Our minds automatically read meaning into what we perceive. We have a need to “make sense” of everything and in doing so apply culturally constructed semantics to things where they do not necessarily need to be. The way we look at things is always through a lens that filters and heavily processes our experiences. My job is to try to see without those filters and to offer my audience a similar experience.
I read a review of a sculpture written by a philistine that asked “why do artists always have some stupid pretentious meaning to the things they make? Why can’t they make things that are just cool stuff that I can have?’ (Isn’t like saying ‘why watch a movie when I can just put the poster on my wall?”)
An artist’s job, like that of a scientist or a spiritual leader is to devote their life to understanding things from a particular point of view and then to offer this understanding to their community in a way they can understand without having to do all the research themselves. The information presented may be used by the public to promote innovation, social or personal development.
As a conceptual artist I have devoted my life to having and studying experiences outside of the normal consumer lifestyle with its mass produced culture and mass produced values. My job is to seek truths outside of the common zeitgeist, to notice or invent nontraditional perspectives and to facilitate an experience for my viewers to view their own world from a different perspective. My goal in doing this is to show people the walls and boundaries of their perception and to point out the window. To give them freedom through understanding their bondage. I am not an activist, my work does not preach that the common point of view is wrong, but that it is not the only point of view. I want to give people the key to their cages and let them chose if they want to stay or go. These boundaries are always abstract, and cannot be expressed completely just by writing a paper, sometimes the message is a process that produces an object or is itself an object absolutely not connected to consumerism. I am not trying to sell you anything. This is often a very difficult idea for the public to understand.
Often people see pictures of interesting things on the internet and their immediate response is “WANT” they perceive living creatures as commodities and objects to hoard away, to exude power over. To dominate. To own. As if there are millions of these creatures all the same and just available to be had. They do not see the beauty of the individual creature or moment that the image was taken or created because in a mass produced culture the individual is obscured, even one’s own individuality is lost. And the only value is commercial value.
This mass produced culture has laid a path that many people follow. It dictates what they wear, how they talk, how they treat each other, what their goals and dreams are, how they perceive themselves. What kind of things they WANT. It makes rules about who and what people enjoy, when and how they live their lives and how they should feel about the events in it. It creates an ideal. But that ideal is simply a cultural construct.
In life there is no right way. You can go anyway. There are no rules. I can attest to the wonderful feeling of stepping off the path and using one’s faculties to actually navigate reality instead of following the trail laid out. To actually looking at ones surroundings and enjoying the details, noticing how things work and finding connections. Life is not a game with a winner, it is a freedom. A platform where anything can happen, where we make it up as we go. And we can feel however we want to. The most important thing to remember, and it is often forgotten, is that we have ultimate freedom in our minds. That we can dream and challenge and disagree and invent all we like, but for some reason many people prefer to play bejuled. To switch off their minds because they have not learned to use them. They have not exercised their minds or trained them to be free and interested in reality.
My job is to ask questions and to avoid the easy, mass produced answers. To dodge the ‘who cares’ attitudes and really look and really listen – trying to experience life both from a point of view void of stale prejudices, as a child does, and also through a lens of intellectual study. To test established thinking methodologies in new contexts. To offer what I find back to the public in a language that they can understand, and use, hoping that my ideas might last and evolve and inspire new thought.
I try to go to new and traditional places where humans are coming close to finding out who we are and what is really going on. Looking at what biologist are looking at and what shamen are looking at seems to me to be a place where I might find real experiences, pure and clean of the hateful, dismissive, diseased cultural constructs I am trying to avoid. Yes, looking at reality this way will still involve filters. Both scientific and spiritual experiences will likely fit into their institutional cultures with their own boundaries, rules, ulterior motives, red herrings and misconceptions, just as my own back ground and training as a fine artist will. I feel that my training as an artists, beyond giving me the vocabulary to justify my work “with some pretentious bullshit meaning” has given me the permission and encouraged me, even dared me to create something new. Obviously, saying that my goal is to skip over the ultimately meaningless, disposable life experiences that so many people seem to be focused on and to seek out deeper experiences is pompous but it’s not pretentious. This actually is my life.