Elaboration…

…on some themes from yesterday:

It’s been a fraught few weeks, attemting to fit what essentially is a full time job into a part time schedule, preparing a series of pieces for exhibition, and maintaining a sense of connectedness with the world and with others. In the midst of it I’ve been feeling the lack of mentorship, of older and more experienced artists to talk to, and in a sense to be unformed in front of. At the same time I’ve been going out and seing things, as one does here and more often than not they have served to point up my current dilemma. A patial list: The Nomi Song, Night: an exhibition of photographs by Peter Hujar from the late 70’s and early 80’s, and Richard Foreman’s latest play The Gods Are Pounding My Head. They have, singly and in combination, made me, as I put it yesterday, sad.

Sad because they have forcibly brought home to me the loss of my own adolescence, the end of the city I grew up loving, the current scarcity of work that inspires me, indeed, the lack of available mentors. I feel two reasons for this. One, Foreman articulates beautifully in his program notes for his play:

I come from a tradition of Western Culture in which the ideal,(my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality – a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West…

…But today I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self – evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available”. A new self that needs to contain less and less of of a repertory of dense cultural inheritance – as we all become “pancake people” – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accesed by the mere touch of a button.

The other cause is simply AIDS. The Nomi SOng reminded of the frightening alienness of the early years of the epidemic, and for me personally, I have been feeling the empty vastness of the museums, the silence of the halls and clubs that might have been filled up with the works of those artists who are gone. Seeing Hujar’s pictures was like stumbling on the beautiful wreckage washed ashore long after the fact. It seems ludicrus to be saying it at this point, but I feel that those of us who are left are still shell shocked, even iff we don’t know it. Today I see the simpering trivialities who populate the meatpacking district and I think Ethyl Eichelberger died and made way for that?

I know it is incumbent on me to keep going, because I am one of the ones whose still around, and every work is a testament to and an argument for a way of life, even if that way is as Forman is argueing, already compromised. But I’m tired right now, and confused, and looking for someone further along to tell me what to do next. And even in the midst of that I am a surly and wounded pupuil who retreats and rebels and is a little too in love with the sound of his own voice.

In the midst of thoughts like these I have to say that I found Donnie Darko to be more symptom than relief: thoughtful but bland. Many people have recommended it to me first because it has a guy in a rabbit suit in it, but also because I sense that it was pivotal for many of them. I respect that, but I have to say that it wasn’t enough to pull me out of my own orbit.

I did see two things that cheered me yesterday: The Saul Steinberg show at Pace, and The Tigerlilies’ Shockheaded Peter courtesy of Thor. Puppetry always makes me glad.

0 Comments +

  1. In the midst of it I’ve been feeling the lack of mentorship, of older and more experienced artists to talk to, and in a sense to be unformed in front of.

    .

  2. In the midst of it I’ve been feeling the lack of mentorship, of older and more experienced artists to talk to, and in a sense to be unformed in front of.

    .

  3. I was doing some websurfing at work yesterday, I think because of TJ Norris (a newly added friend), and saw some photos of Peter Hujar. I thought, “It’s been years since I’ve seen any of his work. This is good to see again.”

  4. I was doing some websurfing at work yesterday, I think because of TJ Norris (a newly added friend), and saw some photos of Peter Hujar. I thought, “It’s been years since I’ve seen any of his work. This is good to see again.”

  5. I’ve been listening to _Eclipsed – Best of Klaus Nomi_ lately, trying to rediscover sources of that wild gay joy that I got from him, from Sylvester, from early Erasure (like River Deep, Mountain High). I want to see the film but I’m afraid that it will overly sadness over that joy and I’ve got enough sadness already.

    I met and connected with a man my age on Saturday. That never happens – there are so few of us – that afterwards I cried, for the first time in a long time, for all the people I’ve lost and that I never got to know.

  6. I’ve been listening to _Eclipsed – Best of Klaus Nomi_ lately, trying to rediscover sources of that wild gay joy that I got from him, from Sylvester, from early Erasure (like River Deep, Mountain High). I want to see the film but I’m afraid that it will overly sadness over that joy and I’ve got enough sadness already.

    I met and connected with a man my age on Saturday. That never happens – there are so few of us – that afterwards I cried, for the first time in a long time, for all the people I’ve lost and that I never got to know.

