Saturday, October 1, 2011

Three Quarter Mark

Here I am, three quarters of the way through this year-long project.

That I've remembered, first thing, every morning since January 1, 2011, to take a picture of myself, continues to surprise me, if no one else. There have been times when I've almost forgot. There have been mornings when I've though, "Just forget it, stop it today."

Because as much as I'm fascinated by conceptual art, I also admit that I don't always get it. It's why I tend to simply call this a "project." In the back of my mind, there's always the nagging question, "But is it art?"

I have concluded that it is, at least, performance. Or the documentation of a performance. I realized this while looking through a book on performance art. It's an ephemeral medium, as is all performance, and it's also . . . choose a word carefully . . . esoteric. Performance art, in another word, is simply not one of the mass media. Surely, thousands more people have seen photos of Carolee Schneemann (I pause to note that if you don't know Schneemann's work, it's probably not safe for work) than have actually seen her perform.

So, performance art is more often seen in its documentation than in its actual performance.

And all these photos? They're the documentation of my daily, if brief, performance.

You can see the performative aspects of it by the end of the very first week. I was learning how to hold the camera, how to pose. Also, viewers of the photos have given me feedback that I realize has affected my performance. I've almost smiled a few times recently, and it wasn't until someone mentioned it that I realized that I probably did that in response to people telling me I looked grumpy (which I am first thing in the morning).

But the performance itself has no audience. Only the documentation has an audience. In a crazy, perhaps pathological way, it delights me that I'm making a performance borne of loneliness for an audience of no one.

Performing loneliness for no audience, but documenting it---well, doesn't that lend a layer of irony to my chose name for the project? Intimacy With the World. See me, look at me, at my ugliest, at my most vulnerable---but do it through a computer screen.

Intimacy at a distance. It's a bit like our hyper-connected world, isn't it?

Well, I'm in the home stretch, now. In a sense, I feel I've gotten out of this project what I wanted, but an aspect of certain kinds of performance art is endurance, like Marina Abramović sitting for hours at the Museum of Modern Art. I'm sure the I'm sure Ms. Abramović felt something rather different at the end of each day at MoMA, but I'm definitely feeling the endurance aspect of this project. As I said, there is a temptation some mornings to not take that picture.

But if I've moved from exhibitionism to vulnerability to irony, perhaps this last quarter will still reveal something else. Maybe it's when you push through the "ready-to-give-up-ness" that revelation is possible. I suppose I'll see.

I know I'm the one who is discovering here. I think. I've really not gotten any feedback beyond, "you look grumpy" or "that's brave---I'd never let anyone see me first thing in the morning." And this bothers me, some.

To borrow and paraphrase from Merce Cunningham, artists are here to not show off, but to show. I don't know that I'm "showing off" exactly, but neither am I certain about what I'm showing, other than myself. One aspect of myself. One controlled, brief moment of my every day. What that shows you, what that communicates, is probably not something I can guess at.

I can only do the thing, invite you to see it. What happens next is what makes it interesting.

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