James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

46: Right Questions for Wrong Answers

Hello and welcome to Season 2, Letter 46 of The Studio Visit.

As a trial run, I released this letter as a podcast that you can listen to here. If this format works well, I’ll continue to make weekly episodes.

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On Wednesday I visited Chad Kouri’s show, “No Wrong Answers”. He’s an artist and friend of mine who’s work I enjoy for many reasons, mainly because it is not only aesthetically beautiful, but the thoughts behind his process makes the gears in my brain turn. When I arrived at the exhibition space, Johalla Projects, I was greeted with beautifully arranged cut paper collages adjacent to large swathes of wall text. One of the paragraphs of wall text grabbed my attention, particularly this sentence:

“Unlike a traditional painting – painstakingly created over a long period of time – these pieces are constructed with cut paper and are created as quickly and intuitively as possible.”

I sat at that piece of wall text for roughly 5 minutes and broke down every bit of the sentence in my words.

“Unlike a traditional painting”: Unlike what is usually expected and risen up by whatever “respected class” expects art to be.

“painstakingly created over a long period of time”: Employing a great deal of care and thoughtfulness over an amount of time that may actually be longer than really needed.

“these pieces…are created as quickly and intuitively as possible”: This art is created instinctually, capturing the feeling to create before the superego fights the id’s desires.

With that, Chad’s work livened the white walls while freeform jazz gently layered my ears in the background, sonically capturing what he visually documented. These collages fit into one another in seemingly accidental ways, giving the appearance that these studies were made before the conscious steps in. It felt, as I wrote in my journal after leaving the show, “raw and carnal”.

Seeing his work is the opposite of many pieces of internet criticism that mostly exists in the comments section of every piece of art (writing, visual, audio) that is shared to an audience.

“I could do that.”

“This is stupid.”

“How long did that even take anyway? Why should I take this seriously if it was created so quickly?”

While critical and constructive critique are important to artistic development, these general forms of criticism are the most hurtful because they don’t come from a point of development, but rather lazy observation typically shifting towards the negative. I’ve talked to friends during studio visits that have discounted their own work because it was made quickly. That alone shouldn’t determine whether it should exist into the world. The added benefit of working quickly is that you have a surplus of things to choose from later for “longer-burn” projects. Better to pair down and edit than not have enough to choose from.

That voice of lazy observation appears in my own head whenever I either have an idea or make something new.

“What you’re making is dumb…how long would that take anyway, you shouldn’t even bother.”

What’s worse is when I listen to it, nothing is made anyway, so who wins in the end?

Something I’ve been doing to combat that voice is forcing myself to make one thing a day. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be something. My output has been in the form of these audio sketches or these visual dailies. Most of the time they don’t even mean anything, they just capture a feeling, but in the long run I’m learning something new each day. A larger (more meaningful) project may come into fruition from a collection of these smaller (not as meaningful) projects. Some days I miss a daily project, hey I’m human, but it’s been great to see where my mind floats when I force engagement.

After leaving Chad’s exhibit, I began to think more about ways I can introduce his raw style of making into my own process. Another sentence I wrote into my journal said:

“It’s full of expression and captures the feel of jazz…what causes me to release something into the ether? What is that feeling that flows from my mind to my hands?”

Have you had a moment where your mind has stopped you from making something before it was even created? What did that voice tell you about your own work? How did it make you feel? I’d love to hear about it, just hit reply. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

Thanks for reading, and see you next Monday.

-James
 

What did I find interesting this week?

  1. On (Not) Eating Out Alone: This story is a discovery into the stigma of doing ‘social’ things alone, and what you really find out about yourself when doing this.
  2. The Programmer’s Price: A look into the world of talent agencies for computer programmers. A read well worth the length.
  3. A Birth Story: A fantastic long read by an author who thought she had the perfect plan before birth, until birth happened. Trust me on this one, it took me an entire day to get through, but it’s a good one.
James T. Green