amongst books

amongst books

Friday, March 30, 2012

Apologia: the art of making/ the making of art

I create to explore & to connect. I have no lofty goals. I grope my way around blindly in the dark. I stumble. I falter & I fail. I treat the object of my creation, whether it is a poem, a visual poem, a ceramic bowl, a collage, a blog entry, a short story, a song, a maniacal doodle, a Facebook status update, a Tweet, etc ,as a conveyance for these attempts to explore & to connect.

I am attracted to creative work that makes me want to explore more, that moves me in some way. I am attracted & repelled by anything that claims to represent "the truth." The words "truth" & "authenticity" disturb me. I enjoy being disturbed. I explore various voices to engage with these concepts.

I've been appalled when people have applied these words narrowly to restrict the definition of the truth to autobiography. At the same time, perhaps everything is autobiography because we are always looking at something thru our own eyes, interpreting it thru our own values & experiences; however, what that means to me is that the truth is arbitrary & personal; in other words, something to explore using various means. Yes, autobiography, but also the imagination. & yes to questioning my own concepts, my own values & interpretations. & how these change based on learning & experience.

One of my main preoccupations when I create is to explore boundaries, whether it be the boundary between fantasy/reality or poetry/prose or poetry/visual art. I am interested in that blur & the tension between absolutes.

Of late I have returned to the craft of ceramics. I like to play with clay & work with my hands. I prefer to build by hand rather than to throw pots on a wheel. While I admire the skill of throwers, I have to admit that I prefer hand-built ceramics to thrown pots. What I like is the lack of uniformity, the way the clay takes on the shape & feel of the potter's own hands. It feels very personal & intimate. & this pot is something that I can also experience, hold in my own hands & admire.

I want whatever I create to have this resonance. I want it to be something that others can enjoy or be moved by or relate to. These two dynamics: the need to feel connection & the need for my creative work to become part of others & separate from me results in an interesting tension between personal & universal that excites me.

There are many ways to explore this tension, from using pseudonyms to creating objects & leaving them for strangers to find or even yarnbombing. I admit to the occasional small act of graffiti on bathroom walls. I can derive satisfaction from creation alone, from exploration & learning.

I am alarmed when someone posits a prescriptive attitude towards artistic creation or tries to imprison it within their own value system. The word "should" makes me shudder. It tends to stifle me creatively. If I think I have to do something according to a set of rules or standards, I become completely blocked. I can't get past that critical voice that tells me I'm doing it wrong.

When I find myself infected by one of these prescriptions, I need to exorcise it through visits to an art gallery, through reading rule-breaking writers or watching a film or listening to music which breaks away from the status quo.

I need to be open, to listen, to watch, to taste, to smell, to savour, to experience. That which resounds or troubles me will eventually find its way into something I am doing. I am drawn by what I don't see, by absences, by the in-betweens. I create out of desire & longing for what is intangible.

"Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, and 'I love you too,' the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only the aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of the flesh and self between you and me. and it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can." Anne Carson, "Finding the Edge" in "Eros the Bittersweet" (Princeton University Press, 1986)

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