Three short videos, the first of six I’ve made, of the tiny reminders that I’m working on.
The work on my bench this evening. Back to small steps. Undefeated.
Generosity, gratitude and creativity (art).
The nature of the relationship between these becomes clearer, but is not clear enough yet (to me). This piece of writing therefore has a beginning and a middle, but no ending.
The context. Our ultra-capitalist economy which is ever growing, and ever seeking to commodify all things, including those things which traditionally have been held to be commons, or spiritual and non-commodifiable properties. The symbol or metaphor for these commons is the spring, the source. Thus, the disjuncture that we experience, our discomfort, is exemplified by the casual use in our contemporary societies of the word ‘resource’. As in: ‘human resources department’ or ‘exploitation of mineral resources’.
Source: Lewis Hyde, The Gift. (And he was drawing on work by Marshall Sahlins,Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound).
‘The Gift’ is a complex and important book that is on my list for a second reading. Hyde’s central argument is that the work of art (the creative spirit) properly sits within the gift economy (rather than the commodity economy). A conundrum in the book is that of creatives making a living in contemporary (ultra-capitalist) economies. [This is a conundrum that all creative persons are required to work on and with, like it or not.]
The nature of a gift transaction is the transaction of something freely bestowed and unearned. The gift increases in the giving, the motion. The hoarding of a gift is transgression (or sin). The action of the gift is connective, binding: Hyde says “gift exchange is an erotic commerce, joining self and other … the gifted state is an erotic state: in it we are sensible of, and participate in, the underlying unity of things.” And people, all people, seem to understand about gifts. We have a fine and unconscious sense of discernment as to the status of a transaction (within our own social and cultural context); ie. where it is on a spectrum between gift exchange and commodity exchange.
And so Hyde is pointing out that the nature of creativity and art, both for the creator and for the receiver of the work of art, is that it is perceived as properly falling within a gift economy. Hyde says “it is when art acts as an agent of transformation that we may correctly speak of it as a gift.” Thus, the source of creativity is that which is gifted to us. And the labour of gratitude is to be worthy of the gift. (This means to do the work, to develop the gift and to give it away, to keep it moving – not to hoard it, which would be to transgress).
All of which is not to say that artists (creatives) should not be paid. But it does point to some interesting questions of value, and some reasons for the difficult balancing acts which we perform daily.
A pair of tiny black books, part of my collaborative book project with Suzie Ross. I sat in the sun on a wall by a river with Suzie today, and drew and talked about our project. Very excited to pick these books up from her today, together with some others for me to keep working on.
The next thing for this project will be to make a page here on my website, so that I can show the pieces of work as we are developing them together over the coming months.
I’m showing you some prints I’ve made today in a joy-filled online session that I participated in this morning – with the community arts group that I help to run (https://gwendraethartslab.com/).
We worked with things from our rubbish bins – things like bottle tops and cardboard tubes, taking me back to the joy of being a small child and playing with colour, pattern and mark-making. I based my prints on the curled paper strips with the small joys that I’ve been working with over the last few days and weeks.
The session was led by the marvellous Roz Moreton, a local artist who it is just a priviledge to work with (https://rozmoreton.com/).
Roz shared a video as part of our session – its a very short snippet from a talk by Ken Robinson, speaking about making mistakes and creativity. I will also share it with you here, because its so important for all of us:
Working with watercolours today, as part of collaborative project with local artist Suzie Ross (@suzieross007 on instagram).
Memory, landscape, connection.
Struggling with the colour palette, working on top of Suzie’s colours. Its so interesting, working with another person, they don’t do what you’d do; so responding is always stepping into the unknown.
This will be the first of a number of posts about Joseph Beuys. Because he is a creative hero, and because I am writing about him in an essay, and I want to share the good bits here – as and when I write them.
A shaman alchemist artist; an artist of transformation, generosity, pedagogy, healing, mythology, landscape, substance, objects.
And there is this element of Beuys’ work :
“Beuys appropriates many of alchemy’s basic tenets. Most important, he maintains that creativity is not only the distinguishing mark of the artist but is also the point of union between the divine and the human.”
(The quote is from Refiguring the Spiritual by Mark C.Taylor).
There is much to live up to.