WHAT IT IS WHAT IT AINT (tell me what to do)

Who doesn’t like to read a magazine on the toilet? At our house, we have filtered through several of different subscriptions over the past couple of years. We got a cheap offer for Time Out New York and W magazines right when we moved to Brooklyn, but after a year of receiving them we realized that they made us feel empty, and so we upgraded to Vanity Fair and Interview. Vanity Fair and Interview each have a way of being trashy and superficial that somehow seems informative, and novel, as opposed to the previous two which left us feeling like we never were able to locate the pages that contained the actual articles. On a recent trip to the bathroom, I was looking at a fashion spread in Interview called something like Teen Spirit. For some reason I found it really hard to register the images in the spread. It was somehow really difficult to find the focal point of each picture. All the elements in the photos (teenage models, in clothes, surrounded by stuff) seemed very peripheral. Girl standing in the corner in dim light and a bunch of junk on the floor. I realized after flipping back and forth several times that this was obviously the intention of the art director or whoever puts a fashion spread together, and that whoever this person is must be a lot more in tune with what the world looks like right now than I happen to be.

I don’t know what the world looks like, because for many years I have preferred to pay more attention to my utopian vision of what things could be, as opposed to what they might actually be right now. I know that no lens is perfectly clear, but I think that all my friends will confirm that my perception tends towards aggressive optimism. Here is an example: if I have a friend who is an artist, but who hasn’t been pursuing their work as diligently as they might, I tend to keep a sort of vigil in my mind, a little mystical cave in my head where I imagine that person fleshing out their work, and becoming productive and successful. And I will also tell the person every time I see them about what I can imagine them doing with their work, and how much I believe in them, and how much I really love all the work that they have already made (in my mind). Very recently, after a series of sobering events (a death, a pregnancy, a haircut) I became aware of the how much creative license I take every day with the facts. It’s staggering. I have been holding my little vigils of belief in what I think things could or should become, and meanwhile there is whole reality of what things actually are, which I am not even able to see. Recognizing the extent to which my perception is altered by my fantasy visions has totally freaked me out.

I think that historically, I would look at something and add an additional 20% of possibility on top of whatever the thing is. The broken chair = almost fixed. That girl who is always kind of rude = just insecure, and probably nice on the inside. So, with the current drastic budget cuts to my optimism, that is an immediate change across the board, resulting in one fifth of my view of the world being drastically altered. It’s like being suddenly infused with 20% proof of alcohol. Or maybe, rather, having always been constantly 20% drunk, and suddenly facing the world with no blurring agents. It is a little bit uncomfortable. What makes it worth it? REASON IT’S WORTH IT #1: Working all the time to see things as different than they actually are is exhausting, I have realized after the fact. It’s so much work for me to keep up my friends’ art careers, I think that if I give that up, I might have more time to bake pies and volunteer with the kids. And to deal with the facts as they may be. REASON IT’S WORTH IT #2: It turns out reality is pretty interesting. When I can manage to keep my eyes open, I get to see all sorts of things that I could certainly never have dreamed up on my own.

After I had my reality realization, I stumbled into the Museum of Modern Art, where performance artist Marina Abromovitch is sitting in a chair for three months, every day, and letting whoever wants to come up and sit across from her. The title of the piece is “The Artist is Present”, and when you walk into the room you can feel it, she really is. I immediately started to cry when I first walked in, because the feeling is so strong, she is really there, and ready to pay attention to whatever anyone brings to her. INTENSE.

May 27, 2010

  1. noah

    you are getting old!
    i don’t mean that in the chronological sense, but rather that getting old/maturing is when you finally start to look at reality as a limited number of realistic options as opposed to endless possibility. being an artist for a living probably gave you the luxury of seeing the possibility in everything for a lot longer than many of us get to.
    i hope your newfound outlook ends up suiting you, as it did for townes van zandt, and not ruining you, as it did for tom gabel.
    it can definitely make your art stronger. it will almost certainly make your life more fulfilling on some levels. good luck.
    beautiful c3po mask photo.

  2. station agent

    This post articulated a concept I have been thinking along the lines of but had yet to flesh out. That’s one of the things you do so well. Thanks.

  3. Joe Maricich

    Who’s the evil looking guy with the monicle?
    Don’t let reality change your view. How do you think that I keep my spirit up? By not facing reality to it’s fullest. Ya gotta keep dreaming alive.

    Of course, your mother may take exception to this part of my personality.


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