Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Obsessive-compulsive art

I've been laughing, both generally and at myself, having read an article by Stephanie Britton in this quarter's Artlink (volume 27, number 4) titled The obsessive-compulsive worker-artist. I'll quote from the article as you have to subscribe to be able to read it in full:

'Artists have often in the past been suspected of being slightly mad... few would deny that as a group artists have always had more than their fair share of both obsession and compulsion.

The sub-genre that we are seeing now, in installation and gallery art all over the world... involves repetitive tasks of making and shaping things in multiples sometimes of thousands, in sequences that continue for hours, days and weeks, or even months and years'...
The article goes on to suggest that the 'sub-genre' has developed through a gradual merging of 'the old 'art' with the old 'craft'', and I can see the force of that argument, as well as the suggestion that in some respects repetitious actions function as a sort of 'white noise for artists', quieting the background noise of a creative brain to allow it to 'fly freely into other realms of the imagination'.

How true, how true! That's certainly how doing repetitive tasks functions for me: they occupy a certain portion of my conscious mind, and the creative bits can slip out of the room quietly and get on with something more interesting! In the meantime I thought it was funny to read about sequences of work in this context on the very day on which I commence not one but three sequences of work that might - if I'm up to it - run for the whole year. There I was, trying to establish some boundaries for myself and my practice, and to instill a bit of discipline into the frankly appalling work habits I've adopted in recent years, and yet I may actually be a bit obsessive about it. Having said that, I'm not starting series of work that involve felting thousands of tiny shoes from human hair, or cutting up 30,000 newspapers and videoing myself in the process, so perhaps my art is my salvation after all...

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