Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reticence, Respect, Recognition and Rancidness

I've been thinking a lot lately about goals and what we would like to achieve in the next few years. I've more recently consciously avoided such things as I'm inevitably disappointed. As an example, I set myself a suite of ideals around the end of 2007, only two* of which have eventuated in the last four years and all the others (some grandiose, others 'simple') are significantly missing from my 'calculations'. This does have the effect of irritating almost all self-doubts.

It could be that my expectations are too high and/or I'm (often wildly) mistaken in my assumptions about (other) human behavior. Either which way I've been gauging the various 'sorts' of achievements and have tried to balance them against the logistical practicalities of simply 'getting on with it'.

A simple example is 'awards' vs 'funding'. An award is - supposedly at least - given out to celebrate the merits of a particular artwork whereas a grant is an acknowledgement of an artist's general ability and professional aptitude to bring a project to fruition within certain parameters.

That last point is key. Almost all grants are very much outcomes-driven. In some forms, practices are also skewed to accommodate certain 'KPIs' - community engagement, cultural sensitivity, etc - that might not be integral to a 'source' practice.

Equally awards can distort a practice as work is often produced that is larger and more bombastic to garner attention or to fit - for want of a better word - a venue's quirks. ie. high ceilings, big open spaces, conditions placed on entries, etc.

At the moment, I'm considering opting out of both these cycles as they are expensive on multiple levels.

In a similar vein, all sales - should they eventuate - aren't created equally. A piece going into a collection (and potentially into storage) is inevitably valued more than a 'civilian' purchase. The later is very much about intimacy and engagement where the former is very much about respect or that dreaded term: 'importance'.

I can count on one hand - with room to move - the number of 'civilians' who have purchased my work in 17 years of 'practicing'. I've been lucky enough to sell a bit of work to various collections and their ilk but oddly enough find the lack of a personal audience vexing.

How work is shown is also an interesting balancing act. ie. personally being curated into a show is valued more than a commercial show which is in turn valued more than an ARI or civil/community space with 'pay-to-play' venues tailing the field.

Lately the 2nd and 3rd spots are getting blurred, in my mind at least. Whilst it almost certainly is jadedness, I'm finding myself less and less interested in seeking some form of commercial 'success'.

Ultimately - perhaps jadedness speaking again - even sales in general aren't that important.

So... what then IS important to me?

There is inevitably an ego component in the seeking of recognition which, by it's very nature, involves getting on the various carousels.

The best term I have managed to find - even if it's loaded in all sorts of wrong ways - is 'respect'.

It's suitably abstract - ie. how should that manifest? - but it has become more and more evident in a few situations over the years when I couldn't describe someone's behaviour as anything else than 'disrespectful'. ie. ideally I would wish them to behave the diametric opposite of how they did.

I don't think my - as other's - expectations are that high when it comes to professional practice from ALL segments of the industry.

Anyway... banging my head against a wall for no particular reason, not least of which some magical, tangible outcome. Frustrated and really need to get away from this computer.

* Exhibit interstate and sell work into a 'major' collection.

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