It is insufficient to simply term oneself an Artist, or to simply pursue art without knowing where to go with it and why one does it. Some say great art is created in periods of unrest, and perhaps there are many who are now as excited as they are anxious about the cusp of an era on which we seem to sit. Others, possibly a minority, have proclaimed that great art is to remain timeless, though I wonder how this premise would coincide with today’s proliferation of technology and media art. Nonetheless, there needs to be in place for each artist a set of standards by which they can define themselves and their work.
Increasingly, I have abided by symptoms of these following principles in judgment of my own art and process, as well as the art and processes of the artists I see. I have always been a person with strong opinions and have personally longed for the sorts of opinionated discussions I don’t hear in museums, libraries, screenings, and the like. I want to be unafraid of opinion, judgment, and the contentious discourse that often derives from them.
In moving towards this, I have outlined parameters for the space in which I’ll operate. I hereby shun:
- the word “quirky.”
Above all, avoid anything to do with “quirkiness,” “uniqueness,” “eccentricity.” These are adjectives that can be used only by those who maintain some distance from the subject, and who thus see in the subject a projection of judgment of their own tastes. A certain subset of people want to keep to themselves an idea of who they are and how they are special by pointing at what they like. Don’t make art for audiences to hoard, or you will only be complicit in this false elevation of self.
- lording over knowing the history of things.
For all that’s said about the youth of cinema, there is nonetheless a sizable body of work and literature that form the history of the medium. Undoubtedly, a contextual understanding of film is important, but I argue only insofar as to grasp the whereabouts of your own ideation. It is not conceit to attempt originality, not if to be original is to arouse thought original to you. Keep a sense of wonder about things, and try to remain curious. Think things through and play a game of chess with yourself. This must be the way to produce art truly capable of questioning.
- the false distinction between crudeness and sophistication, except in thought.
An encounter with sophisticated thought is an encounter with intellectual curiosity, which anyone can possess. Elsewhere, the discrimination between “high” and “low” serves nothing but insecurity about one’s own self-esteem.
- the competitive drive.
There’s no need to hurry yourself and your work arbitrarily. Feed your ego as far as it will help you believe that no one can complete your work better than you. Then acknowledge that in beginning your work, it will no longer belong to you. The artwork trumps the artist, always. You will have all your life to prove you are in service to your craft. One day, you shall will into the world the truth you’ve always wanted to see. Even if it isn’t talked about, the work would’ve been most crucial for the most important person in existence – yourself.
- the linear path.
The arts does not and cannot exist as a career. There’s no way to define the processes of art-making, the standards for its consumption, nor the limits of its existence. Similarly, to be an artist is to engage with the world, which inherently defines it as a state of being. So don’t be overly concerned with works that are as yet immaterial. If you’re thinking and dreaming in art, the potentiality is there.
- any medium restrictions.
Form is important when it’s of value to the work, but works aren’t born already constrained by pre-existing thoughts on form. As such, always allow experiments in medium to be part of how you imagine or reimagine a piece. This also applies to sources of inspiration, which can, and often do, come from everywhere.
- the critic’s perspective.
To be clear, this does not mean one should avoid criticism. Rather, it needs to be recognized that the artist, while in the middle of a piece, cannot assume both the roles of artist and critic. The critic situates the work in its broader historical, sociocultural, political contexts – this must be done from a distance and without a full understanding of intention. The artist could have in mind, prior to creating the work, an idea of where they want the piece to fit, and an analysis afterward of how much it will do. But while the piece is being made, the world it belongs to has to be created by the artist alone. This is why the best works each contain reflexivity and, to this end, some degree of authentic truth.