Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On Dream Spaces

I haven't tried incorporating content from my dream analysis archive into my artwork since the attempt I made in 2011 with See You In My Dreams, but I have been thinking a lot lately about the idealized spaces of our dreams, both in the context of the constructions we experience via our subconscious mind, and in the spaces we create for ourselves in waking life.

I'm thinking in terms of safe spaces, of the utopic, ideal spaces that function as an escape from the forces that plague us socially and politically (misogyny/ patriarchy, racism/colonialism/xenophobia, classism/capitalism, etc.).  I don't think I am alone in craving an escape from systems and constructs that seek to limit my capacities as a human being in the world, but what's been troubling me lately is the knowledge that anything we create for ourselves exists as a product of our existence within the context of those structures.  The struggle to actualize an uncompromised self free of the impositions and dictates of the oppressive prevailing hegemony is a struggle because it is fundamentally impossible to be totally free of those impositions and dictates.  Who we are is shaped and informed by the systems within which we attempt to function.  Creations seeking to break away from the dynamics making us miserable are still functionally reactionary.  Maybe that is OK, but it feels burdensome.

This relates to thoughts I'm having about the dreams we experience at night while we sleep--even within the spaces, scenarios, narratives created solely by and for me/ my mind/ my unconscious, the fact is that they are ultimately shaped/ informed by the experiences I have in my waking life. The seemingly limitless/ boundless space of my own mind are in fact neither limitless nor boundless; the experiences I have within my dreams are shaped by those I have without.

This is not a surprise--it makes sense, and I acknowledge that the limitations of our experience/ the filter of our perception is what provides the foundation for the capacity to dream at all.  But it is frustrating to imagine what would be better, but only within the confines of what is.

What would a completely free space look like?  How would we establish the notion of Who We Are if everything were completely new and free from the context of history or connotational perception?  I don't know, but I'd like to experience that for a change.  I am pretty sick of things as they are--of observing fucked up realities with only the hope of slow progress toward an adjusted version, years down the line.  I want to encounter the world anew, without all of the misguided impositions that obscure and contaminate what is possible.  Why do we continue to abide by structures that make zero sense/ make us miserable/ doom us all on a fundamental level?  Why were these structures conceived of and enacted in the first place? By and for whom?  Not me.  Not the vast majority of the people I know, love, and respect.

I suppose the solution lies in continuing to dream--in creating and advocate for better spaces and narratives, until those become the foundational reality from which new dreams are formed.  Maybe I'm just too impatient, but it feels so urgent, and the urgency is the direct result of how taxing so many aspects of daily existence can be.  I've been thinking lately that my drawings might be an outlet for/ direct representation of that process.  The absurdly labor-intensive/ time-consuming effort to reconstruct the existing surface, bit by bit--mining that surface for facets that can be incorporated into a new and altered structure, functioning within my own system.  I think my digital projects probably adhere to the same general motivation--functioning within existing structures/ incorporating the signifiers of existing structures, but attempting to subvert them/ use them in ways that serve my own process of discovery.  Maybe I would like to try to construct another dream space, but I don't think direct content from my dream narratives are necessary anymore.  I'd like to try building a space made out of a drawing system.  That was the initial impulse for Creep Along--to be able to stand inside of one of my drawings, but that piece became kind of muddled toward the end--the materials were wrong I think.

Anyway, art-making is my best shot/ the outlet that has brought me closest to achieving some sense of satisfaction within the murky struggles with what sucks about reality.  I'll just keep repeating the Cesar A. Cruz paraphrase "art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," as a mantra...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

First Friday Highlights, March 2015 (Experiential Collaboration Forever!!!)

I haven't updated about art I've seen in a while, but a couple of the shows I saw last night made a strong enough impression that I feel like remembering them here.

Andrea Morales' exhibition "Public Play" at Practice Gallery spoke to me as an investigation of the complex social dynamics involved in dating--specifically, how we perform personas within varying social contexts.  The premise of the exhibition was Morales having organised a consecutive series of dates through OKCupid and Craigslist, to be carried out within the gallery.  Documentation of her correspondences with her dates were plastered on the walls for viewers to read when they weren't acting as voyeuristic observers of the activities of the dates themselves.  The dates/ exhibition were all documented throughout the night, and the plan is for the edited footage to be exhibited at Practice for the remainder of the month.