  7. Re: Donnie

    The guy in the bunny suit is the last thing I would recommend about it, especially to you (though who knows if your work didn’t indirectly inspire it?). I wouldn’t call the movie pivotal for me, but I certainly found it engaging. I don’t find most current movies engaging, so for me that was significant. I felt involved in it somehow.

    Re: New York as it is and was

    Surprisingly, this has been a big theme in my LJ since its inception, and it is always intimately related to a practice of sexuality to which I have had scant access, which in my maturity and that of my agemates has existed largely on paper or celluloid. This may be the most important reason for you to keep going that I can think of. I know from my own experience that mentoring others when you crave mentorship yourself can be pretty hollow, but let it sustain you insofar as it is able to.

    I frequently tell people (and consequently have probably told you) that New York is the only place on earth where I can ground memories of being five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five, all at the same site. When I’m here I feel all those layers of sediment at once. The past is always very close here, and while that is sometimes (heck, often) sad it also means a great deal. I have spent much of my life walking through places that for me are a blank. If I have roots there, they are very shallow, my points of reference ephemeral. But despite the frantic rapidity of the physical change (many of the monuments that were here when I was in college – not at all long ago – have gone), every street still pulses with the power of my accumulated traces. When I am in New York, I know who I am: the signs are everywhere.

  8. Re: Donnie

    The guy in the bunny suit is the last thing I would recommend about it, especially to you (though who knows if your work didn’t indirectly inspire it?). I wouldn’t call the movie pivotal for me, but I certainly found it engaging. I don’t find most current movies engaging, so for me that was significant. I felt involved in it somehow.

    Re: New York as it is and was

    Surprisingly, this has been a big theme in my LJ since its inception, and it is always intimately related to a practice of sexuality to which I have had scant access, which in my maturity and that of my agemates has existed largely on paper or celluloid. This may be the most important reason for you to keep going that I can think of. I know from my own experience that mentoring others when you crave mentorship yourself can be pretty hollow, but let it sustain you insofar as it is able to.

    I frequently tell people (and consequently have probably told you) that New York is the only place on earth where I can ground memories of being five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five, all at the same site. When I’m here I feel all those layers of sediment at once. The past is always very close here, and while that is sometimes (heck, often) sad it also means a great deal. I have spent much of my life walking through places that for me are a blank. If I have roots there, they are very shallow, my points of reference ephemeral. But despite the frantic rapidity of the physical change (many of the monuments that were here when I was in college – not at all long ago – have gone), every street still pulses with the power of my accumulated traces. When I am in New York, I know who I am: the signs are everywhere.

  9. I wasn’t thinking of you in the bunny instance – way before we met folks had been recommending DD to me often with an urgency that made me feel that it was an important film for them. And I’ve long ago gotten used to the fact that I’m often filed in peoples brains in the folder marked “Rabbit”, so it’s not a big deal. I would relate my feelings towards Nashville as being somehow analgous.

    New York is a creul place, because anything that is one’s own is also millions of other people’s at the same time. Everey alley I’ve puked in has been puked in innumerable times before. New Yorkers feel a fierce ownership, perhaps because they can’t really own it at all.

  10. I wasn’t thinking of you in the bunny instance – way before we met folks had been recommending DD to me often with an urgency that made me feel that it was an important film for them. And I’ve long ago gotten used to the fact that I’m often filed in peoples brains in the folder marked “Rabbit”, so it’s not a big deal. I would relate my feelings towards Nashville as being somehow analgous.

    New York is a creul place, because anything that is one’s own is also millions of other people’s at the same time. Everey alley I’ve puked in has been puked in innumerable times before. New Yorkers feel a fierce ownership, perhaps because they can’t really own it at all.

  11. Your mention on loneliness and lack of a mentor strikes chords, Nayland. It’s been quite a while since I’ve come across anyone who challenges my mindset, which is one reason why I am so strongly drawn to you and Pete. You have experiences and vision that I lack; backgrounds in a world that I’ve only seen the periphery of. Like you I long for someone to tell me what i should be doing.
    But, I learned long ago that those people are rare. I exist in a world where I’m a freak, a little too sensitive, aware and inquisitive to be satisfied with the manufactured media our culture pumps out. Long ago, just a kid, I realized I’d have to find my own way much of the time. It’s lonely, and scary, but there are times when I find someone who’s willing to share their wisdom, and I cherish them. The rest of the time I wander, driven only by my own ambition and curiosity, and try to pass on my experience when given a chance.
    The halls and alleys do seem empty now. Yet, I look back to my childhood, wandering alone in the woods, and take solace that the world is full of wonders both minute and magnificent, and although I’m alone, I’m not really lonely.
    Thank you for articulating this so eloquently!

