Friday, November 15, 2013

What If Nothing Was Ever New

Roland Barthes: neither of us is in control of what we've written.

Today, I am gripped by the joy that nothing is new. Ecstatic waves of relief slam against my body as I sink into the sea of realization: Barthes et al. were right. Prior to reading mounds of critical theory with differing levels of interest, I had wandered in the naive way of an unscholarly "maker of things". I had some notion that I was creating artworks, writing ideas, and living my life in a fairly original way. What a terrifying burden that was to carry. I realize that so very many of the things I make or do have innumerable outside influences directing their creation. It is as if some unseen cultural puppet master guides any generative process with which I engage. It is impossible to avoid being a product of the various cultures and experiences that I have encountered throughout my life - all my art is a testament to this truth.

Perhaps every idea is, to some extent, a recycled idea.

I wish I was being sarcastic, in a romantic and modernist way, but I'm not. It is actually a great relief to realize that the zealous efforts I could briefly sustain to stay on what I thought was the surface of the ocean of ideas was in fact only bringing me to a pool of stagnant air in some cave. There is no "surface" so to speak. I don't have to be angry that I don't have some fantastic oeuvre to show for my brief bursts of energy. It may be more likely that there is some great gift to society in the non-making. I am not contributing to material consumption in this space. I am not adding to your ever-growing collection of tchotchkies. Perhaps, though, I am adding to your idea of ideas. Of course, the beauty in this is I am by no means a trailblazer on this path. There is a mountain of digital musings about the loss of/lack of ever having been original ideas. It's really quite liberating, once you start swimming in it.

Hiroshi Sugimoto knows where I swim.

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