Thursday, October 30, 2008

Research v. Me-search

Georgia went to the Laurie Anderson lecture at Berkeley last week and told me about how she talked about the discrepancy between research and 'me-search' and her disdain for the latter. She also thumbed her nose at blog-writing because it falls under what she considers the irresponsible narcissism of me-search. I can't help but think that what she was talking about is pretty much exactly what I'm doing here. Do I care what she thinks? Not really. Am I interested? Well, yeah!

Today in class I asked Jordan if we could talk about the difference between these two things: me-search and research. I agree that me-search is connected to the male dominant tradition of art being the act of geniuses and I would feel repugnant to learn that I am carrying on the torch by feeding into that misconception. Art is hard work. You have to learn it and make it and learn how to make it work. On the flip side, I also agree think the way we understand art-making by female-identified artists is problematic. Female expression is usually read as being inherently emotional (read: hysterical) and I feel equally hesitant about being connected to this tradition too.

Obviously a big part of my disconnection is queer thing-- I feel neither expressively Male or Female and can't figure out how to dissect myself from these generalizations. Here's one problem-- how can I, as someone who is working with biography/history/memory/identity/ownership as major cornerstones of my work make art without the same gender politics that have shaped my biography/history/memory/identity/ownership? It's hard to know if I'm being smart and introspective or if I'm just being narcissistic and masturbatory. Why should people be interested in my memories?

Here's what I've resolved. The reason why my me-search is okay is because I feel like I was raised in a family/community/country that does not encourage women to vocalize from their experiences and to look inside themselves for answers. We're taught to look outside of ourselves-- into history, into experts into our partners. And who is to say that doing research on other peoples linear interpretations of the world is better source material than doing research on myself and the things in my life? I think that it's a powerful thing to be able to talk about myself, about my own observations, and about how I am figuring out my place in the world. Here's the thing-- sometimes I'll get an idea for a drawing that just feels right. It feels right to be making art about my family because we're a group of people who have been tied together by proximity and bloodlines. By learning about them I learn about how I was raised and why I am the way I am.

This is a good picture for today because it's a family, posed but not perfect, and behind them is a masterpiece in a gilt frame. I'm so interested in those six people, and for me the painting sort of symbolizes everything else outside of these six people in this room on this day. I'm under no false pretense that my art completes the world, that it makes it more beautiful, that it demonstrates how it should be-- none of these things. I think the world is pretty amazing and fine by me, excluding environmental/emotional/global political turmoil and trauma. I hope that what I'm doing here at school is recording my observations as a primary document-- it is and always has been about telling stories.

1 comment:

bnz said...

I think that we can always figure out how to justify what it is that we feel compelled to do. And while we are figuring that out, we will go on doing it.

I also think that all of my years of me-search have led me to some pretty strong convictions, have made my actions the most intentional, have given me empathy. I actually take issue with the privileging of Research over Me-search, because I think that it is the former -- this extremely colonialist idea of the possibility of objective study of what lies before you -- is what makes oppression possible. Let's just say, if Columbus, Vespuci, and Cortes had done a little more me-search on the European desire to exploit and kill, and a little less research on the Indies and the ocean, the world might look very different.

Write your damn blog, Mara, draw your pictures of empty picture frames. You will be a better person for it, I think.