Digging into the past to find the future


Throughout this course you will be making a lot of choices. Some choices will be ones that are bound by cost, others will be conceptual limitations, and then there’s also the fact that you should set a deadline for yourself, which will come in the form of an exhibition, which means your work must be completed within a certain time frame. But lets step outside of these real world decisions which must be made, and think instead just about how you look at your work, and who influences it.

“New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”

 John Locke

One problem which many encounter is that they feel as if they lack a voice. There are art superstars which seem larger than life. People like Warhol, or Picasso, or Ai Weiwei. It can seem that making a work of art is akin to trying to direct a major motion picture. And it can make people feel really small. As if their voice shouldn’t even count alongside the great works made by others. But you’ve just got to get over that. I can’t stress how important it is to find out who your contemporaries are, as well as the lineage of your ideas and techniques. You probably have already made certain decisions without knowing. Certain patterns, colors, ideas, techniques and editing have found their way into your work already. So now you must look at these things closely and see where they came from. It will only help your work, and your thought process. Chances are you are not trailblazing some new technique or playing with some concept entirely foreign to what has proceeded you.

Also, by looking at who influenced many contemporary artists we can get a glimpse of the history of the 20th century of art and we can also find our place in the 21st.


Now your job is to put yourself, on today’s date, and start digging back into who came before you, and how your art will build upon these ideas. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d recommend checking out Everything is a Remix which is part of the “Make a terrible work of art” post. Another tangentially related example is this short video about appropriation.

And yet another, which deals directly with some of the concerns of making art in the internet age is Press Pause Play. I include this video because I think that it speaks to the smallness that many of us feel in regards to our voices. Putting out our paintings, or videos into this huge sea of the internet. And seeing others who are good already can be demotivating

All of these videos have one thing i common and that is the fact that they put the contemporary at the forefront, and look back. That’s what you need to be doing with your work. The final video which could be helpful is “Everything is a remix” which looks mainly at music, but the same ideas can be applied to visual art as well. It’s just that it’s more difficult because people don’t generally know famous contemporary artists in the same way they know famous musicians and authors. For this reason it’s important to really equate yourself with the art community in which you live by going to galleries and museums. Perhaps you disagree with the values your community holds regarding art and by reacting to this you can find your place as well.

Your assignment comes in the form of another blog post. In the previous lesson you were told to make a list of artists which you considered “bad”, and now you will be tasked with creating a list of artists ( no less than 5 ) that you identify with and find inspirational. Include images, interviews and videos of these artists. Make it visual, not just a big wall of text. It’s important to look at all of these works together so you can begin to see the links between them. It is generally within these connections that things become interesting and go deeper than just the surface level of technique.  This needs to become a habit. There are so many ways to collect imagery which is inspiring. Here’s my Tumblr where I post new paintings which catch my eye. You should ideally be posting something every day, but I know this can seem like a lot to do so I require just three new artists or images/videos every week.

Here’s a list of 100 contemporary art blogs. That should keep you busy for some time. If you have a morning ritual which involves going to facebook, checking email, etc. then work these blogs into that ritual. Take just 5 minutes a day and consciously look at art.


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