The Personal is the Confrontational
March 26, 2011
Re: Michael’s response to a previous post where he talks about tailoring both work and self to different audiences: I don’t see myself as having a work audience right now so I’m just doing what I want. Some of that work is identifiably queer and some of it isn’t. It’s more queer now than when I had to pretend I was straight when I was doing all the military work partly because I had to suppress queer work for four years to earn trust and get access.
Now that that’s over with it’s anything goes. This is both highly problematic to potential dealers and curators because my work doesn’t seem “of a piece” and because there’s a lot of it instead of one careful installation piece per year (not that anything’s wrong with that) but it can be tough to understand who my audience is because I don’t work with audience in mind; I just follow my own interests. I could try to make work that was targeted at the art world but that work probably wouldn’t be any good, so it’s a catch-22. Life issues are also a factor because, for example, I probably would be making installation art if I had a studio to make it in but I have a camera and a scanner and a computer so that bends the shape of the form my work takes.
The audience question is interesting though from a superqueer perspective not for queer reasons but because I’m autistic. That’s very ball of wax to try to explicate here but some factors are 1) I have a lack of insight of what’s going on with other people and 2) I have a lack of concern with what’s going on with other people. I don’t mean I’m misanthropic or unsympathetic to others, but other people as audience is not a concept I really can grasp when making work because I can’t quite parse it.
I can understand passing, and know all the tricks for passing as normal when out in public and because I’m a bear I don’t seem queer to people, more or less, but increasingly it pisses me off that I need to pass, that it’s a requirement that I pretend things are fine and force things like eye contact/face staring and other normal person quirks when I want to take people and shake them an say “look, your understanding of the world is not the only one out there.”
How autism gets into my work is precisely the lack of regard for marketing that I have because I want recognition just as much as any other artist but how to got about that remains murky and is a source of bitterness that I’m not, for example, normal enough to have a job and a place and a studio in LA so I could network and continue to curate, as much of a pain that curating is. Instead I’m working in isolation in Milwaukee, at least for now, so the work I make is the work of not having an audience at all. Work you would make if you never had a reason to think anyone would ever see the work. I still want it to get shown but that seems unlikely right now at my age and where I’m at fiscally and connection-wise. But you never know.
Below is some of that hermetic work I’m talking about: when printing out a rainforest pic on my desktop printer it came out as running out of color ink. So I reprinted it four more times the same way and came out with a set of progressive variations on failure that strikes me, knowing what I know about autism and myself, as nominally queer but very autistic work though it’s tough for me to explain how that could be the case to most of you reading this, all probably normal people with a normal perspective on things and a different understanding of what art is and how it works.