What Do Artists Do?

I.
I’m trying not to think of myself as an institution or organization, but rather an organism. Social media is not PR; I don’t need to “release statements.” At the same time, I’m trying not to think of myself as an individual with feelings that come from “within.” What does an organism do?

[Interlude: an intervening period of time]
Things that scare me about “ART:”
1) Cult of the individual
2) Romance of the process
3) The art world et al.
4) Self-employment & all its trappings
5) [If you’ve watched Avatar,] you may have noticed that universality is almost always just power, shrouded in a self-aggrandizing celebration of capitalism and white supremacy. It’s a fun party, so sometimes I’m too drunk to think twice about who’s hosting. (I desire a feminist-killjoy-style party-crashing cohort.) Universality is also what resonates widely. The challenge of audience. Maybe we can ask the theatre hating scholars?
6) Proving oneself worthy of “being an artist” or, conversely, being socially involved (and not “aloof”)
7) The choice: what you think is important enough to make

Things I think “ART” can do:
1) Provide texture for communities to form
2) Critique for the sake of it
3) Fun for the sake of it
4) A way to think about aesthetics alongside but not necessarily within beauty
5) [Personal] inquiry that is open-ended: simultaneously touching universality and particularity
6) Shamelessly appropriate, possibly in the good way
7) Re/engage history through materials

II.
At the start of summer, I spoke with a friend about poetics and narrative. This friend said they were opposed to narratives, and listed many reasons which I do not remember clearly enough. What stuck is the notion that stories recapitulate conventions of time: the bible, the iliad, etc. What are these texts? What are alternative textual models? I have a sneaking suspicion I should write a comp lit dissertation before proceeding. Still, another pole was poetics; I don’t believe these are mutually exclusive categories, but for the time being, a pertinent distinguishing factor seems to be time. Okay then, let’s say a writer has either worked through these extremely vague questions or decided to ignore them. As an undergraduate art major, I fall into the latter, less hypothetical camp. (Here, I stop distinguishing art from writing.) Now, to choose which story to tell, or at least what kind of textual lineage to ground your practice in. Starting freeform doesn’t seem to be an option, as it’s inevitable you will stumble into a category or catalogue, regardless of how opposed you are to such institutions. (I am still floating in a fog.) Personally, I fell deeply into western philosophy at some recent point, and tried to use it as a scaffold rather than an ingredient. The taste I’m left with now is nearly elegant, but lacking something absolutely crucial: my faith. My faith is tethered to the tasting spoon, but hanging very much elsewhere. To find that takes on excessively theological implications. That is a possible next step: theology and spirituality.

A point from my amazing creative writing professor’s blog:

That is, a poem is not merely an end product. It’s part of the process of living your poetics, serving your own poetics, seeing and enacting them in the world.

I pause here to quell a hesitation. Please receive these notes as incomplete: notes to a friend.

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