UPDATE: the upcoming one-day solo show indicated below has been rescheduled for October 13th. Details anon!
This post is in response to all the wonderful people I haven't been able to keep up with this past year. I really do adore you. Here's what my world consists of these days, and why your mother was right when she told you to never, ever marry an artist:
Yes, I know time is a construct. It's something we can all agree on... until we can't. Death proves the existence of time, and we eventually learn that it doesn't matter if time is a construct or not. It is incontrovertibly how we process existence, and it is thus, for us, as real as the things that really are real.
My homeless friends living on the street face a dilemma I simply cannot relate to. Theirs is the problem of having too much time. For my adult life, my issue has been the opposite. It's beyond being unable to remember the last time I was bored; I have trouble recalling when I last relaxed. I don't know when I last came home, pulled a book off the shelf, and stared out the window with a bliss untarnished by the rumblings of impending obligation.
I dreamt of graduating from school because I couldn't wait to have control over my own schedule. I waited twenty-odd years for the moment to come, and now, nearly a decade after walking out the University's art school doors for the last time, that control– that freedom– remains elusive, or at least feels like it does. Of course, all of us has all the time in the world (we just choose how we fill it up, as the saying goes); I've been careful to protect mine, but I've loaded it such that there's no room to breathe. I always feel like I'm getting close to breaking free, but I never get there. It feels like a prison, all the harder to escape because it is a claustrophobia not of space but of time. No matter which direction I reach, I can't find what I'm looking for, and it's my own passions that are in the way. Do you know what I mean?
You might say I have two full-time jobs. The first eight hours of the day I spend on art.
9 A.M. to 5 P.M.:
Every day I attempt to progress at least incrementally on all of the following:
Don't get me wrong. I love all of it. I surround myself with the best artists I know, and then struggle to keep up. I'm aware there are worse life problems, believe me; I see them up close nightly. I'm thankful for these incredible opportunities. But that doesn't stop them from being exhausting. I love each so much that I can't cut anything out. The problem isn't that I hate what I'm doing; it's that I love everything I'm doing.
Somehow, amongst all this, are the chores we all do, like
Then I go to Metro-Land.
5 P.M. to 1 A.M.:
You can understand why I find driving buses relaxing. For eight hours, I only have to think about bus stuff. How fabulous. Who needs a therapist, when you can just putt-putt along to the rhythms of the road, practicing patience and listening to other people? The perspective, distraction, reorientation... all invaluable. It forces me to pay attention to my physical health, reminds me how much more there is than my little quibbles, and allows me to touch the glorious and irreplaceable feeling of reaching other people– reaching them without an agenda, and among all walks of life.
Art made by an artist who does not also live life is not interesting. Driving the bus forces me out of artmaking and back to where it all matters.
Then I rush home and sleep, because I guess we're supposed to, before waking up to do it all over again.
1 A.M. to... 1:05 A.M.??
I haven't mentioned any space in the day where I might engage in some of my favorite activities: reading and watching films. When there's a break between Korean classes, reading becomes possible. Most recently was Tom Hardy's 1874 Far From the Madding Crowd. It's quite good. Example excerpt:
Her philosophy was her conduct, and she seldom thought practisable was she did not practise. She was the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indespensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.
Now, I'm working on Kundera's 1984 The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's even better. Example excerpt:
What is unique about the "I" hides itself exactly in what is unimaginable about a person. All we are able to imagine is what makes everyone like everyone else, what people have in common. The individual "I" is what differs from the common stock, that is, what cannot be guessed at or calculated.
Then there's the matter of finding time to watch films. It's important. Not enough young filmmakers know the canon, and when the oldest movie you've seen is Pulp Fiction, it shows in your work. Plus, I love the medium. So potent, watching someone else's dream....
Most recently rewatched at home: Michael Mann's Heat (1995), a somber epic of interiority and self-awareness, and a favorite. Playtime (1974), Jacques Tati's near-silent comedy of modern motion; Antonioni's La Notte (1961), in which I particularly noted the hard lighting and intriguing staging of figures in space; and Bergman's Persona (1966), wherein I reflected on the effect of being shown the final monologue twice from two different angles.
Most recently at the cinema: Eighth Grade, as bruising, intimate, personal and anxious as the grade itself. Magnificent. Blindspotting– not as engaging, tonally consistent or artistically daring as the other American independent film by a first-time director about black life in Oakland currently in theatres(!), Sorry to Bother You, but still worthwhile with its two hugely likable leads, several great dialogue exchanges and a strong third act. I have a soft spot for films about friendships; they're less common than you think.
Other Actual Humans
Speaking of friends. I generally don't get time to read or watch films. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is barely 300 pages, and I've been "reading" it for over two months. What about the humans I love even more than my beloved passengers? When there's a show to hang, another show to prep, a secret project to perfect, Korean to practice, a film to complete?
As a child I had a habit of starting projects– an illustrated bird book, a painting series– and abandoning them. I've since learned that artists who accomplish a lot of projects– the same ones you see giving speeches at parties and clowning at socials– spend most of their time sitting in rooms working their buns off. Now I finish my projects. But at what cost?
Most of us love most what we cannot find; for me it is peace. Calm. I can almost touch it, it is so close. But it is not here. I really do love my friends, my family. I want to say yes to your every invite: to lunch, to films, to picnics, dinners, parties, plays, performances, hikes, walks, dates. An afternoon with friends; the beach at night. Of course I want to do those things, and with you.
But there is an urgency that drives me. Various philosophical schools postulate that the motivating factor for all human action is loneliness; love; death. For me it is time. The urgent and pressing lack of it.
Milan Kundera wrote, in his book Immortality, that humans desire to assert their existence on earth in a way that will outlast them. The primal and psychological urge to defy time. Many people do that by having children. I do it by making art. It is not a desire for me. It is a need. I turned twenty-five and something clicked inside me; I turned thirty, and it clicked again. It was only a whisper, but I hear it every day:
There is not a lot of time.
My active life is half over. I've got work to do. I believe human connection is the most important treasure, and it may not seem like I value my friendships as much as I say; but I'm working on figuring it all out, learning how to balance what I feel urgency toward, and what is truly important. I'm thankful for every second of it. I will get there one day. The cacophonic fallacy of accomplishment will have died down, and you and I will be leaning back in our chairs– in a cafe, at home, at the base, under a tree, under an umbrella– and in the delicate silence between words we'll pause, and smile, gently. We will know its name without having to say it.