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Friday, July 23, 2021

On Process

In the remarks immediately previous to this, I suppose I might have given the impression that I disapprove of "process" and that's not the case at all.

There is a continuum with something like an extremely rigorous process on one end, and a loose conceptual framework on the other, and I happen to think that most Good Art is made with something or other in that spectrum. I do not think that if you just blunder around trying to take "good photos" or "paint good paintings" that you're going to get anywhere interesting. You might make some very attractive objects, but the results of your effort is unlikely to produce that enlarging effect that we expect from Art.

That is to say, if you work without attempting to "say something" (construed very very broadly) then your work is unlikely to speak.

You could, in theory, shoot a whole lot of pictures without regard, and someone else could edit them into something. The edit would have to be done with something like a conceptual framework, or a process, and then the art-making would be the editing of the raw marble of "the archive." It happens that even this does not seem to work very well, most of the time, but I think it sometimes succeeds.

The difficulty arises thus: If you're going to make something good, I think you have to commit fully to your framework. You have to be all-in, you can't pussy-foot around tweaking it and softening it up and focus-grouping it. Commit, completely, or your work is inevitably going to be shit. At the same time, you have no reliable way to know a priori that your framework is going to yield anything meaningful.

So you have to leap, you have to take it on faith and just go for it, knowing that it might go nowhere.

And now you have the problem of working out how to tell whether it's working, and when to quit. Preparing to quit, and being fully committed, are opposites. You can't really do them both, but you better muddle your way through it somehow because that's how it works.

Generally, I have a certain reserved admiration for artists who are committed to some process, even when the results are pretty clearly going nowhere. They've got the commitment side down pat, and really, who am I to judge when it's time to let it go? There could be gold one hammer blow ahead.

Me, I'm pretty lazy and short-term. I don't really do much of anything that takes more than a couple months, because I lose interest. I could never do a multi-year project because, no matter how great the results, no matter how much meaning gets wrung out in the end, I'd simply stop caring after 6 months. I'd be on to a new concept, a new framework, a new process, that's fun and promising and either will or will not produce results in a few weeks.

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