Friday, October 06, 2006

On Paper

You know the sports aphorism that if games could be won on paper then there would be no point in playing them. The truth is that not only do they not get won on paper, but that this is the whole point of playing the game. As much as we try to achieve things on paper, and there are people dedicated to figuring out how to make that happen, it just doesn't make any difference. If you can't factor in everything( you can't), and all it takes is one unfactored event, well... then the best laid plans of mice and men...

Does this happen in the art world? ALL THE TIME! Does it frustrate people? YOU BET!

Do you get it? Well, you see it with designers, architects, engineers, etc, all the time. They conceive it on paper and then in REAL life: it sucks. EVERY TIME! About thirty years ago someone in the art world coined the phrase: site-specific(ten years before that it was just called "going with the flow"). I don't know who. Who are you? It was like identifying gravity. There all along, but someone gave it a name. We're good at that. Anyway, there you have it: site-specific. What does that mean?

Well, in the art world it was limited. Limited to a specific site( a gallery, a museum, a landscape, a city space, etc.--it spawned what we now know of as Installation Art). It meant that all the decisions that went into making something happen, into making a work, a work of "art," were made in that particular time and space, in the place where it would exist--as much as humanly possible. Unfortunately, as a result of this limitation, in the end it was naturally limited to this specific idea and experience. But the real meaning is much larger. When you create something within the space(and time!) it is meant for, rather than on a drawing board somewhere, you feel the space, you rely on feeling the space, and you respond to everything about it. You don't just see it in your mind's eye, you feel the energy around and between things, below and above things(this means light and temperature, and sound, and color and texture, as well as history and function and so much more), and you not only surrender to it, you embrace it, you honor it, you serve it, you celebrate it( all the feng shui rules and recipes can't cover it--you have to BE there)! And that is huge! A huge difference, and huge distinction, a huge chasm between the two. It makes all the difference in the world.

This figuring stuff out on paper plays out everywhere. On Wall Street, in the Pentagon, in Fashion, and as I said, in Sports--and in the minds of people young and old. How many times did I go out with someone who was great on paper and a dud in real experience. MY FAULT. No one else's. They weren't really a dud, just not the person for me. I never listened to my feelings. I remember that Richard Tuttle tried to explain this to me but was ill-equipped because he hadn't quite put it together. He put it in terms of doing the best thing instead of the right thing, the right thing being, I guess, right on paper. The other thing, the best thing, had to do with this larger idea of site-specific. It is not just being "in the moment." Even that is too limited.

This is larger. The sort of stuff when you put time and space together. You can see a long way, and a long way AROUND. Shades of Vonnegut. Is there something to be said for paper? Maybe, but I can't really say one way or the other. What it reminds me of is when I was moonlighting(Addison) as a young art critic. People would tell me what their work was about "on paper" and all I wanted to say was "Huh?" And then when I asked them what was really going on they would explode from inside with all this emotional stuff. None of this "juxtaposition" crap. The same was true when they showed me their sketches. All I could think was: wow! this is where it really happened--the finished piece is just an empty shell. As a result, I tend not to do sketches, ever really. I try to make it all happen it the work. It either happens right there or it doesn't. Have I done work I liked from sketches. Yes, but mostly because something ELSE happened.

I know this is a little different, but it is connected.

I saw a card for a show called SHOCK. Hello? Talk about setting yourself up for a fall! You've given it all away on so many levels, surprise being a critical one. It is like telling someone you're going to hide behind a door and say boo! SCARY! Also connected.

I heard yet another artist ragging about how all the work(except THEIRS!) really sucks. Because someone else is showing or selling or getting written up-- and not them. It is not supposed to be this way: ON PAPER!

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