these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.

thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.

my artist website is here.

Oct 26, 2010

tuesday morning art and politics with William Kentridge and Riot Grrl

William Kentridge: charcoal and torn paper and opera... the man is amazing. i fell in love with his work, with his mind, the very first time i saw it. i am lucky that my first experience with his work was in the flesh, face to face at LACMA. i was 20 at the time, i think. my mother and i decided to drive out to LA and see what was going on one day, completely spur of the moment, and that's when i learned of William Kentridge. immediately, i was at home with his images and aesthetic. i was working primarily in charcoal at the time. black charcoal and white acrylic together on a page- ghostly swirls of grey. and the second i saw Kentridge's work, i looked at my mom and said: SEE! someone else who loves charcoal! art can be made this way, it doesn't have to be oil paint! i was so excited! overjoyed! and then when my friend Daniela and i accidentily stumbled across his show in San Francisco when she was up here visiting a few months ago. gorgeous etchings based on Gogol's short-story The Nose.

over the weekend i watched the new Art:21 documentary about his current work and he seems like such a playful man. seeing his work is an experience that i can only really describe as Home Coming and it's so heart-warming to watch him in the studio. in the documentary, he speaks briefly about "the seriousness of play" and it reminds me of what poet Rebecca Loudon stresses- finding the site of deep play and there is where the poetry grows. and then later in the film, he says (and i am paraphrasing), "my life and work changed when i started seeing the world as Process rather than Fact". something about that statement hit me so hard. in the face, in the heart. it is still hitting me hard. it's so damn smart it makes my head spin. and i try to catch it so that i can hold it, apply it, trust it, such a brilliant tool! and of course, when i think i've managed to catch it i lose it again. isn't that always the way. ha! but there is something in that statement that is so inviting, so opposite what dominant american culture espouses... process rather than product. the Means rather than the End. a life's work, always UP UP UP. not climbing in the hopes of finding a pleasing plateau, but climbing because that is the job... to climb. and i know this is all romantic and beautiful and so i run to it as fast as i can! these kinds of ideas are so attractive to me. the idealist in me flings her arms wide open to embrace all this beauty of thought and action. my americanism snaps me back and squeezes my face, forces me to look at the goals that are permissible for me to have, the desires i am supposed to chase. the money plateau. green and leisurely. and then just sit there, just coast, do nothing but spend...

it is uncomfortable and lonely to be Outside but i must be Outside. i must remain Outside. in my sketch book, i have a quote written and i have no clue who said it but here it is: Becoming aware of your power to make choices and not go with the status quo is a huge first step.

last night before bed i read Joanne Gottlieb's and Gayle Wald's essay "Smells Like Teen Spirit: Riot Grrls, Revolution and Women in Independent Rock" about zines and music, power, how girls can create their own agency by resisting the cultural allure to stay inside, stay quiet, sit down, and continue the practice of minimization and silence within themselves... that something as seemingly simple as making a zine or t-shirt or stitching your own scarf is an act of resistance to the Status Quo... a dominant culture that still, right now, prefers everyone to fall in line, do what they're told, and do not make waves. this is definitely still the case. and right now, with all the economic worry and hardship and fear, i think it's an even scary proposition i'm making to ask myself (or anyone else) to ignore the status quo, basically forgo safety and security, in order to establish a bit of freedom for myself; a bit of agency, a bit of happiness. but look where the Status Quo got us! i mean... come on! the president cannot do a damn thing about individual levels of greed and feelings of entitlement. he just can't. that's my job and that's your job. it comes down to not only a re-evaluation of what we hold dear culturally, but also individually within our own homes and families. i simply cannot fall in line with the practices that led us to this place of completely unethical levels of spending and wanting and grabbing and enslaving others to our desire to collect as many status symbols as possible. i just can't do it. and ofcourse the temptation is there. it always will be. yes, money is a necessity in this era... but does the necessity of money mean it must be worshipped as a God?

in the William Kentridge documentary he relays a funny story about a friend of his who basically made fun of him for always trying to figure out what he should do, like, for a job. ha! and the friend told him, look, you're 28 and you're unemplyable. no one is going to give you a job. so stop arguing with your trajectory. success or failure, you're an artist. that's when William Kentridge decided to say fuck it and just be himself.

