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April 17, 2006

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Alison Croggon

I guess life is one big long process...and then you're dead.

Isaac, reading your post, I found that even thinking about art as "product" gives me the willies. We all want to make something, sure (or I hope we do) but the point of completion is - for the artist, anyway - or for me, anyway - the point where I lose interest. Once I finish something, it becomes everyone else's business, not mine any more. Maybe that's why I've never got exercised especially about bad reviews, a blind spot for me I think; it took me a long time to work out that people can take them personally. I've always figured a bad review (I've had my share) is worth an afternoon's sulk, but that's about it. Of course I like it when people like my work, but even so, it's kind of after the fact: by the time people are reading or seeing my work, it's a least a year, usually more, since I wrote the thing, and I'm thinking about something else, and talking about how I wrote it feels more like making things up than anything actually illuminating (I often feel fraudulent talking about my own work, like it's not my place).

So I guess I'm agreeing with you, with my artist's hat on. I always hope that my work will speak for itself, and if it doesn't, well, maybe next time. Most usually it speaks to some people and not others, which is fine by me.

Which is not to say (with my critic's hat on) that context is not important. I think it's crucial. As Paz said, critics are what make a literature; without critics you just have a bunch of writers. Critics are the people who make connections, who see patterns, who trace influence and recognise newness. Theoretically, anyway. And it's possible for work not to be perceived because it hasn't a context which permits it to be recognised for what it is. Lots of examples of work that was badly received on its debut, only to be recognised as something of quality later (lots of examples too of things badly received on their debut only to be recognised as such later - bad reviews aren't a guarantee of quality).

I guess I'm saying in this ramble that product-orientated thinking does nothing for me, critically or artistically, although it has to be said that at some point there is something that is recognised and treated like a product, even if that is not the sum of what it is. Even the Dadaists couldn't escape that, sadly; they would have hated what happens with their work now. But that's a question of how you cope with the cultural machine, and not a question of how you approach your work. I continue to believe that these are two different things, although they often get mixed up. But that's living in post-capitalist society, I suppose.

Lucas Krech

Once I finish something, it becomes everyone else's business, not mine any more.

So true. I find there is a strange disconnect between myself observing my work and myself in the moment of creation. The work in a way becomes disengaged from its creator once finished. There follows a kind of splicing of the spiritual umbilical cord if you will. But once it leaves the realm of the purely personal it also, in some intangible way, becomes larger as it then comes under the influence of a whole matrix of audience, critics, fellow artists etc. that through their consuming the work transform it by changing its place in the world.

I hope I was not too esoteric there.

Alison Croggon

No, not esoteric at all, Lucas! Makes sense to me. It sometimes feels a bit bizarre how works seem to take on their own lives once they leave the womb, as it were. You just can't predict or control what will happen; sometimes nothing happens, and sometimes it's so surprising. But like Eliot said, "for us, there is only the trying"...

Kimberly

I don't think that "product" oriented thinking was the point...just that we shouldn't confuse the thinking with the doing. And it's the doing that's important.

But I want to add that I don't want any of my theatre to just be a manifesto. I am desperately trying to remember that life is funny...since I'm supposed to be directing a comedy that's been turning into a tragedy with the realization of how not far America has progressed in the perseption of gender and social roles...

...which is only slightly beside the point. The thinking is important because it informs the doing. If the doing doesn't reflect the thinking, it's lost. But art shouldn't *just* be didactic--or else it would be easier to take a class or attend a lecture. It's that extra step of doing that makes the thinking different...and hopefully points the way to the next dark corner to explore.

Or maybe it's just late and that was a long way of saying I pretty much agree.

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