Saturday, August 04, 2012
The Ego Is Always At the Wheel
A few months ago I had a conversation with an art collector who is, by profession, a doctor. We got to talking about ego. She said that doctors don't regard themselves as superior to their patients. They are simply humanists who, having acquired specific knowledge of how humans 'work', regard everyone as equal.She was somewhat shocked when I told her few artists were like that.Art is about ego. So are artists. We don't hold much truck with science (even if we're intrigued by it). We're smart but sometimes not very educated. And yet we presume that our ideas, emotional perspectives, and above all, our expressions of these, are of interest to others – that others will want to experience them repeatedly, and even possess them through the objects we make. Artists want their work to linger with us long after their deaths. It's a quest not just for immortality but reverence.An artist who uses their self in their work, as I do, pick through everything they have – their memories, desires, fears and so on – to transmit very subjective insights. There may be references to 'fact' (which should never be mistaking for knowledge) but they are, in every instance, filtered through the artist's own, egocentric 'interpretation'. I'm arrogant enough to believe that I'm able to do this with a modicum of originality, even when I'm developing the ideas of artists who have gone before me. My work has been called self-absorbed. It is, but it also has meaning to others. My focus on the self reflects a facet of a contemporary social and cultural environment: social media has taught us to document our own lives in public – and to believe we are nothing if we are not seen and heard almost constantly.But the deeper effect of sharing myself in my work is that I connect with the viewer through their interpretation of my experiences, even if these are merely fragments interpreted by the viewer as being 'shared'. At worst, for a moment, it enables the viewer to feel less alone.