in which witness is borne: birds, politics, fiction and critical art theory

never ever ever finished

Friday, June 24, 2005
So, my friend Y-N came over for dinner the other night. She's from Taiwan, and is a graduate of the same degree program as me, Designed Objects. We come out of very different art backgrounds: she's a traditionally-trained industrial and package designer who used to be a CAD jockey at a big tech design firm, whereas i've got this pieced-together Frankenstein monster of studio, social science and art history coursework on my resume. Basically I'm a forklift driver who can recite Baudrillard.
I have no ambition for design, and few prospects.
Y-N got into it with me. She has a nasty habit of pulling rank with regard to her experience in the design world, even though she knows I don't long to succeed there. I showed her my new drawings, which share a little in common with topographical map markings, a little with thumbprints, and a little with seashell forms--a series of spirals that i Sharpied onto some index cards, a form of doodling that i've been doing for years and only just noticed in a more formal way. Y-N looked at them.

"These are fingerprints," she announced.

"OK, yes, i can see the connection there. That's cool," I said.

"What are they for?"

"For? Oh, I don't know yet. They feel like a model for something, an object maybe."

"ALL your work is model for something else. All your work. You never finish."

We stared at each other. Y-N weighs in at about 85 pounds, soaking wet. I clock in at around 150. We squared off.

"What are you saying?" I asked. "That I can never finish anything?"

"You never WANT to finish," she replied. "You only make model. That's you."

Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian art theorist from early last century, talks about an element he calls "unfinalizability," that quality of a work which makes it impossible to nail down or fix, which keeps it alive in the mind and eye of the audience or viewer, but which often results in the artist failing to achieve recognition. Bakhtin used to write that he was only interested in work that was unfinalizable, which you could never quite get to the end of, which niggled at your brain like an unresolved ending to a novel. In fact I think he was, specifically, talking about novels.

In any case, I thought about Bakhtin when she said that. I thought about the places I went in my mind when I was making the drawings, and why they needed to be so plain and unadorned and on index cards instead of Arches paper. i thought about presenting them as doodles, as art that we make when we are supposed to have our minds on other things. How the doodle represents a kind of line of flight of the brain (you thought I wasn't going to mention birds in this posting, didn't you?) and often helps us concentrate even more on the lecture or phone conversation or whatever we are doing for real at the moment.

I am interested in others' thoughts on this.
12:12 PM :: ::
  • "the research is never finished, but sooner or later you finish the paper."—a beckerman.

    and i wrote this to a friend on an entirely unrelated subject: it's a constant struggle to know, affirm, practice, reaffirm, deny, desist and take up new practices. i cannot say where it will end, and in honesty, i cannot make committments either to certain knowledge, or certain practice because the best we do, is always contingent. i am not a conservative to say publicity or privacy or both is gods own will. nor am i a liberal to say there are important reasons for publicity or privacy or both, but in the attainably ideal world one of them will be reached.

    maybe you could just introduce me to q as you problem child friend?

    you could easily replace "publicity and privacy" with X, or work, or just about anything in the above; the negation of conservative and liberal situations reflects my marxist/dialectical materialist orientation. the point is not to create isolatedly hermetic finalized objects that can be easily replicated for systematized manipulation within a bourgeoise and reductionist world view/system of social relationships.

    finally, the road goes ever on and on—tolkein


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