Once upon a time, Sol LeWitt wrote a letter to Eva Hesse when she was going through a rough patch with her work. He probably didn't know how many people would later find his words of advice reassuring -- people in all kinds of situations, with all kinds of struggles, with all sorts of responsibilities, real and imagined. And really... is it that hard to just DO?
It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just
I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work — the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell — you are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work — so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be. But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working — then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to
From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability; the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing — clean — clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder… real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful — real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you — draw & paint your fear & anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to
It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible — and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work — not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones & I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can — shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything.
There are lots of things that you can't change right now. The things you can, you are changing for the better. Hopefully your constant effort and perseverance will yield results. But unfortunately, only time will tell...
... Turns out Klaus Doldinger did other cool stuff before The Neverending Story soundtrack, and I've only just got round to listening to it! The beginning of the main theme isn't the most exciting thing, but it progressively gets better and better...
this continuous and entire presentness, amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness: as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it."
--- Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, 1966.
Fried's Art and Objecthood was the first attempt at theorising Minimalist (or literalist) art, drawing on work by Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, and others. He closes this complex and at first seemingly esoteric essay with an account of Tony Smith's night drive through the then-unfinished New Jersey turnpike. Smith drove past mounds of industrial materials and urban debris, and what struck him was the infinity, the 'endlessness' of what he saw, which seemed to him precisely at odds with the finite nature of the pre-Minimalist art world in which he operated. Institutional art seemed restrictive in comparison to the wealth and inexhaustibility of everyday experience.
It's not always that art theory and artists' statements hit home for me. But Fried's essay certainly did, though it took time to figure out why.
There's a point in my mind where lots of seemingly diverse things converge on a single, visceral plane of experience: Minimalist sculpture, night drives, Israel, The Durutti Column, limbo, and infinity. Since the visceral and the intellectual are practically binaries opposite to each other, it is difficult to rationally explain this point of convergence.
For a start, why Israel?
Having spent six years of my childhood in Israel, in Rehovot, I have strange, unorganised memories of the place: palm trees; scorching heat; flying cockroaches; the annual Kapparot festival, when a huge crowd of people gathered just outside our apartment block and slaughtered roosters for sacrifice in broad daylight (and that wasn't the worst of it).
But some of my better memories were related to a profound and unexplainable sense of timelessness. Israel in the '90s seemed to be in limbo, somewhere between tradition and modernization. There was an interactive science park at the Weizmann institute, and nearby were strange, towering sculptures, framed by exotic plants and trees, There's something about those sculptures that embedded itself very firmly in me, something which I only latently realised was the 'presence' of sculpture that Fried describes. It seems that it is when sculpture is abstract that it becomes dominantly present and uncanny: familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
The Middle East had its particular and jarring aesthetic, but also its particular sound. I didn't hear that sound until much later, when I first listened to The Durutti Column. Vini Reilly is someone who -- to go back to the epigraph -- has me forever convinced of his art, convinced of its depth and fullness. It is the 'presentness', and endlessness of his work that feeds my conviction. He writes in a way that people have described as 'timeless,' and timelessness implies that it is somehow exterior to time, but perhaps it's better to think of his work as something which occupies many moments of time simultaneously; it seems to look both forward and backward.
And it is also everywhere (and nowhere) at once. Vini's music is so infused with seemingly diverse musical traditions -- Latin-American, African, maybe even Middle-Eastern ones. At the same time it is impossible to place it geographically, precisely because it is not embedded in any one framework.
But without being singular, The Durutti Column is nevertheless associated with Israel for me. Palm trees hidden behind a melancholy haze, road trips to the sea, massive sculptures acting as shields of the glaring sun, the quality of being constantly plunged into and then immediately pulled away from happiness.
The other day, on a night drive through the city, I put on the recording of The Missing Boy performed at Domo Arigato. It is a fantastical, surreal, inexhaustible, infinite performance - and it is none of those things, because words are, as always, insufficient.
During the drive I found myself in the midst of a thick blanket of fog, which seemed to descend out of nowhere, thicker than I had ever seen it. The experience was like riding on the rings of Saturn; occasionally another vehicle would appear - a fragmented meteorite exuding light - and then fall away again. During this experience of limbo, a lot of the vague associations described above suddenly converged, like cosmic bodies colliding into orbit around a planet.
What seems to happen in The Missing Boy is the coming-alive or coming-into-being of a multitude of temporal and geographical moments, which all converge into one colossal and overwhelming memory. This memory is relived, repeated like a musical phrase, and eventually gains new significance through development. At 3:55 the memory takes off into an entirely new direction, then momentarily returns, then veers off course again in a head-spinning and reeling vertigo of nostalgia and melancholy, a search for something or someone which cannot be assuaged. And finally -- the return home to the inescapable, original form of the memory, bringing everything full circle.
Life is at every turn full of 'the missing boy.' The missing boy is a feeling, as well as a person;he is future and past; memory and place; 'the dream is better, and the end is always the same...'
... A mind-blowing sound if ever there was one. Just when you think the sound palette has exhausted itself, he adds something else to the mix. I don't usually ''do'' noise, but this noise is absolutely sublime. I miss YL terribly, and I'm still kicking myself for passing up on an opportunity to see him live before the project ended.