27 November 2006

On Risk

The Riskiest Thing I Have Made Yet: Throw, 2002, 98"x56"x72", styrofoam and duct tape over wood armature.

This weekend I wrote a review that is basically about risk, and I am left wondering about my relationship to risk. I look to other artists to expand my own beliefs and habits in the studio--it's a big reason I write criticism in the first place.

So what can I learn about risk?

I have an inherent relationship to risk--fear motivates and organizes my practice. I fear these things most:

1. wasting my time.
2. looking like I don't know what I am doing.
3. failure: structural, systemic, personal.

So I try to make work:

1. that is inefficient, inexpedient.
2. that has nothing to do with correct building practices--that would get me laughed off a jobsite.
3. that is about failure. That breaks the armature. That is about the largest systemic failure I can think of (climate change). That might not work.

There's One Catch:

If I only use these three organizing principles, I would never get anything done, and nothing would actually stand up and do its thing. The paradox is that a sculpture can be "about failure" all day long, but it still has to work--it's not an illusion. This is what makes sculpture so completely arrogant, and so unyieldingly optimistic.

The most fun I have ever had--period--is working on the easy side of this paradox. Just playing, keeping what I know at arm's length, following the logic of what is in front of me without worrying about what could happen. When I am in correct relationship to this paradox, I am just asking questions by acting on the thing, and dealing with the answers the thing gives back.

The other side of this paradox, however, sucks. It is easy to collapse into actually being afraid, forcing easy conclusions and skillful tricks, and making sense. I have worked enough jobs-for-money to become expedient. I have enough desire to demand a product instead of a process.

And to be perfectly blunt, it is much easier to be honest about working with your fears when nobody has any expectations of you.

Expectations are what create fear and risk. And the best advice I ever got from a teacher is to prolong that sensation of discomfort that comes from doing something risky for as long as I possibly can. And it's a weird yogic truism that the fun does lie in accepting that discomfort. I believe that--that's happened to me before.

I am going to go accept some discomfort today.


Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

That's beautiful.

27 November, 2006 13:32  
Anonymous nick said...

Thanks, Deborah.

I know I am on the right track when I begin experiencing a certain sense of moral trepidation. Similarly failure is usually the result of lapsing into self-righteousness.

If and when the Peer Panel begins arguing over my actions and plans, then I am vital. And as I grow older this Peer Panel has more dead than living members, and yet the blood also seeks its future action on the Seventh Generation.

Risk for me is synonymous with the act of faith necessary for the belief in an audience that exists beyond the vanity and futility of our lives and art.

28 November, 2006 06:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong work and good on you for being so open. Artmaking is ALL risk I think.

29 November, 2006 06:49  
Blogger exu said...

this peice is great

03 December, 2006 16:56  

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