July 1, 2012

Crazy busy

Yesterday in the NYTimes, Tim Kreider wrote an op-ed that will ring true for plenty of artists.

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite...."

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications....
The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do... Read more(if you have time)
So let's just stop updating everything, preparing for shows, teaching, going to openings, reviewing shows, posting, responding to email, and, you know,  have a few beers....


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Field with Flowers near Arles, 1888, oil on Canvas, 54 X 65 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

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5 comments:

Thank you for this link. I often think about how people need to slow down. I do feel a little guilty sometimes about how much less busy I am sometimes ever since I lost my "day job" and chose to focus on being an artist. I do keep a daily work schedule for my art, though. I'm just finally in more control. I'm very grateful that I can live this way right now.

Van Gogh is the greatest!

"I'm so busy" vs. 'have a few beers'. Polar oppositions as deconstruction has droned on about present a facile gestalt that has little reality, like clean sex (marriage) vs. dirty sex (porn, prostitution, s/m, gay ... ). But what a relief to have dinner with someone who is successful at their trade, who gets absorbed in what you say, enjoys the food, and doesn't check their phone constantly. The friends I have who get together with their tablets laid out on the table to check Facebook drive me crazy.

I just finished educating my housemate that because I work as an artist in my studio at home, it does not mean I am just sitting here waiting to do the dishes, vacuuming, laundry or to make them dinner.

But fighting against the obvious stereotype is a lot different from agreeing that lollygagging and daydreaming can actually be a part of the process. I grew up in a business oriented family, and know that if I didn't repackage my successes in the right language, they would think I was doing nothing. It is nice to see a well-written piece that says what I've always felt.

It is equally nice to feel its permission flowing into my ideas about what "working" is. Thanks for that.