If anything, art school is good for making you focus. At least, if you're carrying your own weight as a student, you should easily be able to funnel your addled thoughts into bottled and concise works of art. Making communicative and evocative artwork should come easily by the end of it, and you should have the philosophical confidence to justify why you're frivolously wasting your money and resources. It's been a tough road, since first year, with lots of changing lanes and swerving out of the way of those ideas that merge abruptly from the side. And to extend the metaphor a bit, finding my thesis in all of that has been driving me crazy!
So in all of our critiques I've been less interested in the ideas that people are putting forward and more interested in the artists as people. Naturally I've been questioning my own desire to make art, and why I make the kind of art that I make, and what the fuck kind of art I make in general.
I've found that the worlds of fiction and art that I've always been drawn toward have a strong element of world-building, but I've also always been drawn toward a pseudo-spiritual relationship with these works that could generously be described as pretentious.
But if you do this taboo thing and imagine fictional worlds and characters as being literally real, it can lead you in some interesting directions which are also pretty taboo. For one, you see God, or any deity really, as being just as real as Mickey Mouse. I don't believe that Mickey Mouse is out there walking around (other than the ones animated by people in mascot suits) any more than I believe in a God, but as far as their existence is concerned, empiricism and scientific proof of their existence are kind of moot. They're not the point of the matter. To say that God and Mickey Mouse are fictional isn't to dismiss their narrative momentum or influence. Even atheists got to shout about what Jesus would have said to Fred Phelps, if Jesus even existed as a physical person in the world who did the things the Bible says he did.
In this whole mess of God and Mickey Mouse, you see how pop culture and lowbrow can fold a spiritual encounter into rather mundane experiences. Although I still maintain that it was a terrible movie, look at what happened after Avatar came out. With mainstream religions cutting out the spooky, supernatural aspects, we're seeing this desire to experience the supernatural driven into pop culture. Think Harry Potter, think Twilight, think The X-Files and Supernatural and Fringe. It's not a new phenomenon, but I think we're starting to see the pendulum swinging backward as we come across phenomena like Otakukin and Watchmen and Philosophy and Scientology and people earnestly using The Matrix as their conception of reality.
Nevertheless, this is all kind of a pretentious and unnecessary veneer on top of something that deals with an unutterable sentiment. It's the kind of thing I feel really dumb explaining, really, which is why I guess I want to try to express it artistically? There are a lot of toys you can make from the idea of fictional worlds and characters.
My first project involves building a puppet that resembles a lion statue like this one:
It would be as if this statue magically came to life one day, tabula rasa—but with a necessary understanding of the English language—not knowing what it is or why it's suddenly alive. Naturally, it becomes a very curious character, and its friendly and curious temperament encourages people to take its literal existence at face value (even though it will clearly be a puppet). The figure of the animated statue has some intriguing touchstones: there's Pygmalion and Galatea, naturally, but there's also then Ancient Egyptian Shawabti, Emily Carr's anthropomorphism of Haida sculpture, not to mention the alchemical homunculus and the golem. Weirdly, I think the closest cousin in spirit to this lion (which I'm considering naming Pygma, ha ha) is Jeff the mannequin from Today's Special. The development of this character would take place over every single one of his installations, and I would be the one animating him, although I'd be doing my best to channel his personality, which I feel already exists, somehow. My thesis advisor says she's never seen a puppet used in a fine art context like this, which I feel is both daunting and encouraging.
My second project involves creating a sort of fantastical identity kit, some sort of monstrous and grotesque character costume that comes packaged in a box along with personal effects and a short booklet detailing this character's background and persona. In select performances, volunteers can inhabit this character. I'm still obsessed with costumes as a transformative device, but I don't feel like a critique space or gallery opening are ideal for experiencing the costume. In these cases, I think I'm going to just have the box be open and on display. The potential is really much more enticing than the experience.
I may also include the Werewolf Box as part of my presentation, if I can get permission, since I feel like it's related.
The last thing I'm thinking of doing is a simple project involving a TV and VCR shrine to a VHS deity, which would be me in some sort of costume just being casually silent at the camera for the entire duration of the tape. This is kind of a half-formed idea right now, I'm trying to imagine how it would function in a gallery setting with kind of unpredictable visitors. Maybe there would be more than one tape, with different "deities" on each label, sitting enticingly by the VCR. The nice thing about this project is that I could toss it together in a week. The idea is to use the TV as another sort of animated statue, and would probably be my most literal allusion to any sort of spiritual component to my work.
Anyway, that's the direction I'm thinking in. Phew, I wasn't thinking about any of this not too long ago!