Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten.

Will there be a moment beyond surviving the depths of this frightening maelstrom, sheltering in place and doing the work of bearing witness to this moment, when the least of our worries will return to the surface? Will there come a point, or have you already reached the point in this process when the idea of making art in the future feels like a non-reality?

I’m a artist. But who cares? I’ve gradually cared less about many things I initially felt broken about losing. Who cares if the show didn’t open? Seriously, the discrepancies between who lives and dies is blindingly obvious.

I don’t make art just for myself. I fight against my own self-centredness to make work less about me and that embraces you. I don’t know if I will succeed, but I hope. And I don’t do it alone.

Art doesn’t matter right now, we’re busy being alive to this moment. You may disagree, but I find myself asking if we are now holding on to collective delusion, believing the future of contemporary art will withstand its fragile position of social value, despite the deep cracks that continue to split.

Are we in denial about the baby being thrown out with the covid-19 bath water? And on the other hand…

Fuck minimal. I want abundance. Don’t throw the good out with the bad and the ugly. Keep the bad and the ugly art too. If you’re like me you’ve descended from parents who lived without, so either for enjoyment or practicality you’ve learnt not to throw things out, because you never know it’s value down the track.

As an artist I ask these questions knowing that while context and external factors weigh heavily into grounding one’s sense of identity, the idea of self is also largely imaginary. That isn't a disqualification, or reduction in validity, but these imaginaries are fragile, partly because they are held together by what we share collectively. A sense of identity gives us a sense of substance even though it's also made up of insubstantial thoughts and dreams. The world is under the attack by an unseen virus and so too are our systems of value - cultural, ecological, economic, was all there before, but now we’re looking again.

I see darkness. Will we keep our eyes open or closed? I see cruelty in turning a blind eye. I see hope in imagining the narrowing of distances that before enabled us to forget our complicity. A shroud is spread out upon the earth, and people do and do not see it. Imaginary and concrete worlds are seen and unseen in the blink of an eye.

Why the distrust? Why the disillusionment? Because aid does not reach everyone, there’s people who fall through the cracks. I’m afraid of speaking in generalisations. I’m afraid statistics are abstract ideas, that we forget the ‘margins’ are actual people and that losses are quantified as ‘necessary’ or ‘reasonable’ collateral damage. I'm afraid I’ve forgotten someone. I’m afraid I want to be valued, applauded even. I'm afraid listening to other people takes more energy than I currently feel I have. I’m afraid my own voice is preaching to the choir and reinforced by my friends patting me on the back. I’m afraid that who I thought I was, I no longer am.

In a world divided by inclusion and exclusion it is understandable to be compelled to hold on tightly to our existing sense of self and feel threatened by its loss.

Yet isn’t this sense of strength harnessed through self-definition, selfreliance, self preservation at best questionable or worse, illusory? We are all vulnerable, some vastly less than others.

Instead of being securely armoured we find ourselves threatened by the competition to defend the limits of oneself. We defend the territory of one’s health, wealth, family, nation or one’s imaginary, physical and bodily boundaries.

Amid the pandemic when governments are making choices for economics over lives, other questions are unfathomable, guilt ridden, too big, paralysing and just not of this moment. I hear the voice of the reality check: ‘no one cares about art right now and will not for some time’ or ‘we’re surviving, not thriving.’

Nevertheless people continue to perform their roles and to act out their identities. What else can one do? Hasn’t this sense of identity become redundant or at least transformed with the shifted world? The pretence and cognitive dissonance of performing ‘identity’ as a known quality is draining all my creative will. It's easier for me to tell you what I’m not doing at this time. Artists are called to generate and publish digital content as though things continue, avoiding revealing that somethings are actually dead, or perhaps just needing a moment before being resurrected. But again, can we do or not do something else? And although this sounds negative, my heart does go out to everyone trying their best as much as to those in creative paralysis and those who have been too busy to contemplate such abstract ideas.

Will these words be redundant in a few days as the world rapidly transforms, or worse will we have all returned to the old ‘normal,’ forgetting our moments of core clarity in the midst of turmoil, or even downplaying the crisis itself? Are we lulled back to deep sleep, because it’s too painful to continue to endure the stark realities and continued uncertainties. Are we rushing back to an old life, not caring for what is sacrificed by doing so.

Should new acts be commissioned instead of the same outdated performances? I don’t believe in an essentialist view of ‘art.’ I don’t believe in newness - innovation. If you want new you need only turn to the many preexisting unaccounted acts, left excluded by the mainstream of voices. I’m not even sure I care about “timeliness.” I’m so bored by wealth and prize distribution being invested in the same rather than the diverse. It’s not that awardees (and I include myself here) are not deserving - I just don’t think the less ‘excellent’ are less deserving. TBH I was asking the same questions before, but something feels different now.

I want to tell the voice that says ‘get back to work’ to ‘fuck off.’ It’s not easy to not work. We live in a world where working defines us. Productivity, instrumentality and growth defines our value and allows us to survive.

I guess the following humble anecdote falls into “TMI,” but I want to recall my body in this moment of untouchable isolation. My point is that a miraculous transformation can occur through ‘pausing’ movement. As a full grown ageing adult I excruciatingly broke my ankle, it was a trimalleolar fracture, where my foot dislocated from the rest of my body, requiring surgical reconnections. For the first 12 weeks no pressure and no cleansing water hit the surface of the wound so this part of my body was untouched and ostensibly inactive. When the first plaster cast was removed a horrible dry bloody sight was revealed, so disgusting was all the dead cells that fell off. But to my astonishment beneath the shed deadness was the sole of a baby and six years later the calluses that were previously there, have never grown back. This is unlike my other foot that regrows toughened no matter how many times I've scrapped it raw. No this is not an argument for sacrificing life, discarding the weak to make way for the strong. I’m pointing to the idea that transformation and healing requires active stasis, and I would be a cripple without the help of others.

In my unrestful sleep these imaginations exercise and zap all my energy. My subconscious fears bubble up in my nightmares to show me I must resist paralysis and push through this trajectory or I will sink. There’ll be no one other than myself to pull me out of the deep end. But I never sink. The ocean never overwhelms me because, in my nightmares, I always put my foot to the accelerator and push through.

Pre-corona I was pursuing a project involving an abundance of people in social and physical encounters with nature. It was about our shared unknowns. And yes, art does not need to be highly polished or that expensive bronze sculpture that was in the works. And yes, I have the ability to pick up a pencil and draw a plant, and it might even reveal my inner soul. But that’s not the point, I’ve always known why we make art and why we have done so since living in caves. And yes, we can even make art in isolation. But I’m not talking about just me, I’m interested in what we can do or not do together.

I know the creative value of doing nothing and also of not knowing what I’m doing. I don’t yet know how to creatively adapt to an unknown future when the meaning of interaction and an audience will have radically changed. I feel a fragile threshold between the rational and the irrational, and wonder if the rational is just an illusion to keep the irrationality at bay. These are not the kind of fears or questions I can answer on my own. I do not live in isolation despite the current conditions. And yet the answer to who ‘I’ will be in the future or if I will be an artist is contingent on the collective will. My imaginaries are dependent on our imaginaries and so too within this collective imaginary hangs our potential disappearance or vitality. I need you