lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Art, Emotion & Experience

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

There’s something about making art from a place of inhabiting your experience that’s like a fire, it’s that bright and clean.

The performance of The Distance of Their Mouths was one week ago. Yesterday, I took a qi-kung class that was truly mind-blowing (I felt like I was flying in one section of it), and except for food shopping, the rest of the day was spent in obsession over Puccini’s Tosca, it being the rep for the day’s  Saturday Afternoon at the Opera Met broadcast. To my surprise, as I pulled into my driveway with the car radio on, I found myself dissolved in violent tears upon hearing Tosca’s aria, Vissi d’arte. Maybe the qi-kung opened a channel.

Much of the rest of the day went to listening to the broadcast and trying to find English translations to two of the arias. I had missed hearing the Ta Deum in the broadcast but heard it in my head. I wanted to know what the singers were saying. What were the words that didn’t even matter since the emotion of the singing was so powerful?

I found the translation and it did not disappoint – Go, Tosca. Scarpia now sets loose the roaring falcon of your jealousy!….Ah, to see the flame of those imperious eyes  grow faint and languid with passion.  Tosca has been described by a contemporary critic as, “a shabby little shocker” and the dismissiveness reminded me of opinions I have had about contemporary art.

It has often seemed to me that much contemporary visual art is overly-intellectualized , severely imbalanced towards the head and excluding the body. No heart. The dysfunctional psycho disconnected from his emotion, incapable of empathy and jeering at the masses. Perhaps I overstate.

What is the position of emotion and experience in art now? Experience that is internal and personal, without the focus of the lens of social and political affairs? Is it still suspect?

The Distance of Their Mouths is intensely personal. There is a theoretical reason for the emotion to do with disrupting the subject/object view of the landscape, and although I am completely committed to the theoretical reason, it had nothing to do with the creative process. It is a lens that comes after, to don in order to see what one has done.

I am happy about my performance of the emotion I experienced and translated into words. Being a very occasional performer, my skills are limited and I did not want to sink into the horrors of disconnected, sentimental delivery. However, beyond the having the chops or not part, there is another quality, one bone-deep. It’s easy to access when you are young and raw and then it can disappear in “the hazards of life”*. I knew I had managed to get my ducks in a row in order to let it shine last Saturday. I don’t care what a cliché that phrase is, that’s just too bad, because it is a light.

Front: Rose Bolton, composer; Julie Baumgartel, violin; Back: Margaret Gay, cello; me; Alison Melville, recorder

My spiritual practice teaches me to fully experience as the middle way between getting caught up in reactive patterns or repressing; to fully experience whatever you are experiencing and be able to rest within it. Be fully in something instead of avoiding it either by being overwhelmed or pushing it away. I think contemporary art is a lot about repressing and popular culture is a lot about being caught up in reactive patterns. I want to make art that expresses my experience.

* A phrase used by Francoise Sullivan when I interviewed her and which has resonated with me since.


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