Does art have an expiration date?

December 30, 2011

I was nominated for (and didn’t win) a big photo prize for my Fake Iraq work.  You can only enter this contest if you get nominated and I have no idea who nominated me but though it was a huge compliment it pulled me back into work that I had thought was filed away and in the past so as recently as yesterday I was hysterically emailing people and organizations trying to find a way to embed in Afghanistan, which is the logical completion of the project and has been something I’ve tried to do five times since 2008 and failed.  (I’d need about $10k and persuasive media credentials.)

Even given the odds it stung a bit that I didn’t win because I am human after all but the bigger thing it made me think of is what will happen with this work, thousands of images, if the official wars end and I stop visiting training grounds?  Does it still make sense for me to think of showing these images in a gallery context now after being removed from the historical moment?  How of-their-moment are they, and if some art is of-the-moment and some is more “timeless” (not in the grand sense just not historically specific) does it make sense to still have a deep urge to continue to examine a moment that may have passed?

I’m not sure.  The Fake Iraq work is the largest and most expansive body of work I’ve ever made and right now I can’t imagine any documentary project like that consuming me like that again, though you never know.  I do feel frustrated that I don’t have a decent camera and that I’m low on money for anything I’d want to document, though I feel like I’ve been able to make something decent with the materials and procedures I can afford.  But the prize results being announced pulled me back into wanting to “document” instead of create, or else document as creation, and those two things aren’t separate but I want to go out into the world now and look but poverty is blinding me to what it is I could see.  But I’m not a painter or sculptor and you could call me an installation artist if I could persuade anyone who hasn’t seen my CalArts shows of that but still, what gets made are prints, usually photographic ones.  Post-photographic ones.  So my documentation has to be more inventive, more loosely defined, and light on its feet.  And I’m not sure I’m pulling that off.

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