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New Project for April 2011: Introducing Seren Stacey…
April 6, 2011, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Seren Stacey

“One person’s revelation can seem ‘like, duh’- obvious – to someone who already knows it, but comes as an epiphany when it is discovered through your own experience. You can’t really ‘know’ some things until you have ‘been there’, experienced it first- hand.

My challenge at the moment is about developing a working practice outside of the institution of art school.  How do I relate to the world around me? Where does my work fit into the context of my immediate environment and wider world events?  What relevance does it have?

But more simply, what should I choose to do? What activity is worthy of, say, two hours’ dedication? An intense pencil study, for  example? Is it worth doing anything? And where is this doubt coming from? Is it fear of wasting time? Or fear of failure?

In art college you get points for your box full of failures – the reams of discarded samples which evidence your process of experimentation; the meandering journey from concept to realisation.  In response to my fear of failure a tutor referred me to Micheal Landy’s Art bin exhibition (January 2010, South London Gallery) in which artists were invited to submit failed artworks to be thrown into the giant dustbin – the irony being that once the failed piece was placed within the bin it became part  of a work of art.  It was certainly liberating for me to acknowledge and celebrate failure, realising the possibility and, yes, the necessity of failure in the artistic process. I call it shovelling shi t– when you have to keep on trying things out, paving the way for that breakthrough which, on arrival, seems effortless.

On the radio this morning I heard neuroscientist David Eagleman speaking about how human thoughts and actions can be attributed to neurological processes which are primarily unconscious. He said,

“ Whenever you have an idea…your brain has been working on that behind the scenes  for days and weeks, consolidating information, putting things together, and then it serves up an idea and you say, ‘Hey, I’ve had an idea!’” ( Start the Week, BBC radio 4,04/04/11)

Ideas don’t ‘pop’ into our heads out of nowhere, but are the result of a process unconsciously unravelling inside our brains. This reminds me to have ‘trust’ in my brain, trust in the creative process. As I prod around seemingly in the dark, things are happening beyond the gaze of my conscious mind. But more than that, there’s also what I’m taking in. The ‘conscious’ is just a tiny portion of my mind: it is the ‘spotlight’, as distinguished by philosopher Alan Watts from ‘floodlight’ consciousness. It is the mode of being in which every experience – the apples I eat, the T.V. I watch etc. – is taken in by the unconscious brain.

But at the other extreme Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, in a TED lecture (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html) suggests that it could be freeing if we could consider inspiration or ‘the Muse’ the way the Ancient  Greeks did, almost as a kind of grace which is lent to us. That if you are open to its grace, and are also accepting of its borrowed nature, you are let off the hook – no longer responsible for generating ‘genius’,  rather accepting that genius is like a spirit which can fill you or land on you like a butterfly, lending greatness or even divinity.

But why, now, do I need to ask where ideas come from? Is it because I am wondering when or where the next idea will strike? Or because I don’t have peers helping me, sharing the journey; to collaborate with? If, as Sir Ken Robinson (on changing educational paradigms) says “collaboration is the stuff of growth” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U) then, like so many artists, I need my peers.  And I also need to collaborate with myself.

I need to commit to the process of creativity and say to myself , “between this hour and this hour I am doing this process”, then keep the results, next day edit the results. Re-model, re-write, re-work. That gets the ball rolling. Maybe that is why some artist employ rules within their practice, like Garry Fabian Miller, whose photographs are taken within a rigid time structure, not only addressing issues of light and time but also implementing discipline within his practice.

If it’s so hard, and I sound like I have no ideas, then why do I want to pursue art at all?

Ok, so the bottom line is I want to make art. I want to be in the flow of creativity. The reason I want to do this residency is that I want the time and space in which my purpose is to make art, to explore my ideas and respond to my environment. It is a way to have discipline, validating and giving permission to, from this hour to this hour, do this.

I don’t want to get all existential ‘on yo ass’- but these are all questions brought up by leaving the institutional nest in whose brood I was held, given food, love and a defined assessment criteria. But they couldn’t tell us how to fly. We had to jump out. And out here the rules are different, there aren’t points for sample boxes, only open sky.”

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