Intentional Failure, Annexed Territory

June 14, 2011

Part one, the slightly bitchy part: the last few weeks have been filled with some enormous-seeming career failures in art and writing, not on the production end (I’m doing some of the best work of my life) but on the receivership end.  I’m not bringing this up to whine but just as backstory to why I’m so excited about the text pieces: instead of seeking to try to succeed in a larger clear comprehensive way they’re collections of badly taken photos of cut out construction paper with a low-end camera.  They’re full of glitch and mistakes; they’re full of failure.  I’m excited about this because I’ve been trying to find a way to fold that kind of thought into my work and I just sort of randomly hit it.  I’m happy because I’ve done something great with next to zilch.  And I’m not talking about the transformative powers of my creativity I’m just talking about coming up with something that’s a new direction for me, a direction that rides on all my strengths and doesn’t require things (like equipment) out of my reach.  So am I pissed off at certain people in the art and literary world right now?  Of course.  But am I happy with my “failure”?  Absolutely.

Part two, the lazy pontificating part: I’ve been tagged for years as an artist working in the tradition of Ed Ruscha, because Ruscha made a lot of paintings with the most commonly available stencil font, upper case Helvetica bold.  And I have used the same font in various projects because it’s available and beautiful and I have used text in a lot of projects but haven’t been able to escape the reference.  And the thing about the reference is that what the comparisons state is that I’m copying or else producing an ignorant inferior lookalike.  I admire Ruscha’s work, and the other two text people I can think of, Richard Prince and Christopher Wool, but I’ve been straining to find a way to make text art that doesn’t elicit immediate comparisons that make my work look bad or stolen.  And I think this method I stumbled on, actually a redo of something accidental from 2003, is a good way to start.

Artistic resemblance isn’t a terrible thing, and I’m working on another piece right now that’s going to be subtitled “After Helen Kim” because the format resembles a project she did even though the content is very different, but coming from the literary community it’s amazing how concerned artists are about defending their turf.  In the poetry world quotation is almost a given, and accepted at face value, and even sometimes lauded as landmark, as with Ted Berrigan’s canonical Sonnets, which were largely collages of other poets’ work or writing styles, poets living and dead.   In my poetry I quote things all the time and it might speak to the devaluation of words that it’s not as big of a deal but,  post-Appropriation Art, I wonder why contemporary artists need so desperately to shrug off any trace of copy or influence (see above).  Which is why I’m happy for now with the text pieces because they don’t look like anything I’ve seen.  They probably do resemble something, but until I find out what I’m both staking claim to tiled text pieces and would be happy for any artist to come along and use the idea as a starting point for something else, if people actually read this blog, which mostly they do not.  It’s unlikely I’ll show these anytime soon because the prints are too large to make and mount and because there are no offers anyway, but I’m sharing them anyway, sharing as an end in itself.

I’m not really getting at the heart of slippery philosophy about ownership and sharing and influence here but this is not really the place for that; I post photos here and sometimes bitch about my life instead.  But the recent work has me thinking a lot about these ideas so you’ll see more writing as the text work spreads out to include new territory, as text art or as photography.


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