then apart in my mind instead, but to no avail. This is how I understand the world to work. After being in the same space, any two things will stay connected from thereon.
So I never do just anything. Because I can't help but to always create something. I'm doing my thing just by being alive. And whatever I do, it will tie itself together with everything else that I've ever done. My body and the idea of me is the space that holds all my activities together. "Body of work" is not an empty concept to me.
What do I do? I do me. How do I do? As I only can, meaning both "as only I can" and "the only way I know of".
To have style is to understand you don't have any other choice but yourself. That's why few things are more terrible to us than to not be ourselves. And that's why we care about our style. The style we have is the life we have.
That's the how, I suppose. I'll move along to the what. What is this work about, what am I saying, what should be done, and so on.
I don't prepare another thing besides myself to a show, or talk about other things besides the given situation. I don't "do content" because I'm happy with what there is in a space already and how those things connect immediately when I (or anyone else, for that matter) takes the stage.
I don't have the desire to add anything to a situation when I'm doing a performance. Like Jouko Turkka has said, writing is never lonely because you're surrounded by ghosts. The same goes for doing performances. The stage is never empty.
There are unimaginable horrors happening around the world all the time. The fact that there's suffering and injustice sparks a lot of artists to create works that deal with the things that they find to be unjust, overlooked, or misunderstood.
I constantly ask myself: if I'd be in a room with ten living beings and one of them would be going through great pains, would I not help this suffering being, instead of doing a performance? Answer is simple: I would help. But it's easy to point out that I'm not living my everyday life by such moral.
This crisis of meaningful doing is not limited to artists. Almost everyone of us do some things that are away from relieving the suffering of other beings.
Ok that’s it for today.