Last night I painted. Now, I’m a writer. I’ve always painted, but mostly because there’s something soothing about the process and sometimes I come up with something I actually like (enough to hang on my own walls but would never pretend to be able to pass off as “art”). I was even an art student for about a year, which is laughable considering I make art like I shoot pool—I’m either completely on or completely off and have very little control over which state I’m in at any given point.
So last night I painted. I painted a copy of a piece by a famous artist I had made into a slide and then projected onto a canvas. It’s a lot more fun and affordable than ordering prints, and the piece ends up looking “real.” I will put it up on my wall and feel an odd mixture of accomplishment and pride over the fact that I now “own” a knock-off Beardsley.
Human emotion is a funny thing, but sometimes you have to just play into it.
There are two camps when it comes to creatives: writers and everybody else. A specific kind of person becomes a writer, and there’s a reason they become a writer as opposed to a painter, sculptor, performer, dancer, actor, photographer or musician. A real writer doesn’t become a writer because he or she shows any proficiency for the skill or writing—lots of people are grammar nerds and not writers. Writing is the act secondary to the need. While every other medium requires some sort of physical interaction with the subject while the piece itself is being made, writing requires none. In fact, writing automatically separates the writer from the subject, drawing a hard line from behind which the writer can more clearly observe and define. I can describe the physical sensation of the need. It’s very much like the reason I started smoking. It’s also why I often suddenly wish that I could walk around wearing a veil so that no one could see my face. I have a simultaneous need to exist in concrete terms while being invisible. Smoking is an action that allows me to do something while also blocking intrusion by the outside world. Wearing a veil would be much the same. Writing is exactly the same.
I’ve noticed that I’ve lost my taste for writing.
Yesterday I was reading about Cosey Fanni Tutti, a member of the music projects Throbbing Gristle and Chris and Cosey and a performance artist. I’ve always wanted to be a performance artist. It seems like a really good way to get to be naked in public. I realized at some point while reading about her that right now I want to make physical art. I use such a broad term because I’m not tied to the idea of what kind. For me the process of making things is what is most important to me, so what is made is secondary to the process of making it. There is something very different about the process of making things from the process of writing. When I am writing, I’m trying to bring some sort of truth to bear. Writing poetry is a little more like creating visual art for me in that I feel like I’m taking a picture of a place that doesn’t exist in physical terms when I write a poem, but it’s still ultimately about taking a picture of a word that represents a feeling or idea. The making of physical art is a physical experience. My whole body gets involved. At some point my brain actually stops thinking, and I move from trying to bring some sort of truth to bear using language as a representation to actually bringing an experience to bear in real time using the experience itself. Writing is about meaning. Quite frankly I find most writing that isn’t trite. But making physical objects can be about the space between meanings or the space that isn’t meaning. It can mean nothing. It can simply be about physical experience in a way that writing can’t because writing is not itself a physical experience.
Ultimately I’m a writer because I’m ambivalent about whether or not living life is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m here, so I’ll make the most of it. But had I been given a choice, I don’t know that this would’ve been my first one. I still form attachments to this world, but I like to remain a little detached. I’m the kind of person who likes to think about things to the point that it’s questionable whether I’m actually doing anything. Writing is mentally active but physically passive.
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong,” said Joseph Chilton Pearce. I find that this is precisely why I am having such a hard time with writing lately and feeling so much more drawn toward making things. I have no problem with the idea that other people might not like what I write or agree with what I say. It is not this kind of being wrong that I have a problem with. I have a problem with the fact that writing is about a concrete idea, and I am unwilling to stake a claim on any one idea at the moment. It is the fact that I have come to lose interest in almost every kind of subject upon which one might make a judgment and the wrongness that might ensue from this dilemma with which I have a problem. I do not believe in power struggle anymore; power is an illusion. There is nothing left to fight. I also believe that almost everything is meaningless and that which has meaning is something I cannot ever ferret out completely. So what is there to say?
At this point I must pause to point out that I’ve written a page-and-a-half of copy about how I have nothing to say. “We say little if not egged on by vanity,” said Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld.
Which brings me perfectly to my point. For years I have tried to move beyond vanity into meaning. Now I have found meaning wanting—or, at the very least, explored meaning to the point at which it has lost meaning. Now I want to play with vanity. When the world was full of meaning, vanity seemed superficial, the antithesis of everything I believed to be important. And, oddly, I find that superficiality is still abhorrent, but in a different way. I find that those who ascribe a deep meaning and importance to superficiality are generally wretched individuals. While I said most things are meaningless, I do believe there is a meaning which I have not yet discovered. I believe this meaning has something to do with the overcoming of the ego and the movement into oblivion. But I am intrigued by the idea that we can flaunt our vanity simply for fun. I’ve always been a very serious person, even as I was an adventuresome and frivolous person. I took everything seriously. I feel like making things instead of writing things down will open me up to being completely unserious about everything. It will allow me to put aside my fear of being wrong because I won’t have to stake any kind of claim. I will not have to make an argument.
I will just have to make a thing, and what are things but nothings?
Book Notes - Patrick Nathan "Some Hell"
1 day ago