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epistemology of anything

"It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work. Any respectable art historian would never go only by and artists words; he would look for evidence of them in his work. I think it was Sickert who said somewhere, 'Never believe what an artist says, only what he does,' then he proceeded to write a book. After an artist has done the work, it's reasonably easy to theorize about it, but to theorize about it beforehand could be disastrous. I don't think one should do it even if one has the inclination. People interested in painting might be fascinated by an artist's statements about his work, but I don't think one can rely on that alone to learn about an artist's work, which is all trial and error." David Hockney

Constructing a good life is my preoccupation. My concern lies with the matter of meaning and about whether or not I matter. Consequently, I undertake what I do, or don't undertake what I don't do, with a sense of moral calculus. My moral sensibility is defined by numerous traditions and practices and I'm inclined to say that my approach to these questions -- about knowing and making -- is post-modern in its willingness to appropriate. Yet, such a statement makes me nervous because it lacks certainty. It seems cowardly in betraying an inability to decide.

As an artist, I'm interested in how an art practice can serve as a metaphor for a life practice. Making art may be one of my insistent concerns, but, relatively, it's a small part of who I am and how I spend my time. Claiming to be an "artist" seems to be at least as much an act of will as an act of initiation. Claiming the title also it seems to be of concern to a number of people. It's a short hand for a certain kind of person -- edgy, creative, perhaps even with an essence of the transcendent. The label provides a location for people who may not feel comfortable with other locations that require their attendance. It may even be an identity that allows one to transcend the pain and suffering that define other quadrants of one's life. Claiming the identity might be a survival strategy.

It's a queer identity, too. It skews the landscape, re-shapes the way we see our context. In some ways, we're all self-proclaimed artists, or not. Claiming, the naming of desire, naming the process of active, assertive, insertive, procreative action defines the identity. It's like coming out. One can fuck whomever one likes, but naming desire, there's the trick. It changes everything.

Yet, many mark the landscape with their vision. So many more require that they be heard in the street. Our need to insert our identities into our environment whether it's through naming a skyscraper, graffiti, having children, making art, is remarkable. Do we, through these acts, make the meaning of our lives material -- if only through existential echoes? Whether the process of marking the world, making art is one of conscious expression or an implicit drive, we find languages through which we make our meaning manifest. To claim the label artist is to become at least semi-conscious of the process. To claim it is a contentious if not arrogant act of will. Why do it?

I'm told that I'm an inter-disciplinary artist and some say that I'm a conceptual artist with interventionist tendencies. I rather think that I'm a painter and, maybe, an Internet artist. I'm pretty sure that I can call myself a painter, but I'm not at all certain about the second. I've built a web site, but I don't know anything about web design. Maybe, that's where the "conceptual" mantle comes in. I've intervened on the web with only the barest understanding of HTML. That's got to count for something.

For me, becoming an artist means understanding and speaking from my location. Like Emerson, I believe that "the world is our dictionary," and like the phenomenalogists, I believe that to find meaning, one must return to things. Establishing location, being attentive, curious and engaged open us to the possibility that we might be able to see and represent something that reveals. One revelation, in turn might open us to the next, and the next, ad infinitum. Learning to declare one's point of view establishes authenticity; by understanding that a point of view is differnt from its context leads to distinctiveness (and perhaps even genius.) Yet the question remains. Does this matter in our world? Does a quiet voice looking for meaning in the world matter in the context of the thunderous mediation of our age?