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

thoughts + feelings

42: All I Need Is Me & This Echo Chamber

Hey y’all, I’ve been frustrated. Frustrated with social pressures. Frustrated with the illusion of authenticity. Frustrated with worrying too much about what others think. Frustrated with (always) making work with everyone else in mind. I guess you could say I’m fired up with feelings, which is honestly me 97% of the time. I’m particularly talking about side projects and artistic practices, essentially things that are created for you and then placed into the public eye. What or who is it that we are making for in the grand scheme of things?

This frustration with audience and making, and what prompted today’s letter, was inspired by this piece written by Talib Kweli that you should read right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, ready? Let’s continue.

While his piece was mainly about Lauryn Hill and her artistic output, what really stood out to me was a line Talib mentioned about music making, which could be translated to any form of art.

”Artists make art for themselves. Art is an honest expression. Artists who pander to their fans by trying to make music “for” their fans make empty, transparent art. The true fan does not want you to make music for them, they want you to make music for you, because that’s the whole reason they fell in love with you in the first place.”

I absolutely love that block because it came to me at the perfect time. I was having many doubts about the moves I was making—the adjustments of my artistic interests, the styles in design I was increasingly becoming infatuated with, the controversial conversations I desired to have, even exploring my own personal identity and self-identifications. Owning up to my honesty rather than “giving the people what they want” sounds swarmy on the surface but in reality something I didn’t realize I was struggling with. Maybe it’s the naive musings of a 25 year old still learning about life, but it’s still capturing the interest of my day to day.

The echo chamber is comfy but it doesn’t grow your experiences. It’s much easier to stay within a bubble of positive feedback loops with people that all look, sound, and think like me. If I stayed within that bubble, all my work will eventually serve my echo chamber—in search of nothing but back pats and “good jobs”. That’s when I decided to open the door and step out of it.

It’s funny that as I’m writing the last part of this letter in a cafe, Killing Me Softly by The Fugees just started on the speakers. It’s regarded by many as one of Lauryn Hill’s shining moments as an artist, and many fans hold on to that as the Lauryn they want to see when attending one of her recent shows. Just as music artists change their styles over the years as they grow with new life experiences, and they step out of the echo chamber, we as artists need to step out of our echo chambers and positive feedback loops—and yes, that sometimes means making things that aren’t for others, but just for you.

Have you had a moment where you felt this similar frustration, or created something interesting just for yourself? Do you disagree with every single thing I mentioned? I’d love to hear about it. Let’s get fired up for the fall, just hit reply.

Have a great Tuesday and see you next week,

-James

 

What did I find interesting this week?

1) Hermes: Job Matching for Chicago Designers and Developers : Are you a designer or developer looking for a gig in Chicago, I would highly recommend hitting up this service by friend of the newsletter, Daniel Zarick.

2) The Slow Rise of Black Cinema: A nice, short piece about the prominent increase of black cinema in American culture.

3) Apollos Hester is Pumped About Life: i will be a much better person when I can adopt this guy’s incredible positivity.

4) I’m Giving An Artist Talk, By Bike on Sunday: Yours truly is giving an artist talk by bike through the south side Chicago neighborhood of Washington Park. I’m going to be talking about my practice, things that inspired me, and getting grub at Currency Exchange Cafe. Space is hella limited!

James T. Green