2017 was the first year I had an income and free time with a stable and non-soul-crushing 9–5 job. It was great! These are ideal conditions for creative output.
During that year, I started doing more art, but spent a lot of time on other junk. I did get a couple big projects done and made my first forays into carpentry and running substantial, collaborative party arts. But there was a lot of other stuff going on and I had bigger fish to fry most of the year. It was toward the end of that year that my art game really got going.
In 2018, I started producing works at an increasing pace with larger budgets than before. Whereas an average project in 2012 would have cost me about $10, and in 2015 $20, in 2018 many of my projects cost nearly $100. Some of this money went into better infrastructures (saw, paintbrushes, etc) and some just disappears with each project like candy in a piñata. (Sometimes it was spent on candy for piñatas!)
This was the second most productive year of art in my life — I lived at home for a year after college and, friendless, made a lot of video, drawing, writing, and painting, including Stupid Crappy Moon. But this was the year where my work had the largest and most attentive audience, which I extended by reusing work and exhibiting more strategically than ever before. I’ve had other years that were highly productive in other media (eg academic writing, like the year I finalized Superactually or when I wrote a couple articles and a couple book reviews). But this was a big year for me in art making!
It’s always a great feeling when one’s skill, condition, and audience are aligned to encourage throughput.
Here, I want to reflect on art I’ve done this year. Why, how, when, where, and with who. There are some themes, but I’m basically just a nutter with a paycheck cranking out folk art for his own amusement. Probably this is about as close as we’ll ever get to an artist’s statement or art critique for this work.
This is approximately chronological, so I’ll start with New Years Eve!
GroundHEARTstice Day Extravaganstice
So we had a party. Nick put together an invite poster and saved the whole psd, inviting allcomers to edit!
Midway through the midnight main stage act, Love shows up from China to welcome the Year of the Dog, thereby breaking up the fight between President Cherrytree and Punxsutawney Phil and replacing their (hybrid) holiday theme with a new, distinct holiday theme. We then put up the Chinese New Year decorations everywhere. Characters, costume, and set were great, but we should have practiced the scene. We were nervous. Each gave a solid performance, but our dynamic together was less than the sum of the parts. This is basic “overambitious” and I regret nothing about it.
Retrofitted a fish pinata and got a dragon? This head, plus red fabric over 2 bodies, went out at party-flip time. If I did this again, I would build the pinata from scratch, here. Part of the Chinese Conspiracy.
Another part of the Chinese conspiracy was the eight white hand fans. I painted “YES” in red on one side and “NO” in green on the other. The spies used them to communicate. I saw one eight months later at another party. That’s a good sign.
As if this weren’t enough, I also printed out several copies of this set of scripts for 2–3 actors. We also had scripts for “choose your own erotica” leftover from another project and read some of those together. It’s pretty much structured, classy flirting. However, writing that shit sexy is hard and the actors generally end up giggling or crazy or feeling awkward. Tough genre.
The goal there was to offer a room where people could “do lines and crystal math.”
The Smuttridge Museum of Unnatural History
Clearly an epic project of unimaginable intellectual delight. This was great to plan but too heavy to execute. I’d like more helpers on build and strike next time!
At some point, I came up and repaired some stairs while Renée replaced parts of a deck. Another time I just came for a party. Actually, every time I came by, I also built a bench. It’s just so fun!
Are these art? They’re lovely and loved and fun. I learned a lot and had never built similar before.
UX Research for my Job
I did three projects for Priceless. An Ignite talk on computationalism and the abacus. I brought the grand abacus out again. Finally, some friends and I setup a white cube with white fabric outside the Pantone themed party within a party. Boycotting party themes by bringing your own conflicting one is great fun, and the Plaid Protest was way cooler than our piece. However, we got to run this white cube with milk fountain all night, and their performance was just a disruption during the first hour.
HSV-2 has become a more important topic in my world recently and I am struck by the disconnect between the realities of the virus and the perceptions of the public (including people in my corner of reality). I wanted to somehow let people talk about it, without associating themselves explicitly with such a stigmatized condition.
This needs to make it to three big, long parties before we can share its findings. Already, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of ignorance and hypocrisy. I got great help on the questions and all words on these boards from Charra and Renée
This is a party I spearheaded as an alternative to Burning Man. Most people don’t get this at all, but if you’re thinking about the burn but instead want something else…
Is the party itself art? I’m going to ignore it and present specific arts I made for the event.
Another Secret Art Party
Piñatas were fun to build and matched to specific art projects, so we came in at a chosen time and matched their theme (eg crystal for the crystal room) and dropped relevant content (eg Kanye West for the TV piñata, pink slips for the time click). I love the interartaction, but did learn that working for an hour a day for 8 weeks on piñatas is very labor intensive and not a good opportunity for the clever witty junk I like. Also, surprisingly, for each piñata we popped open, there were about a dozen people (front row seats, those hitting or pulling) who had a GREAT time. I thought the whole audience would enjoy it equally, but that was silly.
We also decorated a whole hotel room as a park, using cuttings from local flora. I guess I don’t have any photos, but it was a very doable win. I love plant cuttings for art! They’re cheap, easy, and hyperrealistic!
This and That
I made a lot of art. I had a lot of good collaborators. I probably spent a few thousand dollars in total. I made large wood things. I did conceptual art. Interactive art. Jokes. Pretty things. Ugly things. Food. Lots of things.
Small intellectual things are still my favorite. My competitive advantage is in writing lots of small, silly content that matches something physically present. Like the fortune cookies or museum catalog. But my “git er done” approach puts out a lot of easy, low-stress, doable projects with positive ends. When I align this with overall needs of an event, I can make things that are really useful and interesting, which is great. Like the white cube (it was punishment area for people who didn’t follow the theme), the NYE ball drop, or the Holidae In.
My themes were usually just dumb fun and “that is nice.” I’d like to work more on STDs and “you can make anything you want!”
Most of my favorite projects have a functional aspect and are interactive. My most proud moments are interartactions, where we interdisrupt other people’s projects with ours. I want more of that for sure!
I did not make much space for elaborate, beautiful intricacies. I was a perfectionist on almost nothing here, but did get perfected results with collaborators.
Many times I thought, “why don’t I just lay back and watch a movie instead of working so hard?” When I tried it, I felt like “why am I wasting my time? How does this help anyone? Is this even fun?” and went back to doing projects.
I look forward to more art next year!