Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the meaning of "my"

I got into a discussion yesterday with my art history professor Mary McInnes about the importance of the word "my" in contemporary art.  Her question was why this possessive adjective has such a significance in my work, and whether this significance takes the place of craft.  (For example, putting on display "All My Clothes", but not having actually made any of these clothes). Apparently I find more value in this possessive adjective- in the personal quality of objects I already own - than I do in making new objects with my hands.  Why is that?

I am working on a new concept right now that involves interviewing the people involved in my daily life in some way.  They are people that I don't necessarily know very well or interact with hardly at all, but that I rely on somehow.  For instance: my landlord, or my neighbor, my mailman, my doctor, my trash collector, my grocer, my gynecologist, my mechanic, my hairdresser, my roommate... These people who all play a role in my life, on a day-to-day basis or in a every-now-and-then dependency sort of way, like my doctor. But why the word "my"?  What if I didn't attach that word as a prefix?  What if I just labeled these people as "roommate" or "doctor" or "trash collector"?  Obviously it would be different, but different better or different worse or just different?  Is it a cop-out?

(Cop-out: an instance of avoiding a commitment or responsibility)

When Mary McInnes asked me what I thought of Marcel Duschamp, I said that I am grateful to him for what he has done, for me and other contemporary artists who rely on found objects in their work.  His work was groundbreaking, making possible what wouldn't otherwise have been possible in the art world (whole skyscrapers could be built on this ground). But still, so much value is placed on the handmade, to this day.  And the "what the hell is that?" and "I don't get it" attitude that now exists towards most contemporary art might just be all Duschamp's fault. But so much stuff already exists in this world, and one has to question why we would desire to make more...  I feel my role as an artist, personally, is to make people notice and question what's already existing and happening around them every day.  

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