Self-Portrait: It's About the Work (2008)

PhotoCollage/ Self Portrait

From le New York Times on Diane Arbus and the Met:

Ever since burning my YouTube channel to the ground, I've been on this terrifying journey that has to do with the scorched earth policy called what to do next. It's scary out there. Especially when there's no blueprint, no patriarchal figure pointing the sacred way; you're forced to confront the art you make head-on in a dialogue, sometimes a shouting match, that wants to push and shove and turn into nuclear waste the meaningless, the rituals, the ephemeral -- BURNED out of the way. I typically burn down the old to find the new. I don't know how else to do it. I would burn publishing itself down to the smoldering ground if I could. And have had huge bonfires fueled by dozens of book manuscripts. Just to find my way to something new I have ...

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PhotoCollage/ Self Portrait

From le New York Times on Diane Arbus and the Met:

Ever since burning my YouTube channel to the ground, I've been on this terrifying journey that has to do with the scorched earth policy called what to do next. It's scary out there. Especially when there's no blueprint, no patriarchal figure pointing the sacred way; you're forced to confront the art you make head-on in a dialogue, sometimes a shouting match, that wants to push and shove and turn into nuclear waste the meaningless, the rituals, the ephemeral -- BURNED out of the way. I typically burn down the old to find the new. I don't know how else to do it. I would burn publishing itself down to the smoldering ground if I could. And have had huge bonfires fueled by dozens of book manuscripts. Just to find my way to something new I have not done before. The Problem with Art is that it's so easy to assume it's all been done before because so much of it has been done to death. For me, the very definition of genre means that this is a collection of the same old stuff done until we all are dust. I'm not dust yet. I do not believe it's all been done before. It's simply easy to assume that because our lives and our ears and our eyes are so inundated with repetition that clobbers us every time we turn around. It's this very repetition that gets interpreted as alienation in contemporary culture. Nothing seems new or original. I can't find what I seek in publishing. The whole thing seems like a temple ritual of manners and class and arrogance. I couldn't find what I seek at YouTube. To experiment there only invites ridicule and hatred. I can't find what I seek with established artists. They're only interested in museums, galleries, money, and status. I can't find what I seek anywhere near Tinseltown. It's only a small community of lawyers invested in protectionism. NONE of these places and none of these players has for a single moment even remotely engaged my imagination. Nor have any of the parasites -- the agents and the editors and the middle-vultures -- that so permeate this universe. I do not apologize for an imagination. I do not apologize period. My imagination SCREAMS inside of me to be ENGAGED. People are constantly lecturing me from on-high or maybe they're simply high again about originality and authenticity. How sublime. It just makes me worse. Literally. I GRAB my cameras and I RUN. I had to throw away my wide angle lens because the ghost of Diane Arbus is snarling in the gutter and she's not amused. Anymore than Plath or Sexton are amused by artistic suicide. Been there. Done that. I do not for a single moment believe that any of the three of them is dead. I don't want to be any of them. Here's what I want: I want to know to what extent Art is an accident. Please don't tell me that it comes with hard work and focus. I KNOW that. I'm out there photographing everything around me. My junkie friends. My painter friends. My friends giving birth. My friends in agony. My dying friends. My crazy friends. My friends at joy. The ocean. The sky that day. My lovers and my enemies. Sex. Sex. Sex. I look at Arbus' work and behind the facades of personality and artifice I wonder, too, about what she cared for. There's a passion that runs through her work that feels sharp as razor blades. You're seeing them, her subjects, but you're seeing her, too, or at least her take on how the edges we live on look back at us. If I take a thousand photographs MAYBE (if I'm lucky that day) one works. It's an accident. I can't say: I intended to go out and get exactly what I got. How absurd. I do wonder about how the accidental worked for Arbus. The trick is that you have to be there for anything to work or happen whatsoever and you have to be able to learn from it. You have to be able to stare at the thing and imagine what to do with it. Mapplethorpe and his rectal whip. So I literally take nine thousand images and blend them into three Quicktime tracks transposed for a three minute video AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. And I do find myself asking myself what Arbus would have thought of this. Yesterday I was working on the theme of riding horses naked in the fountains of Versailles and flashed onto Arbus with the thought that I could put an apple in a nude woman's mouth and have her ride those very brass horses and did. It was cold. The nude woman kept dropping the apple so I finally went with a bridle and an apple. We managed escape before we were arrested. That is the edge I usually negotiate: MANAGE ESCAPE, WONDER BOY, BEFORE YOU ARE ARRESTED. Getting out of Dodge is what I do and often while doing it I wonder about Arbus and I do wonder not just about the accidental (or exploiting it) but to what extent the people she took on as her subjects also represented her own way of leaving behind the ordinariness of Dodge by her pointing out not the twistedness of her milieu but OUR twistedness of US. I don't want just any old originality. I want THAT kind of originality. So I took that photo shoot's film into the darkroom and spent the night twisting the breasts of the nude woman in the fountain riding the horses with the apple and bridle in her mouth around so they would be backwards and said: Diane, honey, meet Pablo. I will probably just burn the whole thing because once I am done with it I am bored with it and need to do something else. I often wonder if it's the Diane Arbus who interests us or is it the fact that such works gets play time at the Met. Or is it the le work. Or is our real interest in how the next curator adapts it for the Internet. We lose sight of the work in our quest for the repetitions that orient us as to where we are, who we are, how we are, and why we exist at all. Because we need to be constantly reminded of these things -- and our place -- that justifies our existence. Personally, I honestly don't think any of us are real. I sincerely believe we are nothing more than the sound of insects buried deep inside a tree. Arbus' body of work goes straight to the heart of what is identity like nobody's business. I have assumed a new persona. I won't tell you his name (he could even be a she). I won't tell you where the work is at because you don't need to know that. What interests me about this guy (you may call him she or you may call him her, it doesn't MATTER) is that he's an artist who under no circumstances will sign his work. It's not about the artist. It's not about the museum. It's not about the Internet. It's not about the box office. It's not about the camera or the film. It's not about the awards celebration. All of these things can be and should be burned to the ground. A scorched earth is a good earth. Burn it all. Stop boring me. It's not about the Met. The Medium is not even the message. It's just the messenger and you can shoot him. Or not. Dust is not enough and either is death. What I tell the adolescents who live with HIV/AIDS that I teach Art to is this: It's about the work.

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