Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Picking Up Pieces

"I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone."
– Henry Rollins
I have gone soft.
Over the past several years, I've tried to bind who I am now to someone I used to be. I was hoping to retain some connection to my past but as it turned out, it was a mistake. Insidiously, it eroded my ability to commit to my future.
Late last year, I started sorting through the detritus of my old life – including old works – and threw most of it out.
I'm not sure what I'll do with the little I kept. Not having it visible is already a liberation of sorts. I figure if I'm trying to create new habits and new work, I need everything that isn't relevant to be out of sight and out of mind.
As I try to effect radical changes in my life and my way of thinking, I've been looking at the lives and work of people I admire. I'm not into hero-worship. I make a lousy fan. But sometimes I come across seeds of ideas and attitudes in others' lives that might help me rebuild or refine my own.
I'm most drawn those who've come up with ways of being that others haven't – then had the nerve to embrace them.
Among the few:
Isabella Blow I first came across the late style icon in a Vogue Italia fashion story, surrounded by rake-thin, pouting models and eating with her hands. Her intensity and eccentricity were compelling and exerted a profound effect on, among others, milliner Philip Treacy and fashion designer Alexander McQueen. I love her most for the way she dressed – like a walking piece of performance art.
Eva Hesse So much more than a sculptor, elements of her works on paper and sculptures reflect each other: for example, the cylindrical membrane of skin-like latex in her sculpture, Repetition Nineteen III (1968), has the same delicate fragility as her ink wash of drawing, No Title (1966). Thus, each work stands alone but also together. Her fascination with innovative and unusual materials was extraordinarily sophisticated, even if, ultimately, it probably killed her (like Blow, too young).
Henry Rollins
Whatever you think of this angry, aging punk-rocker, his hardcore, DIY work ethic and independent, empathic and democratic sense of self are impressive. His work isn't self-conscious – often, it isn't even that good – but he does it relentlessly and now, over half a century on, there's a substantial body of recordings, books, film and spoken word perfomances. I listen to him spew the sardonic humour of his road journal, Get In The Van, on my iPod whenever I feel down. An unframed poster for it, signed by him, is taped to my studio wall.
Sylivie Guillem Diva, rebel, radical perfectionist, she's simply the most dynamic and daring dancer of this age. She's also fearlessly independent and uncompromising. Having left her position as prima ballerina at the traditional Paris Opera Ballet at 22, she has pushed the boundaries of ballet and contemporary dance further than anyone since Nijinsky. Of all the women in the world, I find her the most inspiring.
Her music, lyrics, performances and video clips are playfully experimental and emotional and yet always unarguably original. She also has a way of expressing her sexuality freely, without submitting to conventional notions of glamour. She conveys, in everthing she does, that she is, somehow, untameable.
Diane Arbus I'm fascinated by misfits and people with physical and mental 'abnormalities'. The late NY photographer captured the essence of these and made it OK for everyone to stare. She photographed 'normal' people as if she were looking for their abnormality beneath the surface. "Nothing is as strange as they said it was," she once said. "It's what I've never seen before that I recognise."


Debra said...

Great post. That's one of the things I like best about reading you...your vast knowledge and research.
Happy you're back. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Am seeing FUR, The Imaginary life of Diane Arbus starring Nicole Kidman this saturday at ACMI. I am certain it will be a shadow of the real Arbus, not expecting much but looking forward.

I was a big fan of Arbus when I first discovered her work 20 years ago, then I read her life story, her struggle with depression and then her suicide.

I was shocked to learn that no matter how talented she was, it was never a solution to her unhappiness.

hopefully you have a longer and more uplifting life than Arbus had Hazel.


Anonymous said...

An observation: Your posts in 2010 are titled in a way which reflect alliteration.

Silence Is Shame.
Redemption Road.
Picking Up Pieces.

Is this accidental or on purpose?
Whatever it is, it's cool.

Just listened to Bjork's "Army Of Me". You mentioned it in one of your previous posts. It is one of my new favourites now.