experiencing subjectivity

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14 OCTOBER 2002, 12:04 PM
They lied. They lied! Every goddamn one of them lied. Or they were silent. Yes, silent. Sins of omission were the style of the day. Nothing fancy, no elaborate stories, no blatant falsehoods; the lies were discrete and intended to allow me to construct an identity based in their understanding of normalcy, their belief in a true way of life. I was to be one of them, no different. They even said it once, years later: they intended to raise me no differently than if I were their real child. An initiation rite.

I lied, too, every fuckin' day. I knew that they knew. I knew that they all knew. Sometimes they would slip and say things like, I remember the day that your mother brought you home. Never, "expecting." Never, God forbid, "pregnant." Sometimes it would be about the struggle and joy my parents experienced at my "arrival." So, yes, I knew.

I knew, too, because my mother told me. We goaded her into it, callously ridiculing the children across the street; children who shared our status: alien, foundlings, different. The truth, leaked out, slipped, spoken in anger, frustration, through tears, was quickly hidden again. It was turned in on itself, re-cast as a misheard phrase, a misunderstanding. The fact of it, the idea of it transformed into a fallacy, fiction. In so doing, casting shame more deeply in questioning my place, position; the shame of the possibility that the ruse would not work. The shame that I would fail to meet the expectations of the clan, community. That I might not fit into this world, the only world, I knew. Yes, yes, I knew. I joined the conspiracy. But, I was watching, researching, testing.

learned that people grind their needs into their version of love. I learned that people require you to adapt to their vision of the world. Given a chance, they gring YOU into THEIR context. I learned that people can't be trusted with my version of the truth. I learned that vision and silence and secrecy aren't what's wrong with the world, they're simply the inevitable mechanism through which people get their way, horde their power.

In trying to assimilate me, I became the perfect alien.

21 OCTOBER 2002 to Ethan:
I've been trying to understand the way that painting can be conceptual. There are two ways that it occurs to me. Neither is especially revolutionary or radical. The first is related to the structure of the biological father, in which a series essentially engages (a) big topic(s) -- adoption, patrimony, aging, masculinity. The second is the way that a single painting can appropriate the manner of "fine art" and have an interventionist content -- like my "queer" work from the summer which reads as "straight." I think that there's a lot of space for these two modes to be expanded and for the medium to stretch it's conceptual muscle. I'm not entirely certain how to proceed.

Four years old, I stand at the edge of yard, on a patio, as my father puts seed into a bird feeder. I am the lord of a vast land and I sense that to traverse this land would be an epic task. Would it even be possible? Snow and ice make the journey difficult to conceive. What happened last night? Why did I wake up? Why did my mother take me to the basement? Why were the adults acting so strangely? I don't recall music and dancing before -- certainly not late in the night. They seemed nicer than usual, too. It was fun, even if my recollection is hazy, incomplete, confused. In the near future, I'll become a servant to the suburban realm that opens in front of me. I'll learn to mow this lawn in less than thirty minutes.

My next door neighbor proclaimed that I would be a teacher. She was the first person to encourage a love of art. She tutored me on the sly, gave me paints and paper for my birthday. My parents weren't keen on my artistic proclivities -- naming them "queer." Denise's support was either based on profound insight or was a formative act which opened a path.

Teaching the Deaf, I was given a name sign, the letter "p" gestured over my left shoulder. It's a common name sign, the kind often, if not always, given to the hearing at first glance. Over time, as the community gets to know you, a new name sign emerges. I don't know precisely how mine was established, but I think it was the Kindergarten class that first coined it. The kindergartners were the group to which I was most bonded, mostly because our sign "vocabularies" were at the same level, but also because, as some of the youngest students, everything was as new to them as it was to me. They must have disagreed with that, though, because the sign they created for me fused the gestured "p" with the gesture for "know" and I became "Peter who knows."

I'm inhibited as a painter. As a kid, I drew my desires. When I realized that others could read my desires, when I learned that psychoanalysts use kid's drawings to define their pathologies, I stopped. Learning to paint is also learning to face the diagonses of others; learning to embrace pathology.

He said, "It's hard to be PETER HOCKING'S boyfriend." I thought I was breaking up with him, but maybe not? I can be obtuse about these things. I definitely drifted from him, but he called the question, so, on a technicality, he's breaking up with me. Why does he have to be so direct? It's not hard to be my boyfriend. It's just that he shouldn't try to see me holistically. For him, I exist in the compartment of domesticity.

How do I encounter the space between articulation and resistance? I know, at least I feel, what I want to do. Yet, I've not articulated the theory of it. I keep returning to the idea of resisting the theories of art. What if I simply want to create an articulation of everyday life? It seems like a worn idea, surely an idea to be scoffed at by those in the know. Yet, the notion of seeing and being seen, the notion of the ordinariness of my everyday life seems like a worthy preoccupation.

