I felt strangely compelled to write that last post, even though in retrospect its pretty clear that my mood was at a nadir at the time. What does it say, then, that in this era of unerringly polished and positive online social media biographies, the allure of which I certainly feel just like everybody else, I was compelled to write at that time? Who knows. But I can feel things turning around.
In a strange stroke of good timing, Christina and I attended a workshop for parents of new students at Kodiak's school only one or two days after that last blog post. Considering the fact that the student body is almost entirely kids from expat families, and that a "new family" is very likely a family recently arrived in Germany, this workshop was actually structured as an offer of support for parents who might be going through a rough patch in this new culture. Apparently it's not uncommon. In fact, one of the slides at the workshop, a slide which made me feel oddly better was this:
I've clearly been in the "Irritability" phase for a little while now.
I find it interesting that I never really went through an Irritability phase in Spain, even though the culture of Spain is arguably more different from American culture than is the culture here in Germany. Maybe it was because I spoke the language? Maybe if one thinks about the Barcelona segment and the Berlin segment as one big "Europe-thing," then Spain was one big year-long Euphoria phase and I'm only now hitting the Irritability part?
In any case, the slide made me feel better because it normalized this phase.
But it's also true that the leaders of this workshop I've mentioned discussed the fact that they hold THIS workshop in the Fall for the new families, what they called "The Newbies," and another workshop in the Spring for the families who will be leaving after the current school year, or "The Leavers." And I can't help but notice that we are simultaneously Newbies and Leavers. This business of only staying for not even a full year is throwing me for a loop. I can't understand, on some visceral level, how and how much to invest in being here. It's complicated by difficulties which I've been facing in my own creative practice since... to be honest... since the accident in which my sculpture fell down (through the negligence of one former friend, thereby injuring another former friend. Again, I was not even there. The injured former-friend then "lawyered up" against me; that episode drags on and on and is not yet finished).
I have this mental image of the super-confident, continent-hopping artist who sets up an atelier in whichever city he* lands in, quickly marshaling tools and assistants and gallerists to make his vision come true. I'm sure this is how the "superstar artists" work. There is a lot of overlap between this idealized vision and the much-vaunted ability to "just be here," or "be here now," or "love what is," or whatever. My abilities in those departments are perhaps not all they could be, but I work on myself all the time and life isn't an inspirational Buddhist poster. Well, mine isn't anyway.
*(Sorry ladies that I'm not using his/hers here, I hope it's obvious I'm talking about myself!)
In the spirit of "being gentle" with myself, I find it worth reminding myself that there are a few forces arrayed against me, such as • culture shock, • having a family necessarily splits time and attention, • ateliers are expensive, • tools are expensive, • and what the hell am I supposed to do with the sculptures I might theoretically build here? But in the spirit of "not being too gentle" with myself, I should remember that • I have a duty to create (art is the proper task of life), • the correct attitude is to simply make the work, rather than worrying what will become of it, • we have actually finally now found TWO places which have shared tools, and where it seems likely we can work, • and that the biggest impediment to my getting back to work is actually myself. In this vein, I have begun to read "The War of Art" (clearly a pun on the famous "The Art of War"). The War of Art is a book which discusses the resistance all of us experience (and to varying degrees succumb to or overcome) to doing our work. Resistance, as discussed in this book, takes many different forms, such as addictions of all sorts, self-doubt, fear, procrastination, etc. It does not specifically discuss the greatest time-waster ever invented and my personal enemy, the internet, but I think this is probably because it was written in 2005. It also apparently discusses ways to combat this resistance. I am not yet in the combat section, so I can't comment.
I currently have two ideas for sculptures I'd like to build.
Ironically, the first is an old idea. That's ironic because, for all my talk about Europe being the source of new inspiration, this idea dates from at least a year or two before we left. This idea is not spectacularly ambitious, although it could be executed in almost any scale and the level of ambition would be directly proportional to it's size. But my point is that it's something I could actually do, probably almost entirely by myself, requiring nothing more than time in one of the aforementioned workshops. The fact that it is not mechanical in any way, but rather more closely resembles traditional sculpture, could however actually be seen as a down-side, or as not enough of a "stretch" for me... when seen from within the context of the value of "big ambitious ideas" that I was espousing back in the Björk and Damien Hirst posts of a few months ago... What I am actually trying to say here might become more clear in the context of the second idea...
The second idea did come to me here in Europe, and it is wildly ambitious. Getting really focused on a wildly ambitious project seems like it might be a form of resistance... or maybe not. It would require me to work with specialists in the fields of programming and motion control... and I don't have tons of experience with that kind of collaboration. But as I mentioned in those old Björk and Hirst posts, ambitious projects require teams, and if I'm going to find those kinds of expert geeks anywhere, Berlin seems like it might just be the place. Funding a project like this is of course a whole separate can of worms, and will require me to overcome significant resistance in the form of self-doubt and inertia. As always, I've got my work cut out for me.
Art is the proper fucking task of life, mother fucker.
Postscript 1: Shortly after writing the above text, I became aware that Burning Man has just announced its theme for 2018, and it is: "I, Robot." The page on which they've made this announcement is well adorned with pix of my work, which is nice. That second idea, mentioned above, would suit this theme well, so... mal sehen!*
Postscript 2: Last Friday, October 13, marked one year since we set off from the Taos Mesa on this big adventure. I'll never tell you that this sort of thing is easy, and you shouldn't believe anyone who does tell you that... But I think we've done a pretty good job of expanding our horizons, especially those of Kodiak... and that was really one of the fundamental goals of this whole thing. I'm proud of us.