  12. Your mention on loneliness and lack of a mentor strikes chords, Nayland. It’s been quite a while since I’ve come across anyone who challenges my mindset, which is one reason why I am so strongly drawn to you and Pete. You have experiences and vision that I lack; backgrounds in a world that I’ve only seen the periphery of. Like you I long for someone to tell me what i should be doing.
    But, I learned long ago that those people are rare. I exist in a world where I’m a freak, a little too sensitive, aware and inquisitive to be satisfied with the manufactured media our culture pumps out. Long ago, just a kid, I realized I’d have to find my own way much of the time. It’s lonely, and scary, but there are times when I find someone who’s willing to share their wisdom, and I cherish them. The rest of the time I wander, driven only by my own ambition and curiosity, and try to pass on my experience when given a chance.
    The halls and alleys do seem empty now. Yet, I look back to my childhood, wandering alone in the woods, and take solace that the world is full of wonders both minute and magnificent, and although I’m alone, I’m not really lonely.
    Thank you for articulating this so eloquently!

  13. I wasn’t thinking of you in the bunny instance – way before we met folks had been recommending DD to me often with an urgency that made me feel that it was an important film for them. And I’ve long ago gotten used to the fact that I’m often filed in peoples brains in the folder marked “Rabbit”, so it’s not a big deal. I would relate my feelings towards Nashville as being somehow analgous.

    New York is a creul place, because anything that is one’s own is also millions of other people’s at the same time. Everey alley I’ve puked in has been puked in innumerable times before. New Yorkers feel a fierce ownership, perhaps because they can’t really own it at all.

  14. I have a long history of seeking out mentors. As a younger man, I often shocked myself with the consequences of whom I chose. Finding mentors is a process that still baffles me, but i know that it’s central to my process of growing.

    I think one of the reasons that I am making such radical changes in my life is related to the acknowledgment that I’ve transitioned from protege to mentor for most of the people I interact with at Brown. I miss the reciprocity that I used to get with *some* students and certainly from colleagues. It’s a life change, to be sure, and an acknowledgment of my own maturation (all of which is hard). It’s not that I believe there aren’t people with stuff to teach me out there. Rather, I think I need to relocate myself to find them.

    All of this is to say, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places.

  15. I have a long history of seeking out mentors. As a younger man, I often shocked myself with the consequences of whom I chose. Finding mentors is a process that still baffles me, but i know that it’s central to my process of growing.

    I think one of the reasons that I am making such radical changes in my life is related to the acknowledgment that I’ve transitioned from protege to mentor for most of the people I interact with at Brown. I miss the reciprocity that I used to get with *some* students and certainly from colleagues. It’s a life change, to be sure, and an acknowledgment of my own maturation (all of which is hard). It’s not that I believe there aren’t people with stuff to teach me out there. Rather, I think I need to relocate myself to find them.

    All of this is to say, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places.

  16. I think we all need to be taught and to teach – as time goes on we are provided with fewer oppurtunities for the former. I’m moved by what you say Greg. And I guess that my highest hopes for this venue would be that it could be a place where some of that could happen.

    Freak is the operative word for me, that insistant voice that pipes up reminding me of my apartness from any group that I find myself in, even those I’ve sought out. We freaks need to care for one another.

  17. I think we all need to be taught and to teach – as time goes on we are provided with fewer oppurtunities for the former. I’m moved by what you say Greg. And I guess that my highest hopes for this venue would be that it could be a place where some of that could happen.

    Freak is the operative word for me, that insistant voice that pipes up reminding me of my apartness from any group that I find myself in, even those I’ve sought out. We freaks need to care for one another.

  18. I think we all need to be taught and to teach – as time goes on we are provided with fewer oppurtunities for the former. I’m moved by what you say Greg. And I guess that my highest hopes for this venue would be that it could be a place where some of that could happen.

    Freak is the operative word for me, that insistant voice that pipes up reminding me of my apartness from any group that I find myself in, even those I’ve sought out. We freaks need to care for one another.

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