“‘Just be yourself,’ we are often told when we are developing as artists. What we often aren’t told, however, is how the search for authenticity can be such a misleading, contrived act.
“I remember that Miguel de Unamuno once wrote that we are three people at once: the person we think we are, the person we want to be seen as, and the person others actually see us as. I often get confused between the three, which is compounded by the fact that whoever I am with alters the three Pablos [or Laurens?]. Some artists see me as a writer, some writers see me as an artist, and some see me as neither. I am an artist – at least, I think I am one – who works in a museum…I am the teenager who once wanted to be a muralist, the young adult who wanted to be an opera singer; I am the bad student who failed all the math tests, the bright kid who had read Heidegger. I am a Guggenheim fellow, a husband to one person, and the x-husband to another. I am a man who drove from Alaska to Chile and also a guy who can’t get his act together organizing his desk. Some see me as an OK artist, others as irrelevant, others believe in me, and I am also the one who wants to believe in their belief.
“There seems to be this assumption that when we have ‘found ourselves’ we have centered on one single version of who we can be. Why is the key to sincerity the pursuit of a single identity? Why is it assumed that our authenticity, whether personal or artistic, lies in ‘discovering’ one single track ? There is something fishy in that the idea which, when applied to being an artist, feels connected with the market principle of developing a recognizable brand. What we then end up becoming is not ourselves, but rather the marketing plan of our individuality. The art world has no tolerance for complexity: you only get one shot at delivering an elevator pitch as to who you are, and you better be consistent. Contradicting oneself can only be seen as a weakness. If you sold yourself as an enfant terrible, you better continue it even if you are no longer an enfant nor terrible.” – Pablo Heguera from Letters to a Young Artist
I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at past work. I’ve been looking at the work that I am most proud of, the work that I am attached to , and the work that has been most well received. Sometimes these things overlap, and sometimes they don’t. It’s extremely challenging to be critical of the work that you are most attached to. It’s also extremely challenging knowing that both the commercial world and the art world want you in a package, and then trying to figure out what package you want to be (even if it’s just for a little while). I make photographs. I also make performances. I also do installation. They are all variations on the themes that interest me most, though this is often not apparent in the first glance of the work. My strongest work is always an acutely aware response to the situation in which I am making it, and sometimes it requires that this not be an image, but an interaction (as manifest through a performance or an installation).
Making art is beautiful and ugly and fucked up and sad and tragic and happy and fun, kinda like life. If I made the same work over and over, it would be boring.
So this week I cleaned off my bulletin board over my desk, a way of clearing my head from the outside jumble and inside confusion, so I can focus on who I am, and dare to ask myself what world I want to fit into right now. I think this decision will be temporary. And I think that’s just fine. I only put up a few things to look at, to get me started. One is a picture by one of my current favorite photographers, Alex Prager. There is also a quote from a fortune teller game from the Musee Mecanique, an amazing museum of cool old-timey arcade games on the water in San Francisco that I visited years ago. I also included a few sepia-toned polaroids I took last month, and a bunch of photo booth pics of me and some friends who have all inspired me in various ways. I also included the artist statement of my dear friend Alyssa Taylor Wendt, who has been a huge support, inspiration, and writes a pretty decent artist statement. And my ticket to the Eiffel Tower, which I visited for the first time this year and was absolutely stunned by it’s beauty and elegance, despite its kitsch.
There are few other things up there, and they all seem pretty inconsistent with each other, but that’s what makes it interesting. Some more quotes will make it up there, some more images, and probably some more crap that I find on the street. I can’t tell yet how looking at these things will influence me or where they will take me, but that’s the beauty of the process.