Monday, March 2, 2009

Cheap Art

I often say I moved my focus from visual art, particularly from painting, first to installations, and then to writing. This is not entirely true - I was also trying to get more and more involved with my audience, to force them to participate and overwrite me - but the grain of truth that is there, well, is there. A simple sketch, written or visual, a quick arrangement, these are all roughly equal in their cheapness and ease, and I still do sketch a lot. More involved creation, however, takes a fair amount of money if you are doing a painting, than if you are writing. Writing only takes up time, so long as you already have a computer to write on (and aren't printing, natch), and the electrical bill is not taken into account. Painting requires paint, sometimes paint thinner, canvas or paper, a frame (prebuilt or knocked up by your own self), and perhaps a number of studies, references, et al. Installations require supplies and space, which is somehow even worse, especially if you are expected to pay for the space.

Still, I love it all.

When I was at CalArts, I was able to temporarily borrow space easily enough, if not in one of the student galleries, than utilizing a stairwell, a hall, disused exit, restroom or hillside. I preferred works that enticed the audience to get tactile with them, dangling threads, mobile items, and frequently arranged them to be decimated or irrevocably altered by playing with them. Whole arrangements would collapse the instant someone pulled on a handle hanging from a rope, shoes would fall in a fury of shaving cream expanding cold and foamy over everything. Paintings and charcoal drawings would be dissected by fire trailing up the lines of flammable, translucent, chemicals painted onto their surfaces, because some - probably unsuspected audience member - finally flicked the switch on a panel to the left of the pretty pieces and each psychogeographic still life surrendered its cohesion.

I stopped, really, when I lost my favorite standing piece, a charcoal that can yet be seen hanging at Oxnard College in the film Meaningless Excerpts. It was big and feverish and looked more like a landscape than a wooden cart and a baby blanket. I had borrowed it back from my grandparents, to whom I had gifted it, to display at the college, at which point, it was stolen from me, and social niceties have kept me from ever forcefully reclaiming. I don't think I've put any substantial effort into a visual piece since then (discarded the visual aspects of film/video, or visualizing in writing). There is probably something to that, but even if it is only coincidence, it's a marvelously horrid synchronicity, yes?

In this digital era, of course, it is harder to steal in that way, unless one puts significance on the original (versus copies), and I do not. Constant documenting could save a lot of heartache or stress, and maybe I could indulge in a whole series of paintings... except, I live in a tiny space, I have no free time, and I can't afford to, not really. So, I just sketch a lot. All over the edges of notes and prose, in the margins of handouts, over napkins, little entoptic reproductions on the rims of paper plates. Over faded receipts.

And I neurotically replicate my writing by e-mailing it to myself draft after draft, or uploading it this place online or that, burning CDs and filling thumb drives.

It's funny, I lost a whole novel once. The first I ever wrote on a computer (the first novel-length narrative I ever wrote was on paper, filling a few notebooks, and I was probably nine). Completely gone. All on a floppy, and that wiped, by a casual magnet. Who knew?

But, the loss of the novel barely bothered and did not at all hinder me in further writing. It could be that the loss of the charcoal piece has not, either, and that I have enforced the connection after the fact (or, more honestly, after the question).

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