Today was a day not unlike any other aside from the simple fact which called my attention very intently to everything that happened in my surroundings. I was so intensely present for the slightest moments, sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions and experiences.
I celebrate my birthday today, completing a full revolution around the sun by this calendar, measurably marking the passing of time, taking the opportunity to be grateful for all the lessons and challenges that have graced my life over the past 12 months.
As the day came to a close I struggled with a simple task of driving home - far beyond the city limits. The highway was blocked and after three separate attempts at getting on the highway from different access points I found myself driving much further down to get what I thought would be a sure access point, forgoing any access points between my starting point and the last possible access point to get to this highway.
I was so fixated on my route home that I even took an extra detour to avoid an alternate route. I did not want to surrender. I wanted to take my normal route.
As this was occuring I observed myself feeling frustrated, but moreso discouraged. My heart sank. I felt tears swelling. I wanted the release of a good cry, which had been mounting in me for months, and revelled at the thought of finally letting it go.
But it did not come. In fact, I gained access to the highway and breathed a sigh of relief that my plan had not been foiled. I eased into the drive home.
The rain consoled me, almost teasing me for I had not had the release I had been wanting. Then it dawned on me that I had been so fixated on the road home I had missed the point of this experience entirely. I gave up before the climax. I wanted things my way, and I missed a beautiful opportunity for complete release, settling only for a small breath of relief.
A moment of calm and stillness settles in. I merge with the rain and realize that the day is coming a close, that these many detours have eroded my time away and that I might not get a chance to finish all the things I had wanted to do in a day. My intention has once again misjudged my capacity. Or so I thought.
Instead I realized that intention is not a measuring unit. One cannot measure success or failure based on achieving any intention. Instead, I’ve come to understand that intention is the driving force that brings us to the lessons we must learn.
I enjoy the common metaphor of roads and travel as a way of alluding to the many lessons we learn on our journeys through this earthly realm.
I have been thinking lately about how central this is to the way we construct narratives of our life. We talk about the way we journey through this life, the way we travel on the road of life, the way we cross paths with someone, the way we come across a fork in the road, have to choose paths, or meet people on our journeys through life.
This metaphor, much like the image of a road or travel itinerary, speaks of a linear progression through time and space where the two correlate and meet up in mutually exclusive intersections.
I wonder if this metaphor is intended to account for the reciprocal relationship between our bodies and the land on which we travel. We leave traces, surely, on the land beneath us, but it also leaves traces in our bodies. As we move, our bodies carry the trace of the land to which we belong.
This process is not linear. It happens simulteanously for all the land and does not account for forward motion as we move through life. The road is a very narrow and simplistic sinnew vision of the outwards and inwards flux and flow of knowledge, memory and growth that happens at all stages, in all places, all over the map.
Our bodies, no longer crystallized movable parts, can be fluid, absorbing the plasmic wisdom of the land, and offering in exchange the humble offering of human situated experience as we move towards a glimpse of understanding unity with the world that hold us within its breast.
In the ongoing search to improve our lives, we may seek to arrive at sometimes elusive destinations that take our attention away from the road we walk.
The creative process however rests on a complete surrender. One must let go of all inhibitions and let their purest essence flow through them unhindered. As an artist this is my biggest struggle, facing an ego that is constantly judging my own work, imagining how others receive it and what they may be thinking.
I come face to face with my own fearlessness; that place within that offers itself uncompromisingly.
It is a performance, one the paves the path of perfection with perils, permutations and practice.
The creative act is not one that carries us to a product or desitation. It is a fleeting experience that we must lose ourselves in, lose track of and find again over and over as we walk the path. We must surrender to that real and spontaneous part of ourselves where truth finds expression in an impromptu moment of catharsis.
When the path and process reach synergy in an impromptu moment of ephemeral bliss, real art happens.
There is a term used in the trade of photography that refers to the point when algorithms fail to determine the reciprocal rapport between photo settings that will yield enough light to write an image onto a negative.
I cannot help entertaining the notion that this basic principle of logorythmic reciprocity could be applied to other contexts and settings and wonder what it might be to imag(in)e reciprocity failure when applied to things other than photography.
On another front, downsizing and lifting the weight of the material world that surrounds me on a daily basis is always on the back of my mind and I go through spurts of time when I start systematically sorting all my personal belongings into what I want to keep and what I want to discard (sell, donate, gift, recycle, trash).
Inevitably during this process I hit my wall as an artist when I am no longer sure what I will need to keep in order to continue being productive.
I feel that this is a sort of reciprocity failure applied to downsizing belongings as an artist. Indeed, this is the focal point when the relationship between creative potential and support from material objects breaks down, and my earthly possessions become a hindrance rather than a catalyst for creative work.
After a period of intense gestation I have finally put forward my first blog post and face the deafening threat of allowing my creative energies to be visible to others. This is a terrifying experience, and this lovely little video (audio by Ira Glass and video montage by David Shiyang Liu @ http://vimeo.com/thedak) is testament to why that might be. Indeed, there seems to be a gap between my vision and my production, a gap that might appear to others as bad art, and appear to myself as the crushing feeling that my work is inadequate and somehow missing the quintessential originality that artists seem to crave.
This friendly reminder could not be more timely as I embark on a new phase of creative work, allowing my work to be seen and consumed by the masses, unhindered by the habitual inhibitions that hold me hostage.
Allowing my work to me imperfect, to stand on its own and to simple be without pretense is the most challenging position I’ve had to face as an artist and cultural producer.
The irony of this post is of course that in contemporary creative work it is quite hard to say anything that hasn’t been said before, or do something that hasn’t been done before, and the most unique contribution one can make would be not so much in the form, content or medium but simply in providing an original perspective on existing material in the world around us.
Reminiscent of found art, or pop art, post-modern cultural production seems to quote from the past, or even the present; redigesting existing materials and presenting them in a new light. It’s not as fresh as inventing a new style of painting or instigating an art movements, but it has its own flavour.
In any case, it is my feeling that crediting individuals with entire art movements is misleading and illusory and leads to the misguided belief that as artists we somehow have a task or responsibility to create a monolithic legacy to ‘make history’ to be successful as an artist. Crediting individuals or elite groups of artists with entire art movements in -HIRstory- does locate seminal moments of social and artistic transformation but it obscures the multitude of creative voices and spirits that inspired and supported the artists who enjoy the limelight.
Despite Ira Glass’ proposition that emerging artists have good taste and produce work that does not measure up to their own standards (does that ever change, I wonder, without succumbing to the syndrome of the egotistical diva artist?), I think there is a subtle joy that comes from artistic production that on its own makes it worthwhile. Producing large volume of work, yes I absolutely agree. But by decreasing the volume of individual pieces and tapping into the subtle grace of the creative process, we as artists are collectively doing the subtle work of influencing one another and contributing to what will, in time, be recognized as an art movement.