What I Think About My Art.

I was rummaging through my old sheet music last night in search of something simple enough for me to play on my guitar. While doing this I came to the conclusion that eight years ago I was a damn good saxophonist. Up until high school marching band killed my love of musical performance [a love that had already waned since becoming involved in organized ensembles in 6th grade] I was starting to play some Coltrane and learning the art of jazz improvisation. Then I up and quit. The upshot of this is that all of my sheet music is far too complicated for me to play on my guitar. For now at least. But something as mundane as this did get me thinking. [surprise!]

I am in a constantly struggling with my art. I have a well of creativity and imagination that I can’t quite ever fully tap into. I feel like I am standing in front of a leaking dike with a bowl and just catching dribbles until I have enough to take a drink. I figure this might be the typical state for many artists, and the periods of rapid productivity and genius are when the levee breaks. Since all art [except for writing*] is, by its nature, ineffable I think my difficulty lies in the basic connection between translating the ineffable into something. Which is a pretty damn big problem. A fundamental one in fact. A problem that says, perhaps I shouldn’t be doing art at all if I cannot translate.

My problem is that I’m not very good at any of the art forms I’ve been trying. I’ve avoided drawing and painting because I don’t know how to do them and I don’t think my mind is arranged properly to deal with that type of visual artistry. Filmmaking is the closest visual art to my mindset because it is siginificantly easier to make things look the way I want them to. My writing breaks down because I always end up writing about writing about things. I want to tell stories, not be a writer or filmmaker. I want to be a poet, not write poems.

So I’m thinking that perhaps music is an art I can be good at. With music I don’t need to describe the ineffable because I can make it myself. This strikes me as the reverse of what I have just talked about. Instead of interpreting that which cannot be fully interpreted, if I play good music I can lead myself and others to a place where things cannot and do not need to be interpreted. Because being there is enough.

17 thoughts on “What I Think About My Art.

  1. Re filmmaking and art. It seems from your entry that you see visual art as traditional object based art – painting, drawing, sculpture. Since you have an interest in filmmaking, I would suggest looking into vidio and video installation art. Specific artists to look into include Bill Viola, Matthew Barney, and Gary Hill. Also – contemporary art expeditions such as Documenta and the Venice Bienalle have tons of video. All of these can be found on the web, if you feel like surfing at work ;).

  2. Yeah, when I say visual art I mean traditional object based stuff. I think of filmmaking as a visual art, but a different sort of viz art. I am used to thinking about film from the spectator standpoint of sitting in a theater, et cetera, not as installations in galleries or museums. The times I have seen video installations I thought they were pretty stupid. Then again, I probably just saw crappy ones made by people who didn’t have training in that kind of stuff. I’m talking bad performan art like POV video of a man walking in a circle for 6 hours or jumping into a pool 100 times in a row.

  3. http://www.billviola.com/pastexhibitions.htm

    He is my greatest inspiration, along with David Lynch. Most of Viola’s work centers on birth, life, death, rebirth and the cyclical nature of the universe.

    I would say you probably have not been exposed to the right kind of installations. It really is the prevalent art form now – transforming an entire space instead of creating an object.

    Those two exhibitions I mentioned are the biggest contemporary art exhibitions in the (western) world currently. They pick artists from all over the world and it is said to be representative of future art trends. Anyways – the vast majority of works in the last Documenta (I saw it via my professor’s bootleg video) were video installations of some kind.

    So I guess my point is that they really run the whole range – just like you can have crappy dentist office paintings and abstract expressionism and renaissance works.

  4. how does poetry or writing have any more access to the ineffable than music or painting?

    I see music and painting as ineffable [i’m already tired of using this word] forms of art. They attempt to pick themselves up by their bootstraps when they attempt to interpret the unsayable. I think if these forms work best when they try to take someone to where the unsayable ‘lives.’

    Writing I see as the opposite process, bringing the unsayable to someplace where it can be or almost can be said. Writing has more access because it works in relation to the ineffable instead of as a form of the ineffable… …?

    and i’m not sure what you mean by “i want to be a poet, not write poems.”

