I have no idea what art is and I don’t know if I’m making art or not. I’m not sure I care.
Sometimes I think it must be my academia-addled brain that causes my spirit to leave my body while I am cooking or painting or crocheting or sewing and think, “is this art? Am I doing art right now?” I think most people successfully get though their day without having a crisis but maybe the delusion that the tasks we’re preforming have deep meaning and that we must constantly vigilantly be assigning them those meaning is more wide spread than I previously believe. Despite the fact that I only have a BA, which has gotten me some flack at very fancy parties in my life, I do accidentally tend to view a lot of things in this world through research and academic style engagement which is probably the root cause of this issue but I worry that I do that I have tried to legitimize my life though a lens of academic thought, especially in regards to art.
Academia especially, but society in general, has such narrow conceptions of art and we hold it in a paradoxical amount of high regard since we don’t pay the people who make art very much and we often don’t value art unless someone puts a price tag on it for us. I know those are the functions of art in a capitalistic system but watching people make AI art made from scraping human art down to the bone without compensation has been an interesting turn of events in this world. If anything gets me to value my creations, my little lopsided blankets, my messy doodles, and my slightly out focus food photography as real art such in my mind, it would not be easily produced as AI art (at least not yet).
Aside from spiritual matters of separating human from machine, (though art is a spiritual matter) this is probably one of the more contentious questions in this world. I mean what is art? It’s too big and too complex and too much for any one person to contend with. A lifetime of ink spilled about its form and its meaning and its inclusions an exclusions but the truth is I rarely view anything I’ve made as art because the things I make feel impermanent, childish, and brutish and somehow I’ve decided that art must be something formalized, perfect, and meaningful in a way that is apparent to other people. Even though I have been inside a gallery looking at the ugliest picture of my life and had to, angrily concede it as art since someone else had already decided it was. On the other hand, most of the things that humans do can probably classified as art if the context is changed so I try not to judge bad paintings and installations that make me cringe inside too hard.
This chain of thought, by accident, causes me to dig into something that has always bothered me, which is people who say just they’re “just not creative” or that they “can’t make art”. I don’t think of myself as a particularly creative person in the same way that I don’t think of myself as introverted. I think other people could apply these words to me but in the end, it isn’t that important to shove myself into any of those specific boxes especially because a lot of them are about what you are doing at any given moment, rather than some innate essence of self. Instead, when I am doing most things and living my life, I am just trying to get my ideas outside of my body in a way that transmits them. I hope that these ideas don’t just explode into nonsense the second they leave my mind and if that transference of ideas happens in yarn, in acrylic, or in words, well that’s just a tunnel that the thoughts can travel through. That’s the messy puddle we call a medium. I assume because I’m trying to call a ghost into a room before it disappears forever.
Right now I’m working on a fairly large scale project that I have wanted to do for a few years and it turns out, it will also “not” be art. I don’t really have the background and skill to produce the thing I want to produce and the further I get into the project, the more glaringly apparent that becomes and yet it’s been almost a month and I’m still pressing on. I want to finish it, eventually, and maybe if there’s time I will do it again better. I will figure it out little by little and just hope that each iteration brings me closer to something actually good, to “real art”.
I wouldn’t suggest, in the abstract, that people do art like me. They shouldn’t wake up one morning possessed by an image they saw on Tumblr five days ago and decide that it’s worth scrolling through 2000 posts to find it then spend 4 months getting yarn shipped from Denmark to make your own pattern, learn how to make granny squares, learn how to sew the whole thing together while you cry on the floor because this was supposed to take 2 hours and you’re 26 hours into it to end up with a item that is, if we are very honest with ourselves, pretty bad. While I recognize that might actually be the only way to make art, I would still say that if at all possible, you should avoid it. You should find a way to skip the line and just get down to making art in some other, better way. Some way not like me.
It’s not that the blanket I made isn’t art but it’s not good art and I think maybe we should strive, even just a little, to make good at. At least the best art we can make. I don’t think art is actually better than other things but probably it’s worth trying to do most things as good as we can just as I can acknowledge that creating things is just something we all do even if we don’t need to put it on a pillar and say that we have done art. Like how people invent games and ways to amuse themselves but we all still understand the difference between a pick up game and a professional one, both are good and both have value but we wouldn’t confuse the two functions.
I don’t think it matters if you’re making art or not. It would be great if we all made things that were perfect and well crafted and well through through but at the end of the day most of the things we make, art or not, are as fallible and lumpy as humans are and that’s fine. There is a kind of art in the process of doing things we’re good at as much as there is art in the finished project of a craft or book. It would be amazing if we all woke up and understood our calling and perfected one art at least per person but I don’t think that’s a real thing. Even high level, beloved artists don’t think their art is the best or otherwise simply often produce things that aren’t very good.
I think if you want to do something and it’s reasonable to do it without hurting anyone, you should. And maybe that’s art. The art of trying to do things. The art of impulse. The art you do. Either way, I hope you find a way to do things that you think are art or could be art and I hope they bring you a real sense of joy. Even if they aren’t true “art.”
(Sorry if this was a little less cohesive and a little more ramble than usual but I’m working on tying to just get some things out into the world again).