What follows was written a week and a half ago, a moment of selfish self-reflection perhaps, I just hope it is not self-pity since that is not my intention. I kept it my drafts until now since I wanted to sleep on it, make sure it was not just a self-interested brain fart. But I think it has something to do with ideas around learning and teaching.
Being an academic was never a goal, I just kind of fell into it as opportunities presented themselves. I truly love this work and I gladly accept the responsibilities that come with it. Like any system, it is good to look at it critically and to consider if there is not a better, more inspiring, way to do the job. I am an artist, it is a natural tendency.
I don’t do things to for a paycheque or to provide another line for my curriculum vitae, I do things because they look interesting, because they will stimulate something new, because they take me outside of my comfort zone, because somehow they will help me grow, because I want to be part of things. My main goal in life is to grow, be better (whatever that can mean) than I was the previous day. Systems can be like that too, they can be open, invite a little chaos to shake things up etc. But systems are resistant. Like the sculptor dealing with material reality one needs to find the shape in the form and gradually pull it out. Its an old school vision of sculpture, but it is enduring.
I have had the most full and productive days of art making since finishing grad school (that would be 01991 for those with a time machine) . For the first time since I can remember I got up, made shit, ate,, made more shit, ate a bit more, made more shit until I could make shit no more. What is it about doing the academic thing that tears your work away from you? After all, it is your work that brought you here. I am pretty sure many academics feel that way to some degree. Don’t get me wrong, the job comes with so many privileges and challenges that it is totally worth it. BUT. There is a point where one gets wrapped up in the paycheque, the “simulated-image-of-virtual-power”, the ass kissing, ethics bending, wrong absolving, other cheek turning…. anyway, one comes to forget who they are, what their gut tells them is right.
This opportunity has made me come to full realization of how much of my self I have been repressing; academia in the university-of-today’s sense with all the committees, reports and side projects tends to stymie one’s imagination (this starts at the MFA). “Fit in or fuck off” is the rule of thumb, even in the geek world. It takes an experience like the one I am having now (and other stuff I won’t get into right now) to get over all of that and realize that one is here because they are inherently qualified (not just academically) to inspire and to build.
There is only one single rule: Respect the Imagination.
This does not mean agree with or disagree with; it means being fully comfortable with your own creativity and imagination so that you can help others imaginations flourish. PERIOD. After all, most of what I teach in terms of the practicalities of practice is downloadable these days. So what is it that I do teach? Hopefully what that is, is about respecting imagination, realizing potential, thinking in funky ways and having an openness to all things that help ones creativity grow, the interweb, as great as it is, does not do this stuff very well.
I cannot cite a paper or provide a spreadsheet of data to prove it; feeling it is just not good enough in today’s knowledge economy. We move through a world of structures and architectures that need to be negotiated, this is to be expected, but we can also change this. We can take hinges off doors, put the welder next to the Charles Brand press, hack PhotoShop; so lets do it. Lets build something new, something open where there is no longer high art and low art (might not even be art anymore for all I know), the point is to explore, experiment and make stuff. Grow.