12 OCTOBER 2002

mission executed. success. northern syndicate proceeding as planned.

hooked up in city's oldest neighborhood gay bar. Holiday Inn, effective strategy.

talk, good god, good. over lunch with S. -- sports bar. cute boys in audience. more at sports bar.

this is a portfolio entry.


love, P.

He inhales deeply. Tossing brown hair over his shoulder, he passes me a pipe. His hand, now free, slides towards his cock. I decline to smoke again: a precaution in service to performance. His name is Mark, or Marc, or maybe Matthew. There've been a lot of "m" names lately. He unbuckles my belt. I pull off my shirt. "Oh yeah," he declares, "oh daddy!"

I exist between subject and object. I know myself in particular ways, but exterior analysis of my being also offers insight and exerts influence. They reveal clues and provide an opportunity to consider how meaning is constructed and how such meaning influences both perception and self-concept. Being exposed to the assessment of others helps me to better understand myself, perhaps, but may also contain or define my development in particular ways. By inference these examples ask, "how is it that we develop an epistemology of anything?" Moreover, they bring subjectivity into question and challenge the very notion of knowing. These questions offer clues to developing an art practice.

January 2002:

Hi folks,

One of my preoccupations is the place / role / relevance of painting (indeed, all traditional studio arts) in the wild world of art-after-modernism. I'm writing to invite you to join me in an exploration of this question on a new discussion board that Ive established. The board is located at: and it's called "Traditional Arts in Contemporary Society."

I'm interested in starting this conversation for two reasons. First, as you may know, I believe that meaning can be more powerfully constructed in dialogue than independently. As artists, who have been told, again and again, that our place is in the studio, I think the idea of genuine dialogue teeters on the precipice of being a "revolutionary act."

Perhaps more importantly, I think the question which I see as the role, place and relevance of traditional studio arts (like painting -- hey, I'm a painter!) can play in contemporary society -- is compelling because it is largely overlooked in contemporary discourse about the arts. Indeed, it's more likely that we are told, assume or accept dictums like "painting is dead" than actually engage the question of how painting might be changing. I think this is true by extension to many other forms. In our pursuit of the new, we often try to negate past practices as irrelevant without considering their flexibility and durability over time. For example, consider the trajectory of cave painters to Roman portraiture, Medieval illumination to Renaissance painting, and Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism. Certainly, within each arc there were those who rejected the past and in doing so re-interpreted the form. Are we not doing the same thing? Are we not obliged to engage our forms with the same passion as those who came before us?

For me, as a life-time painter who maintains a deep, abiding love of the medium, I am confused as to how I should place / position my work in the world. Should I pursue the modernist and post-modernist "art star" ideal and attempt to establish myself within the gallery world? Should I worry whether my work is in collections? Should I care whether I sell work? Or should I pursue the work out of a deeper commitment to personal discovery? Are making these kind of distinctions even relevant to placing myself in context to the contemporary art scene? These questions, for me, at least, raise interesting concerns regarding the audience, placement, and durability of my work.

To get things started, I've attached a link and newspaper article on a recent show at the Santa Monica Museum.

I hope you'll join the conversation.


My philosophy professor is trying to explain an action / reflection model of epistemological reasoning. He keeps talking about his car battery -- its operation and failure -- and I can see that no one understands what the fuck he's talking about. I'm not sure whether it's the analogy, the fact that he's describing a process that we intuitively understand, or if it's because we've jumped from phenomenology and hermeneutics to the banality of the morning commute, yet, I am sure that he's lost us. Maybe it's that in making the process relevant he's dissolved the magic of the topic. Let me demonstrate.

The Greeks provide us with idea about how we come to know and how we can construct meaning. Platonic and Aristotelian thought provide a functionalist epistemology of goodness. Such an approach suggests we look to the function of a given thing and consider whether that thing fulfils its named function. If we take the example of a ballpoint pen, we can reflect, experiment and judge whether the pen fulfils its function. We can deem it a good or bad pen. Should we try to use the pen for another function, say prying open a paint can, it may or may not fulfil this function well or at all. We can then judge whether it's a good or bad can opener. This example is simplistic and the nature of this epistemology becomes much more complicated when one considers the moral nature of a person, event, or circumstance. Indeed, this epistemology breaks down completely when applied to art. The Greeks were never able to develop an epistemology of aesthetics and some would question whether the Greek tradition of functional epistemology has relevance in contemporary society.

See, the jump between the Greeks, from the redolent pronunciation of "Aristotelian" to the banality of the ballpoint sucks the mystery from the topic.

Cmon, roll hermeneutics off your tongue...