I have of late been spending much more time outside and off devices. As a Canadian, spring not only comes as a great relief to the months of bone chilling cold and snow but also a re-awakening to all things that are outside one’s house. Yesterday I found the cork from a champagne bottle that rocketed across my property on New Year’s Eve and into the snow where it was ensconced for the last three months. I am now finally able to assess how we, and by we I mean myself and the outdoor part of my home have survived the winter.
Other than moles that have rampaged across the property in some kind of engineering effort that after fifteen years I still don’t understand, everything looks like it made it. With spring comes rain, flowers, bugs and more exhibiting and the doing of things so that we can make it through next winter. I don’t love spring though. I wish I did, I wish I was someone who looked at the freshly growing world and thought, wow what a beautiful place the Earth is. While I do love the Earth and its many, many surprising and wonderous things, spring for me isn’t one of them.
I am unfortunately one of those Gothic miserables who sees the perpetuation of life as something that is possibly horrifying and ultimately psychically troubling. You know that final scene in Brian de Palma’s Carrie, when her hand punches through the pretty grave and grabs her friend? I kinda’ feel like that when I begin to see flowers grow. I have never been someone who has grown things. In fact if you added it up, I would say I buried more things than brought them into life. Oddly none of this makes me depressed, if anything I find it inspiring. I always assumed this was the artist in me.
In first year university I read The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Carey. It isn’t a good idea for young people to read this book:
“B-but, Mr Jimson, I w-want to be an artist.’
‘Of course you do,’ I said, ‘everybody does once. But they get over it, thank God, like the measles and the chickenpox. Go home and go to bed and take some hot lemonade and put on three blankets and sweat it out.’
‘But Mr J-Jimson, there must be artists.’
‘Yes, and lunatics and lepers, but why go and live in an asylum before you’re sent for? If you find life a bit dull at home,’ I said, ‘and want to amuse yourself, put a stick of dynamite in the kitchen fire, or shoot a policeman. Volunteer for a test pilot, or dive off Tower Bridge with five bob’s worth of roman candles in each pocket. You’d get twice the fun at about one-tenth of the risk.”
Drawn to the complete anarchy in this book I decided that I would continue a ridiculous path toward self destruction as an artist regardless of how successful I might become. Life intervened and now I am paying bills and supporting a career, acting professional, making deadlines and eating well. What the hell? I think I hate myself.
Worse still my ‘community’ or the ‘contemporary art world’ has become the most rigid and dreadful place. Like a royal court from medieval times, I feel as though privilege is only afforded to those who have the appropriate credentials (MFA, friends from school now curators and dealers, follow trends carefully, rich person in background) and who play along, not rocking the boat which can include outrageous personal behaviour but not if it questions the juggernaut of capitalism and wealth. Yes, definitely have a Tumblr account with various videos of you engaging in group sex, beautifully shot, technically brilliant but don’t ever question; sponsorship of a gallery, an arts council’s refusal to take income into account, fossil fuel’s role in the arts, your municipality’s planning decisions and requests for creativity without payment. My only salvation is the growing army of artist activists who are standing up to this draconian age.
It’s like all the wrong people are in charge. How to carry on? I could unearth those original feelings of absurdity, now buried deep beneath the years of middle aged outrage and grow a sublime acceptance of how utterly nonsensical life can be. My misunderstanding about spring has perhaps been that I think I’ll be pulled under by its insouciance. What I should really strive for is: take life on as one would in a Looney Tunes cartoon, in spite of life’s idiocy, love the surreal and when needed use a comical sound affect.
Image from a captured still on You Tube