Postshow Psychoanalysis

March 17, 2009

So again after a show closing I feel not that I “accomplished something” but that I failed again.  But I’m more interested in exploring why I feel like this than in just complaining (like usual).

I think a number of factors are at work.  Factor one is the factor I’ll call Untold Possibility, or UP.  With UP, promises are made, encouragement is given, and artists are teased with the idea of art exhibitions as a teleological process.  This show will lead to that; X or Y will result from this show; this present show will produce more opportunities for you in the future.  The problem with UP is that although it seems like an inevitable part of artworld back-patting, all those promises and possibilities disappear faster than the liquor at the opening reception.  I think the hardest work of maintaining yourself as an artist is to be able to deal warmly with people while knowing that you can’t trust them at all.

(UP is also one of the reasons I want to curate shows: to give artists a letdown-free experience.)

Factor two is what I’ll call Pragmatics.  The show never looks, on the wall, the way it does in your head.  The gallery lacks lighting, or you lack money for a certain preferred framing technique, or the room is too small or too big.  Or something.  I think this is more of an issue for early-career artists than Art Stars with clout but I’m not in a position to say.   What’s interesting as a side note here is that the most positive artshow experience I ever had was at Art Chicago, at which all of the organizational/installation and other details were taken care of by other people, no promises were made, and all I had to do was show up and talk intelligibly.   Therefore my expectations were greatly exceeded, so: no letdown.

Factor Three is the And Now What factor.  Many people who don’t know me very well have advised me to “chill out” and “take a break” from artwork and the artworld for a while, but instead I’m just left with a lot of broken promises, bad advice, and the question: what do I do now?   Supposedly what with the work I’ve done I should have built some kind of momentum that I should captialize on, but: no dice.

Of course all this has to be taken with a giant grain of salt, that salt consisting of my own unrealistic expectations and workaholic perfectionism, but I think these factors are at work with other artists I’ve talked to who feel something of a letdown after any show.  They’re probably not reassessing their medication profiles like I am (and researching the role of noreprinephrine in autism) but the theory still holds water, I think.  Thoughts?

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2 Responses to “Postshow Psychoanalysis”


  1. Being let down is part of the process. In the pieces I had in a show here in Long Beach, I was pleasantly not completely disappointed on how it turned out. It could’ve been better. I’m not sure what your exact expectations were, or what was promised. Ultimately I’ve looked at my shows as a line on a CV.

  2. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    I recall Harrell Fletcher sharing a bit of advice that might be helpful here. I’m sure you heard it at the lecture too…He encouraged just throwing some fibs into your cv: a residency here, a group show there, a solo exhibition over there, etc. Essentially, is there a fact checker for cv’s?–No! Now, just like in grammar school when we were first learning the bibliographic method don’t go writing you were in the Whitney Biennial; even though your name is up at the top of the page the citation can’t reveal its non-citation-ness to the reader.

    This suggestion seems like it alleviates some of those issues that you, and michael, and others face. In taking it up you have the possibility of testing your early career vs. art star clout as you’ll be rising in the ranks towards king clout in no time at all.

    Of course, in knowing (you perhaps a little better than others) I recognize that installation is a huge endeavor. And while it may be stressful I think you enjoy setting up.

    As far as UP is concerned:
    Don’t even bring trust into it; that means no bringing not trusting in either.

    Pragmatics:
    If we now perceive installationally, no matter what the medium, take a cue from some of the early experimenters. Blinky Palermo is someone to look back on. A new book was just published recently with a good amount of writing in it about the stages of his practice. If you don’t constrain yourself to the ideological white cube and be ready to work with the space all should be as it is; the installation reveals itself.

    AndNowWhat:
    Should be self-evident here. When you’re done with a show you write a blog entry on psychoanalyzing it. You always have projects in the wings to move to–and while you might not always have a next venue lined up right away–if you did wouldn’t you be perpetuating an avoidance to the factors?

    Also, notice the amount of time the photography students at calarts might spend on a body of work vs. the majority of the art folks. Photo guy works for two plus years on what ends up being his thesis, and art guy pops something out for every critique, show, studio meeting, … This ratio in terms of personal endurance is as general among artist practices as it is among viewers. People aren’t patient. I know at least three of us who write here are, but.


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