My latest project has been more of a mysterious adventure than I had thought. For two years I’ve been waiting for all the experiences related to building my house – just like compost – to break down, settle, and nourish a new generation of artwork. Little did I know that it would take so long, even with the constant prodding of analysis in the way of “are we there yet”. It may, however, be that I am looking for something very specific to happen, and I am altogether missing very delicate new growth just because I am not expecting it in this particular form… Apparently, you can’t force it. It’s like poop (instead of compost): it has to be ready before something good comes out (good being the subjective reaction to the quality of artwork).
Recently I was reminded of a very useful bit of context I was given at my graduate verbal exams. My dear mentor, Simone Osthoff, suggested I look at Andrea Zittel as a parallel to what I’m doing. At the time, I didn’t really know what I was doing beyond my thesis show: my work was quickly transitioning from formal play into theory/research based work. It took me 20 years and several conversations that made no sense at the time to learn how to think about art differently, but I managed. My mind was blown (in the way a sudden release of energy can have an expanding effect on surrounding air). Andrea Zittel’s work was fascinating but I didn’t really see how it was relevant to my own work, when the shelter I was talking about was completely psychological. Until it wasn’t anymore.
Recently I had a chance to attend a residency at AZ West. Someone had dropped out at the last minute and the vacancy was posted on Instagram. I wrote, I received a reply with the application materials, and I applied within 24 hours. I was the perfect fit! I built a house, I was doing similar research into living (though from a different perspective), I was knowledgeable about weaving and ceramics, and I enjoyed gardening. The residency was not quite what one would expect from that word; it was mostly a “come experience AZ West for free while you do maintenance work”. Sure, if I had a spare $1000 to drive myself over there (I would have needed new tires pronto) and do nothing but maintenance tasks in exchange for access to the desert, I would have considered it, especially if there was a chance to pick Andrea’s brains in the meantime, but with no guarantee, and such a high price tag, I couldn’t afford the gamble.
The reading materials they sent over did give me a second look at what AZ West is about. And while Andrea’s work is more about living design than the subjective human drives behind it, I found that I could use the parallel as newly relevant context to my currently developing work. Just like she lives in the desert and creates objects that reflect her perspective on living in a hostile environment, I live in a completely handmade house, finding my way about creating relationships, rituals, and finding the limitations that are essential to forging belonging in a place that doesn’t readily offer it (i.e. a world of strangers who see you as such is a kind of desert).
To be continued.