It’s been a few years since I showed any artwork in public, almost a decade since I showed any photographs. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, though, the whys and hows, and then there was a what – photos I took when I was living in Melville, in South Africa, in 2008 – and now there’s a when, two of them in fact.
It seems that every few years I have to go through the cycle of thinking through the following thoughts about doing art and documentaries, in no particular order:
This is going nowhere. It’s depressing and humiliating.
Maybe I should give it all up.
I don’t want to give it all up. That would be depressing and humiliating and there’s nothing else to do with my life but rearrange folders on my computer while obsessively picking my nose.
Maybe I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. [Followed by introspection.]
I don’t think I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. But do I get anything out of it? Couldn’t I just look out of the window instead?
I get more satisfaction out of it than from anything else. I should carry on.
The most recent iteration of this, in parallel with deciding to take a full-time job for the first time in years, led to my current settlement with myself, a sort of cosying up to despair: I’m 43, the art world has failed to recognize me, no one pays me to make art, no one buys it when it’s made, I don’t like academia – not that I have the brain for it – and I don’t think academia likes me, I’m no schmoozer, but I can still keep going, without hope/despair of reward or recognition.
Part of the process is having the work seen by other people, though, so, I asked myself, how can I get that outside these institutions I haven’t managed to establish myself in? By my website; by publish-on-demand photobooks and DVDs; by using my house as a gallery; by paying for gallery space. The house-as-gallery has a certain bohemian credibility, but that’s somewhat thwarted by being part of the E17 Art Trail, and self-publishing and paying for space sends people’s noses upwards. The official advice is:
In general, hire galleries are well known on the art scene and curators and collectors are wary of them. While many artists organise shows of their own work in a group with other artists, putting on your own solo show in a gallery space that can be hired can suggest that no art world professional is willing to select your work for exhibition and thus tarnish your reputation.
“He’ll be writing his own Wikipedia entry next,” they might say, if they cared.
At the same time as I’ve been shedding my pride about maintaining the pose of a ‘proper’ artist, I’ve taken to wearing a fluorescent tabard on my bike. I even leave it on, with my helmet, when I go into shops. I think this is all good, but I’m not entirely sure.