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More writing by Elizabeth Challinor here
I keep forgetting that weeks aren’t just Monday-Friday, and that Saturday and Sunday’s are available days to do admin on. I usually try and not do work on the weekends, but then when you’re stuck in the house with nothing to do (and getting a bit bored of knitting the same jumper), sometimes it’s nice to feel a bit productive. Weekends in lockdown are weird cos you feel guilty for not doing anything, but then you can’t do anything cos of all the restrictions. Like especially cos I worked in a bar, weekends were just a no go for me. I literally had to cut my arm off and pray to Cher just to get a Saturday night off work, so having all these weekends off and not being able to actually go out or do anything remotely enjoyable is just a bit shit.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own practise lately. I keep calling myself an artist, but I haven’t actually made a new piece of work in a couple of years now. And like every time I’ve done an exhibition or had my work featured somewhere, it’s always old work that I don’t feel Like I personally relate with anymore? (Or I’ve just lost interest in that whole body of work/area of research). I think I put too much pressure on myself to try and sustain my practise after uni and got a bit scared????? But then like I think it’s important to acknowledge that artists are allowed to take breaks from their practise. (This totally looks like I’m trying to justify me just being lazy) But like we don’t always have to be churning work out? Sometimes I feel like if you call yourself an artist, there’s an expectation that you must always be seen to be doing ~something~ like you always have to be busy or your title will wither away and you’ll get kicked out of “the art world”. But I think cos I’m always speaking to artists about their work and learning about creative projects, I get a bit of fomo cos I don’t really do that anymore? But how do you pick up a stagnant art practise, that you were never really 100% convinced of anyway?
For a long time I made work about (and was slightly obsessed with) “nothingness”* and invisibility. Empty, dark rooms with a lot of UV strobe lights and sentences written in invisible paint to make it look like there was something there despite there being nothing tangible in the space. I classed the whole thing off as “experiences” rather than installations, and the whole thing was to stress people out over not being able to read a sentence in one go cos of the constant flashing lights. But it was like a whole entire room with the walls filled floor to ceiling with text. It was a LOT to take in, quite overwhelming. And they’d take weeks to make too, but it’d look sick in the end and the responses were always so interesting. (Funny but not funny, my brother has epilepsy and he came to give me a hand installing something once and then saw the epilepsy warning and was like “lol Liz are you messin” so I literally had to stop the flashing just so he could help me). But it’s all well and good making this kind of work when you’re in uni and have all the time in the world to dedicate to making your work, and access to space and facilties, but it just was feasible to be able to continue making this kind of work. How are you supposed to make something that takes 2 weeks(???) to install when you work full time and have general life responsibilities,it just feels so unrealistic to try and devote time to being an artist?
- ”nothingness” – I don’t know if this is actually a real word but I used to use it a lot in relation to just complete nothing, like total emptiness and like lack of tangibility? I think I managed to mean that if you can touch something then it’s real/it exists, and if you can’t then it doesn’t. I can’t remember what my actual definition was.
Like you’re never really warned about how challenging it can be to try and manage a practise alongside everything else? Like we were constantly told that the best thing to do certain you graduate and try and become an “artist” is to just continue making work and actually stick at that, you’re never really prepared for the big shift of being a student and only focusing on your work, to trying to find lil bits of time every now and then to dedicate to actually making or working on something. I think the pressure to be constantly seen as if you’re doing something really increases this sense of like creative guilt? You feel like you need to be constantly apologising for not being as proactive about your practise, but who to? No ones really gonna shout at me if I haven’t made any new work in a while, it’s not gonna cause any real harm or anything.
I think constantly talking to people about their work and exhibitions and stuff really helps to put my own practise into perspective, and sort of helped me realise how I feel about my own work. I’ve never really labelled myself as an artist or curator or anything, more of an occasional/sporadic creative, but I think that’s okay? Like just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you have to dedicate your whole life to it. I think because the creative industry (need a better phrase/term for this) is so demanding and competitive, it feels as though once you’re in it, that’s it for life. Like a kinda exclusive membership club that once you’re allowed accessed, you’re not allowed to leave. But I don’t think it should make us feel like we’re not allowed to take a break from being an artist, or dip our toes into other pools and explore other avenues for a bit. Like especially reading through this week’s theme. “Who are the artists?” Am I the artists? Do I actually want to be an artist? I think I’m just not a fan of the whole labelling thing.
Sometimes I do wish I’d gone down a route that would’ve gave me a more certain/secure career, yeno one where you know what job you’re working towards. And you can just work, make money and live your life quite easily.
So I think this is all just the result of this month’s existential crisis. I OFFICIALLY quit my bar job (lol) after 2yrs of hating work and not having a social life, and I’m having one of those weeks where you’re just questioning every single decision you’ve ever made. All the uncertainty of the pandemic and lockdowns and everything really doesn’t help.
Today I found out that I can change the font on google docs if I’m typing on my phone. Fully a revaluation.