There is so much about the concept and the execution of this piece that I love.  I love that the artist is directing and composing these interactions for the express purpose of manifesting this exhibition, while leaving room for risk, chance, play, and vulnerability (to her collaborator and her audience).  I love that live performance, the documentation leading up to the performance, and the documentation of the performance itself are all integral aspects of the piece.  I love the fact that, even though you are in the room with the artist and her dates, observing their interaction and reading their correspondence, there are elements of their conversations that do remain private/ intimate/ just between them.  Sure, you can see their body language, maybe even catch snippets of dialogue, but you remain at a distance, a member of the crowd--you can't see and hear every element of the exchanges that build the date they are on.

I only had the chance to see one of the dates--the third of the night.  When I walked in, the space was illuminated by red lights.  There was music playing, and I could see the artist and her date sitting on a bench behind parted curtains.  They were both hunched over a camera, presumably shuffling through images.  In speaking with one of the members of Practice, I gleaned that this date had actually been photographing the earlier dates, so they were looking through the images he had taken.  I wanted to make it back to the final date of the evening, which was supposed to be with a female partner, and verge on more sexually charged content, but I missed it unfortunately.

I was sorry to miss the rest of "Public Play," but I was so happy I made it out to New Boone for "Forever," a collaborative exhibit featuring paintings by my studio-mate Kim Altomare and audio commentary by Anne Pagana.  If I had to express my overwhelming impression of the exhibit in one adjective, I would use 'refreshing'--everything about the approach felt like a sigh of relief followed by a breath of fresh air.  First and foremost, the experience of seeing Kim's paintings hung and lit within the context of a gallery space was thrilling for me--so much luster and detail that is hard to recognize when they're leaning against a studio wall came suddenly alive.  It felt like the paintings themselves had been energized/ taken on a new life, and I was so filled with joy for them!  The curatorial detailing--the incorporation of a friendship bracelet-making station [they'd run out of string by the time I got there :( ]; the integration of vibrant pom poms, shimmery sequins, tinsel, streamers, and googly eyes; the coordinated vignettes built out of objects contributed by Kim and Anne's artist friends, placed to keep the paintings company; the hand-articulated signage and decorated CD-players with headphones whose color matched the vibrancy carried throughout--all contributed to the overarching spirit of friendship and collaboration coursing throughout the show.  Walking into the space, every aspect seems to squeal, "Hi! We're so glad you're here! Come be our friend! Stay a while! Look and listen and contemplate with us!"  And how can you refuse that?

Which isn't to say that the content of the work presented is necessarily light or superficial--Kim's paintings incorporate symbolic imagery that alludes to death and violence, and Anne's commentary is deeply meditative.  There is an audio track corresponding to each painting.  I didn't listen to all of them, but those I did made it clear to me that Anne's spoken words access avenues of thought that are quite serious, and speak to a genuine desire for mutual understanding within the insular context of a friendship that exists within the broader, but still insular context of art-making.  There is a sensitivity and consideration for the differences and commonalities in hers and Kim's experiences with and approaches to art and life.  There is frustration and confusion, but also serenity to the acknowledgment that not everything can necessarily be fully understood between two people.  I felt honored to be invited to listen to these meditations, and though they were focused on a personal relationship, I felt included because the concepts being considered speak to interpersonal relationships in general, and art-making practices more broadly.  I got the sense that, though these are complex and difficult territories to navigate, underlying currents of hope, togetherness, and fun can carry us through.

Looking at the show through a feminist lens, I was struck by how it sits within the context of art history, which is so frequently dominated by men celebrating, commenting on, responding to, competing with each other, usually in a very egotistical way that has a lot to do with proving who has the most "genius". The mode of collaboration in "Forever" is definitely in dialogue with that tradition, but from a much more authentic, sincere, down-to-earth perspective.   Celebrating each other does not have to be about proving anything--it can be about inviting everyone into this dynamic of mutual consideration and dialogue, of approaching things in a genuine way, together.

I think I responded to strongly to both of these exhibits because I like what they indicate about where art practice and art exhibition is heading.  There is a sense of breaking things down and exploring them from new angles that I find so empowering and exciting.  It makes me feel a sense of freedom, like there is license to explore new territories and just try things to see where they go.  As there should be.  No more musty, tired art shows ever please!