Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making Madness

Inspired by conversations with Leslie Shellow and Marsha Lynn. (And Sangria)

The connection between madness/manic depression/obsessive compulsive disorder and art is undeniable and fascinating. But just as much as madness creates art, I believe art creates madness.

Madness can develop as a result of the artistic process. The pattern of art-making can be extremely damaging; It begins with obsessive thinking, rolling an idea around and around in order to solve a problem, followed by moments of sublime manic inspiration and the struggle of creation, and the hours and hours spent alone in the studio. The rush of installation and exhibitions and fanfare and the deep, dark pits of rejection and feelings of hopelessness and despair. This whole cycle of ups and downs repeats with the development of each new body of work and is very similar to the waves of manic-depression and schizophrenia.

When you choose to become an artist you open up your senses in a way that can't be undone. You take in everything seeking inspiration. But this can make very ordinary errands unbearable: a trip to the mall or the supermarket can be sensory overload, movie theaters become a torturous cacophany of coughing and popcorn-crunching. New York City requires lots of mental preparation in order to be able to handle the herds of people, the noise, and the fast pace. I believe that this hyper-sensitivity to surroundings is very similar to milder forms of autism. This occurred to me after reading, and identifying with, Temple Grandin's masterpiece "Thinking In Pictures" (HBO has just made a movie about her which, I've heard, is AMAZING and I look forward to watching it.)

Artists possess an enormous energy that needs to be directed carefully or the intensity of that power can make a person crazy. If not directed towards creation, all of that intensity and energy gets misplaced and an artist can drown in thought, or obsess excessively about other aspects of their life.

You never know what will cause a rush of inspiration; lectures, long car drives, movies cause my brain to speed up with the rhythm of the passing landscape or the lecturers' voice and I thrash around in my purse for a scrap of paper to scribble down my new grand idea or solution to a problem. I've gotten really good at writing in the dark. But God forbid you pull the car over or leave the lecture because the thoughts will vanish.

So as a result of these new findings, I'd like to add to the annals of psychology a new mental illness:

Artism = a type of madness caused by the artistic process. Similar to autism, where one's hyper-sensitive experience of the external world causes overwhelming shifts in one's internal state of being. In some extreme cases, the very demanding and extreme cycle of the artistic process can develop into manic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or schizophrenia. The only way to keep this madness from taking over seems to be the continuation of art-making.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Move Over Bruce Nauman!

Self Portrait as The Statue of Liberty.
Performed, of course, in New York City.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trends in Contemporary Art

Inspired by conversations with Lisi Stoessel.

I'm struck that in both the Gabriel Orozco and Roni Horn Exhibitions I saw last month in NYC, and the 2009 Venice Biennial this summer, it seems the focus of the art has shifted more towards an experience, and process, more so than on a finished piece or a specific statement/concept.

Could we finally be embracing the idea that art, like all other natural processes, is always in flux. And that we are spotlighting the process of creating and the artist's thought process instead of a finished masterpiece.

The world is in an extremely trasitional place right now. Its all unstable and art is helping all of us come to terms with that. We feel lost and confused right now and don't know exactly why. We dont have a big message we need to scream out in our work. We are not rebelling or fighting, we are just trying to survive. Art offers an escape. Art offers an opportunity to connect with something. Art offers us the opportunity to have control over something. The process of making art is enough right now, it is an opportunity to meditate, or to forget, or to get lost in the creation of something that restores the sensation of control.

I'm curious to see if the upcoming Whitney Biennial presents a similar shift in focus...