Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Uncertainty Principle and Making It

A creator needs only one enthusiast to justify him. 
- Man Ray

My friend said that things were different in the 60s. He's right. I think. We easily glorify past decades, either those in which we were young and passionate about the culture, or those we never knew as adults. In the case of the latter, we see them through those rose-tinted spectacles made for selective vision despite knowing they don't focus on the bad stuff. The 60s are especially attractive, being the home of all that great Pop, the birth of Rock, Mod clothes, the alternative culture wave, slick, sexy and even conceptual Art etc. As they say, what's not to like? Well, how about the assassinations, segregation, Cold War paranoia, Vietnam and the Berlin Wall? We don't look back to linger on the negatives, do we?

It appears to have been easier then to break into any desired field in the arts. All you needed was the nerve to knock on a door. So legend has it. The emergence of so much working class talent in the UK seems to bare out the notion that you could make it, regardless of your background. In film, fashion, photography, literature, Art and that most democratic of art forms, music, of course. I personally know of people without qualifications getting what would now be regarded as great jobs purely by having the nerve to get an interview and impressing the prospective employer with their talent and enthusiasm. As we know, today you're lucky to get that interview and if you're CV isn't impressive, forget it.

Lots of related subjects came up in the conversation with my friend. Being British, class had to be one of them. The rest of the world must look on us as a strange breed to be so hung up on class, still. Well, unless you live here and consciously recognise it's relevance, you'll never understand. He cited an example of being interviewed by film producer and suspecting that it got him nowhere because of the 'lower' class status and what that deprived him of, such as a car. He went on to speculate about living in the 60s and went as far as declaring that if he'd been in New York and met Andy Warhol oh how different things would have been. It sounds a little absurd, but I know what he meant. He believed that his talent would have been recognised back then without all the bullshit barriers preventing that happening today. Perhaps he's right. Or he's delusional. We all have our alternative life dreams.

So here we are now. Today, if we have a computer, we can show the world our work, as I have by posting the image above. OK, I know, 'the world' is watching, but somebody is even if they don't respond. My friend is talented but has never persisted with a website that displays that talent. I won't go into the reasons why because they're personal to him and not for me to air. It's so easy to be distracted today, isn't it? To lose sight of the thing we're trying to create and be pulled in all directions by the sheer amount of other things going on. The sight of so much other work can also demolish our own enthusiasm. So much has been done and is being done, what's the point of adding a little more to the pile?

The only point is your own pleasure in making things. There, I said it and it's a cliché, I know, but also a truism. If we make only in the hope of major recognition, when it doesn't materialise we'll be so deflated as to give in and that can be a slow, painful process. After all, how long are you giving yourself? Five years? Ten? How soon do you expect to hailed as a great artist? Gradually it dawns on you that fame isn't happening any time soon. You've been showing the world what you do for years! What have you got? The same job (if you're lucky) and a few appreciative comments (if you're lucky). So you say "To hell with it" and pack up your brush/guitar/camera and hopes. 

Persistence wins the day, they say. That's true of jigsaw puzzles and a few other things - you know, things that require steps that will logically get you there in the end. But art? How about blogging? It's a little tragic to come across blogs that died years ago with only a few months on the side bar, isn't it? You can sense the frustration, the despair at the fact that they didn't receive many comments or visitors. That's someone's dream of making a mark on the world ended right there. Worse things can happen to a person, for sure, but as a blogger, I can empathise. 

As an artist/image-maker, whatever you want to call it, I work on regardless of 'recognition' because, since being a child, I've felt compelled to do so, with long periods where that compulsion lay dormant. That innate drive aside, what has 'justified' my efforts are the supportive, enthusiastic comments of a few people. Just a few, but each time they pipe up appreciatively it feels good. That, contrary to what many think, has nothing to do with ego, in my case, but the opposite force of uncertainty. Yes, we like to be praised, but many who make things are simply unsure of the value of a piece or, in their worst moments, the very act of creating. Praise from others, those with no personal investment, acts as justification. Yes, you were right, Mr Ray. Without wide scale affirmation, the lone artist appreciates a nod from just a few folk now and again.  

I love this quote from Gerhard Richter:

I have no time for specialized concerns, working themes or variations that lead to mastery... I like the indefinite, the boundless; I like continual uncertainty. Other qualities may be more conducive to achievement, publicity, success; but they are all outworn - as outworn as ideologies, opinions, concepts and names for things.

He revels in uncertainty, of a kind, but he is successful. Perhaps that success has bred in him the confidence to assert that the 'boundless' realm of non-specifics are to be treasured. Likewise, once you've made it you can dismiss notions of 'mastery' for what does that matter if the money's rolling in and the art world (large sections of) are applauding? Then it's easy to suggest uncertainty as a modus operandi. Still, I like the idea of non-specialisation. In our world of uncertainty us 'unknowns' would do well to remain open to the idea of boundless possible ways to imagine and make. It's better to play up that notion of uncertainty, in ourselves and our art. It is real, after all, so why pretend otherwise by acting as if we absolutely know what we're doing and how we're going to keep on doing it? The alternative is to create an image of total self-confidence and belief, of course. In other words, lie to the world and yourself in the hope that the appearance of complete assuredness will attract the 'right' people.

The images on this page are part of a series I'm working on but I'm not sure how to present them, other than in a paper form of some kind. I toyed with the idea of cards, then having them bound in magazine form, but since I like handmade it may be cruder than that. I've nothing against staples, whereas for some they seem to represent the lowest form of binding anything together. You can blame Punk and fanzines of the time for my refusal to snub the humble stapler. Since desktop and after, the 'accepted' standard for even home made things has been driven higher and higher, to the point where nothing less than a slick, perfectly-bound product will suffice. I'll stop myself right here from expanding on that subject since I have a lot to say about it and this post is long enough.

I was uncertain about staying on one subject when I started writing this, but that's often how my visuals come together. It's the nature of collage, of course. My writing is often a collage of thoughts, one leading to another that may be related, or in contrast to the other. This is the freedom that personal blogs give us, isn't it? To write without constraints imposed by editors and professional standards. The friend I mentioned at the beginning is a good writer. I hope to instil in him the confidence to prove that to 'the world' in the New Year. Perhaps my enthusiasm will lead him to think his efforts are justified.


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