Monthly Archives: February 2009

Ideas.

I’ve been working through some new ideas in my head and a new way of working. Since I keep referencing this with no background, I guess I could explain that a bit more…

The few months before returning to America consisted of frequently viewing many artworks and photographs in various museums and galleries, and then more in a following visit to New York City. I found that in relating the function of these works around me to my own work, it left me with little excitement for what was to come with my photography.  I guess the idea that my interaction with others through my photographic work would always be an inevitably indirect encounter is what concerned me most. The excitement of seeing the original works of the masters that I thought I’d only read about in History books only heightened the pedestal that I’d already put them on. The idea of this pedestal beginning with such an indirect and disconnected interaction between artist and “viewer” made me less interested in creating work in a way so narrowly set for a potential experience with the work itself.

With that said, I considered the methods I’ve used so far, the intentions for my photography to function, and if I’d attained any of that. In retrospect, most of the photographic work I’ve done has simply been documenting my surroundings with differently focused themes that depend on my specific interests at the time. I’ve quickly realized that my photography does not carry a lot  of what I hope an artwork can provide. I don’t regret any of this progress, or lack thereof, because it’s developed what I consider to be a healthy habit of self-critical thinking.  I came to two general conclusions in what I hope for myself and my work to do: 1. create a positively influential awareness and 2. encourage a benevolent mentality within a community. I don’t think using the aesthetic language of documentary/art photography can communicate these ideas in the way I would like to. I’m open to any possibility involving these two concepts, but in order to understand what I’m missing I think I need to utilize a new approach.

Realizing my repetitive habit of subconsciously re-defining art to suit my current interests gave me an idea for a new way of working. Instead, I am simply re-defining art according to how I want it to function, and the concepts that fall into that definition I then consider art. So, I define art as something that creates a positively influential awareness and encourages a benevolent mentality within a community.

I’m now making work that involves the positive experience of congregation through direct interactions. I’m currently spending a lot of my time cooking dinners for people (about 2-3 dinners a week) in hopes that the ones involved will continue these shared experiences by cooking for others. I am also looking forward to working with Andrew McComb through collaborating and exploring other ways of positive interaction with others.

After speaking with people about these new ideas, it seems to be commonly assumed that one of the reasons for the work is to spite others’ endeavors in the visual arts. I don’t see these efforts as spiteful at all really, nor do I see myself abandoning my involvement in visual arts. I’m simply working in a new way that can hopefully connect to others in a way that my photographs can’t. I think it works oppositely, as well, in that my photographs can work in beneficial ways that this process cannot. This interactive way of working essentially removes most, if not all, wonder and imagination from the work’s interpretations; the piece is the experience, and the affect lies in the desired reflection and (hopefully contagious) positive motivations. These performance-oriented actions work simply through causality, contrasting the intention that my photographs serve as components to a story that is ultimately pieced together by each person’s imagination and opinion.

For now, my main focus lies in connecting with others through direct interaction, yet I’m still working out thoughts on the document and its place (or absence) in this work.  Nevertheless, I’m excited.

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Gates of Eden – Bob Dylan

"...At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden."

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Readjusting.

trev-rob-paris4

It’s been a great few months and I’m back in Chicago again and back in school. The stress and fatigue resulting from a full class and work schedule has set in, but I’m doing my best to maintain some type of living regularity.

For a thesis class I’m taking with Myra Greene, the students have been asked to keep some form of a journal containing our interests and ideas throughout the semester. So, I decided that I’m going to change a bit of the direction of this blog by catering to that idea. So, you can expect more talk of what I’ve been thinking about, reading, etc., than the too-many-pictures-posts that I normally do.

So then, a few things that have been on my mind lately:

This post that Brian Ulrich made yesterday beginning with,

“I’m always somewhat surprised that there are not more artists reacting to environmental conditions. Perhaps it’s from spending so much time among students, perhaps it’s the latent and fizzling art market that plucked hipsters from bars and placed them on art fair stages, but it still seems so many young artists are still concerned primarily in their work with the self.”

It has caused an interesting fuss, check out the variety of discussion on the comments of it. I like the opinion party that has broken out.

Also, this Langston Hughes poem I read recently has resonated with me quite a bit.

Someone told me once that saying poems aloud help you understand it a bit more. I tried it and I absolutely agree. It’s a bit long, but take your time with it. I think it’s worth it.

Let America be America Again (1935) – by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrans scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! OF grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home–

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay–

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–

The land that never has been yet–

And yet must be–the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s,

Negro’s, ME–

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From thsoe who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath–

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain–

All, all the stretch of these great green states–

And make America again!

———————————————–

Take care then, I’ll be posting again soon.

-Matt

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