Tuesday, August 25, 2009
For the past year or so, I've found it hard to drum up any enthusiasm for exhibiting. Conversations with commercial galleries have sputtered then stalled as I lost interest in the finer details of contract points and unpalatable compromises. Half-hearted searches for spaces I might hire and refit for a self-produced show were quickly distracted by, say, lunch at a beachside café. I've been quite happy to work through a backlog of commissioned pieces. In between, I've let my intellect and imagination lie fallow, avoiding anything that looked like a challenge to which I might have to rise. I still sketched and made photographs every day but as a discipline more than anything else, a means of keeping my 'hand in'.Then, about a month ago, I recognised that it wasn't exhibiting that I was trying to avoid but rather exhibiting here. I have never been an artist whose life or work has been deeply rooted in a place. Over the past few years, I've operated most often in an non-specific, highly distributed virtual space and managed simultaneous dialogues with multiple connections every day. I've become so detached from a localised idea of a 'real' world that now any attempt to define my identity as an artist in Australia feels, suddenly, ludicrous.I wasn't sure what do about this until the virtual came to my rescue. Within just a couple of weeks, I received a handful of offers to exhibit, perform and speak in different parts of the USA and Japan. Suddenly, the urge to begin working again – really working: delving into new ideas, synthesizing or reforming old ones, making stuff – returned, along with a desire to reconnect on some visceral level with people as I share my art with them.Maybe because of too many personal disconnections and bad memories, I don't feel like I can do this in Australia – not now, anyway. So, come the end of the year, I am going first to North America, then maybe Africa, on the first leg of what might well become a long, drawn-out journey. Like the character in Paul Bowles' 1949 novel, A Sheltering Sky, I don't think of myself as a tourist: I am a traveller. "The difference is partly one of time... whereas the tourist generally hurries home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveller, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he felt most at home."Later, Bowles writes, "another important difference between tourist and traveller is that the former accepts his own civilisation without question; not so the traveller, who compares it with the others. and rejects the elements he finds not to his liking."