and so i had a hard time falling asleep because i was so excited and encouraged by the film and by what i had just read, but also a bit afraid. it's hard not to feel afraid once realizing that i am completely in control of my own life and it's really just a matter of what i'm willing to put myself through in order to build a life that feels right for me and is respectful of who i am. this comes back to what Kentridge said about seeing the world as Process rather than Fact: that the world is malleable, changeable, able to shift. and so i must somehow become ready to make a shift as well. it is the world in me that must change first. my body and all that it contains. my perceptions must shift. i must identify them as process, not as fact, and establish my agnecy through acts of art-making and writing and crocheting my own sweaters and running along the highway regardless of the perceptions of others. and somehow i must become okay with all this... to stop worrying about whether or not anyone understands what i'm doing and why it is relevant.


emily jan said...

I've been wanting to watch the art:21 on kentridge all week! well, something to look forward to. I've also loved his work since the first time I saw it (probably around six or seven years ago??) i personally love how he can take such simple materials (plus one fancy camera) and weave a whole world with them, that in his hands charcoal and paper can be so evocative. I'm actually constantly envious of him (and by extenion of you! :) ) that he has the power to convey using those simple materials, since my work seems to always tend towards the baroque in terms of materialty – always more, always different. got a studio crammed full of weird substances. ;)

and it was always encouraging to me that he had spent so much time in the theatre as well – at the time I first saw his work I thought one couldn't cross over that way....

process versus product....speaking of theatre i used to think of the theatre, of set design (and thus art, at the time) that way. i thought of them as sand mandalas – four weeks in the making, four days to dwell within, four hours to wipe clean again – but I feel like I have forgotten over the years – so thank you for the reminder, all too timely....

thinking of DIY, and process/product for that matter, i've been watching MadMen as a kind of decompression in the evenings. one of the things which i think is so smart about that show is how a modern viewer's immediate reaction is "ugh! I can't believe it was like that!" but then you realize that the world has changed less than we would like to think, in certain ways.... and it's amazing to see someone's imagining of what that seminal time was like, forming this new american identity based around consumerism.

anyway. your posts are always a joy to read. keep it up girl!! xo <3

angela simione said...

emily! :D

girl, the documentary is SO GOOD! you'll love it! an entie hour of william kentridge + opera = art nerd paradise! when you get a chance to see it, i'd love to know what you think! i'm so glad he's one of your favorites too! doesn't it seem like he got a bit overlooked in school??? odd, that.

process vs. product. i've been needing the reminder a lot lately too. i think t's an inevitable stage in figuring out what the hell an art career even is... falling a bit from ideological/art theoretical grace and finding yourself focusing on "product". it's a shit feeling for sure. i'm happy to be on a truer road again, ignoring the certain capitalist notions of art and the market place and just living in the moment of the work again... the scratch of the pencil, the exploration, the charting of a foggy territory.

i bet your studio smells great! ha! all the weird materials! i love it! it's something i get jealous over! :) i've always been envious of sculptors! BUT, i am happy to report to you that i am back on the textile bandwagon, crocheting like crazy and not worrying about how time-intensive it is. it's so wonderful to work stitch by stitch. which brings us back to the kentridge doc: there is a huge curtain for the opera that gets made as well as tapestries inspired by the opera. a MUST SEE for you!!!!

and linked back to DIY: i think i might start Yarn Bombing. it's a happy dream of mine at this point but a dream that makes me SOOOO happy, i think i should probably do it. ;) i'll wait for the rainy season to pass first, though. droopy crochet doesn't sound like fun or very effective in terms of public art and art appreciation. ha!

i haven't seen Mad Men yet, i'll check it out. but i am nevertheless inclined to agree- some things have changed but it is not nearly as drastic as people seem to think. it is a moving battle that needs to be constantly re-fought, re-worked, re-strategized, and re-won. back and forth, back and forth. the consumerism (greed) we've been sold as a "way of life" is so destructive. and not destructive in that good, healthy, positive way. it's destroying communities and our individual ability to stand in another person's shoes. it's impairing our ability to be compassionate, thoughtful, attentive humans. i'm with ya, girl!

i'm so glad you came round my way, emily! thank you! thank you!!! i will keep doing my best! <3

(p.s. i finally got up the nerve to send a packet off to The Berber. we'll see! )