Saturday, April 30, 2011

when words fail

I've been away from this space for a while, both reading and writing. When I'm struggling with something emotionally, I sometimes have trouble finding words. I've learned that sometimes the words are just a veil, a kind of safe space where I can get to know my feelings on my terms, but in so doing I distance myself from them, you know? It's like I'm using my mind to hold things that are sad or scary or infuriating at bay. So in an effort not to do that, I've been wordless. Painting.
Yesterday, Honey and I went to Artropolis. It's something we've been doing for years now, an often incredible festival at the Merchandise Mart. Yesterday we were both hungry for something impactful, resonant. The conversation between the two of us was stirring, but the art was largely... not. There was a lot of stuff that was technically compelling and felt good to look at, but I wanted something to vibrate in my chest cavity, and very little did.
I did however see some work of Ed Hodgkinson from the Mark Jason Gallery, by which I was, for a short time, quite transfixed. One of the reps came up to me and explained the process, which includes a lot of firing. At first I was really intimidated by this guy. Not even on my best day am I in the market for an enameled line painting priced at 16 grand. But I listened to him, and he wasn't pushing me to buy, he was just talking process. He handed me a catalogue. It was nice. We also saw a photo of an exhibit that was at the MCA of Takeshi Moro, about the gesture of apology. It was pretty profound, given a conversation the two of us had about apology, about compassion and regret. There was a platform you could climb onto and assume the Japanese bow of apology: I did. Quite humbling. How interesting it is to (rarely? finally?) acknowledge in your sinew and bone what you try to put into your mind and behavior.
So now I am thinking of editions, like in printmaking. An artist runs off tens, hundreds of editions, and chooses however many to frame, hang, market. What if writing were like this? What if we wrote and rewrote and rewrote scenes, stories, over and over, in different shades or voices, from different points of view, and were able to market them all? I'm not talking about a Quentin Tarantino thing or "the place where six different characters intersect on the same day" or whatever. I mean editions. What if we replicated the process of crafting a story, just to see what changed and what remained the same?
Is this what rewriting is like?
The idea of ripping from other artists isn't new. After a Black Keys interview on Fresh Air (have I mentioned how in love I am with Terry Gross?) I had the idea on the brain of writers escaping to interesting far-off locations to finish a novel like a musician recording an album in a special studio, because of the juju, the sound, that was in that place. I don't know what to do with questions like these-- I don't know if the writing world has the space that the visual world does for experimentation. The publishing marketplace is so different than the visual one. If a writer's goal, if my goal, is to take my work to market and sell as much as possible, are people going to buy editions? Must they all be housed in a single volume? Does the work, in its replication, become like a magazine, and lose its story-ness?
Oh, and one more thing. I've finally done it. But I must say, as a word of protest, that I did it in pursuit of writing.
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