I had an important learning experience during a weeklong investigation in my studio prior to midterms. I decided that I was going to engage as intensely as I could with the intuitive moves that I find easily while in my studio.
In this iteration, it involved drawing on stacks of papers that I placed on my studio floor. I’d work on several simultaneously. Sometimes I’d place old drawings in the stacks, meaning they’d appear if I bore through the page on top with an aggressive or insistent gesture. Sometimes I’d rip part of the top page off altogether. Sometimes photocopies of things I’d drawn worked their way into the stacks.
The gestures I engaged with were visceral and corporeal (the head is part of the body). They were not concerned with representing images held in my mind’s eye. While it’s hard not to engage in a self-administered Rorschach test sparked by the marks made on the paper, I find it somewhat repulsive and tried to steer clear of something akin to Surrealist automatic drawing. Though the process was somewhat automatic.
I used paint and ink. I let puddles accrue and leaks run their course. I sprayed and watch ink bloom into shapes. I drew with a razor blade. I got acrylic paint on my black washable Crayola markers. When things got too muddy, I burrowed through to find a new, open space. I discarded the things that were no longer workable. Or that no longer interested me.
Here were the things revealed to me during this practice:
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRASH PILE
THE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE OF THE IMAGE
PILES OF PAPER
DEFER IMPOSITION OF OVERARCHING FRAMEWORK
MY HAND NEEDS TO MOVE IN ORDER TO MAKE DYNAMIC MEANING
What are strategies for generating/sustaining a mutual desire within the context of a collaboration? Collaboration might be considered as a creative partnership, or within the context of a workshop. Or more radically, between student and teacher.
How is the image maker to position themselves in relation to the perspective of the Other, which is inaccessible yet indelibly part of an ethical/aesthetic practice?
If drawing is a practice (an ends in itself, and not a means to communicate something), can we consider it as the maintenance of a space (the capacity to imagine or break apart structures that stifle)? Is it something akin to eating or breathing? Is the imagination part of the body? Deleuze and Guattari hold that the disappearance of desire and death are inexorably linked.
Traditionally, teachers have been seen as the ones holding power over the student. What happens with the teacher has imagined a horizontal relationship between teacher and student, but the student remains stuck imagining the vertical power dynamic? Is there a way for the teacher to transmit to the student a new way of relating to one another? Such a transmission would require certainty and a forcefulness on the teachers part. Would their relationship inevitably dissolve?
While talking about The Ignorant Schoolmaster by Jacques Ranciere in our class, John brought up the idea of contrasting institutions with practices. I think this was a really important distinction. I started to think about practices like yoga or tai chi, where practitioners may travel, move, or break ties with a studio or teacher and still maintain their practice.
I applied to grad school because I was feeling the fatigue of working outside the framework of an institution, which provides community, material resources, financial opportunities (grants, scholarships), professional connections, and training. Being able to work within the confines of an institution has been extremely important step for me in terms of the stability and support it's provided, especially considering the turbulence of this past year.
However, as we start our second year, I think many of us are starting to notice certain limitations of the institution. It's easier to delineate an ideology that emerges in our critiques. The rapid pace of the semester, as well as the numerous tasks put on the grad student (and maybe even on the professors?), has started to seem unsustainable. I feel I'm starting to understand the limitations of the academic institution, just as I had come to understand the limits of working outside one two years ago.
It was essential, though, that I had spent several years prior to grad school developing and sustaining a creative practice. This has always been a kind of bedrock that I can fall back onto. Grad school has meant a series of experiments and false starts, but the thing that's undergirded my time year is the fact that I know how to move within my studio. I feel that my practice will be the constant in years to come as I may come to be part of different institutions. Our relationships may work out for to greater or lesser degrees, and last different amounts of time, but I hope that my creative practice can be something that I can sustain and return to. And possibly even use as a compass for directing my next step.