    I think it takes more to be a poet than just writing poems, or just writing good poems. I’m thinking of it in terms of the Greek root poiein, to create. Also, I don’t think the act of writing a poem should be the focus. [I’m not saying I think it is, just that I don’t think it should be] The focus should be on having the right mindset for creation.

  5. REBUTTAL =) :

    and i’m not sure what you mean by “i want to be a poet, not write poems.”

    i think the focus should be on the poem, not the poet OR the act of writing. ultimately the poem is the product of the creation… i am also bothered by the idea of “the poet.” it implies that there’s a certain weightiness put on the INDIVIDUAL instead of the ART, as though it’s some silly title to tout around and show off.


    how does poetry or writing have any more access to the ineffable than music or painting?

    i would argue that not ALL painting and music is attempting to interpret the unsayable. just in the same way that there’s PLENTY of poems that ARE trying to interpret the unsayable.

    as for “Writing I see as the opposite process, bringing the unsayable to someplace where it can be or almost can be said,” i think one could easily argue that this is the same sorta goal of many songs and/or artwork.

  6. I agree with Lauren about titles.

    But then, isn’t that what our society is about? When you meet someone new, often one of the first questions is “what do you do?” I’m an artist, I’m a wwriter, I’m a musician, I’m a designer. There’s a tendency to define yourself by your profession and give yourself a self imposed title.

  7. yeah, agreed. and i don’t think there’s anything really wrong with this. i think i’m just more cynical towards it when it comes to writers, b/c MANY (not all) tend to have big egos B/C they’re “poets” or “writers” (*nose in air*), when really, if you really ARE a poet or writer, it shouldn’t be so much about the title as it is about the work…

  8. Skipping *all* the commentary, I’m going to return to the original post. suck it.
    No, that’s not my reply.
    My comment would be this: I don’t if, so much, you are struggling with *art*, but technique. As someone who is severely lacking in technique, but overflowing with creative juices, I can definitely understand your dilemma. You have the mojo running and the need/want to create, it just seems that you’re discouraged about your inability to translate from your brain to the end medium. My opinion would be that music isn’t actually any easier than filmmaking or poetry. I mean, you’re taking classes and that is going to help bridge the gap you have. But, really, you could do that with any of the outlets you chase after. Music might just seem easier because you know it and you’re continuing to learn it. I would guess, if you were to devote the same time into other aspects, it would make the results that much more achievable.
    There, and I did not use the word “ineffable” even once.

  9. …i think the focus should be on the poem…

    i agree with you. however, since this entry is focused on me trying to figure out what sort of mindset i need to be in to be a poet/creator i am coming at it from that standpoint.

    just in the same way that there’s PLENTY of poems that ARE trying to interpret the unsayable.

    i would argue that ALL writing is an attempt to interpret the unsayable.

  10. I am using the definition of ineffable as ‘unable to be spoken.’ which is why i say that art and music are ineffable by nature.

    um, music is at least PARTIALLY-spoken (some of it at least), no? i mean, a LOT of music has “spoken words” in it.

    I just have this feeling that there is a fundamental difference in the way, the process, that an idea to be written or an idea to be filmed becomes art compared to the way that and idea to be painted or played becomes art.

    agreed. but i’d also argue that there’s a difference between the way that an idea comes to be written and the way that an idea comes to be filmed. and there’s a fundamental difference between the way that an idea comes to be painted and the way an idea comes to be played. an on and on. i think it’s more a matter of the difference in MEDIUMS than it is a difference in “ineffabilities.”

  11. a LOT of music has “spoken words” in it.

    ok, yeah. my bad. i’ve been just thinking about music played on instruments, nothing vocal.

  12. the only thing that i really disagree with you on is that certain types of arts can be lumped together b/c of their “ineffableness.” i think each of the mediums you mention differs from every other medium mentioned, sometimes in drastic ways–but it doesn’t mean that they don’t necessarily seek out the same kinds of goals. they just differ in HOW they seek them out…

  13. alright. i’ll argue since no one else is yet:

    how does poetry or writing have any more access to the ineffable than music or painting?

    and i’m not sure what you mean by “i want to be a poet, not write poems.”

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