There’s just a slow turnin
From the inside out
A slow turnin
But you come about.
– John Hiatt
In late 2012, I began experimenting with ways to get works away from the wall and interact with people and environments differently. And, since then, my process and work reflect this shift. But, I hadn’t taken time to reflect on what changed – and where – in order to take this turn. Was there an exact moment?
Perceptions in Contemporary Art
For some time, and for various professional reasons, I’ve been stepping back and studying a perceived lack of interest in contemporary art by the wider public. As a result, I’ve developed a number of theories, nearly all of which are beyond the scope of this blog piece. But, I’m routinely forced to return to ideas centered around three concepts:
What is a work “about?” Does the subject and content resonate with the viewer?
Is the viewer given any kind of hint or a point of entry that encourages engagement? Is this purely the job of gallerist or curator? Or, is there a responsibility as artist?
What are the physical or perceived boundaries which limit the engagement of the viewer?
The Act of Viewing Art
The idea of what the boundaries are exactly ties directly to how we understand the act of viewing art. For most, when we think of art viewing, it is an act that takes place in front of a flat, usually framed, object on a white wall. This applies even to the so-called “enlightened” among us. Of course, this is over-simplified and does not take into account sculpture or performance. But, that’s partly my point. The mental picture conjured by most when we think of art viewing – and even engaging with art – involves standing in front of a white wall in a museum or gallery.
And that’s just the physical component. Now consider the concept of boundaries with regard to the aforementioned topics of subject matter and context.
All of this has implications for the future of contemporary art and how new audiences engage. That, however, is a yet another blog post.
Effects on Process and Practice
Biases and stereotypes are everywhere inside us, whether we like it or not. For example, I’m struggling with the use of a John Hiatt lyric in this post. Why? Something tells me that mixing Americana with weighty content on the creative process is somehow wrong. But why should it be? Our “networked” brains – to lightly reference Lane Relyea – work differently now.
Unconscious bias weaves its tentacles into an artist’s process and ultimately, practice. I noticed that there were certain mental steps I would take when that “time to start a new piece” alarm would go off. Is that just habit? If so, that’s scary enough. Or, is it something deeper tied to perceived boundaries?
. . . Which brings me to the turns I started taking around 2012. Like many unexpected turns in process, it has led to new ideas, greater flexibility, and new ways of seeing. One series of work I’m calling the #Hashtag series is a direct result.
In this case, information from tangentially related professional pursuits led to new questions and ways of doing things creatively.
But, like any path that starts with a single turn, what happens next?
Do you have a personal account of a turn you took in your creative process? Please, do share.