Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walking, Dropping, Digging

There are two things I encountered in the last 36 hours that have led me to believe that I am not doing enough with my life and my art (those are intrinsically tied so I really mean my life).

Andrew Forsthoefel, “I’ve been travelin’, travelin’…(harmonica).” Bo Diddley (not shown), Pascagoula, Mississippi (image via)

Andrew Forsthoefel's story on This American Life is one. Traveling is what I love most and there's nothing greater than the road trip. I have spent extensive time making artwork while traveling but with the exception of a couple instances, I cannot say that what I made was meaningful to anyone else other than myself. There is so much to appreciate about this: Forsthoefel's fear of the unknown and reconciling this through two simple acts - walking and listening, his eventual success eleven months later, his reception from his family and those that he met along the road once reaching the Pacific Ocean, and what that he learned along the way specifically in relationship to age (and ultimately death).

The long version, Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man, is well worth the listen.

Ai WeiWei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995/2009 (image via)

Yesterday, I ventured to the Indianapolis Art Museum to see Ai WeiWei: According to What? It is billed as a retrospective (though it feels incomplete). Needless to say, it is the biggest exhibition to come to Indianapolis since I have moved to the Crossroads of America and it was well worth the visit (despite my unwillingness to set foot into the museum due to its recent problems).

Why did Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn affect me more than any other work? It operates in the same sphere as this - it's a big old "fuck you" to the institution, the government, the culture - yet it is more subtle. It is also about taking a chance and not revering the past. If there is regret in WeiWei's triptych, it is not shown here. Three succinct images - a document of an action (was it ever repeated?) - that I can learn from in many respects.

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Barry Lopez's Apologia is an essay that I am reminded of more than any other read in the last decade. Every time I see road kill (which is too often), I think of Lopez stopping to bury dead animals for one year during his drives across the country. It's not this particular action that I am drawn to but the dedication.

Maybe that is what this blog post is about... the search for a meaningful experience to dedicate oneself to. Digging in a little deeper and finding a way to transform that action into a form that someone else can relate to as much as I was affected by the three works above... my challenge for the summer, the year, the rest of my life.

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