I can’t help but cringe a little that I haven’t written in my art journal all year. Aside from being a little anal about consistency, it also worries me that working on or thinking about my art practice should instil in me such anxiety that returning to my notebooks (an activity traditionally soothing for me) should become something I avoid.
It is probably worthwhile to do a recap of what actually happened in my practice this year.
I often feel guilty about being an artist. I have a moral compass of a kind that constantly reminds me that I ought to be good to others, and useful to others, and generally make the world a better place rather than drag it down or simply reap the fruits of the good ideas and hard work of others. I feel bad about myself for possibly being lazy, too sensitive, idle, or believing I have a greater right to the luxury of free thought and time that seems required for making art.
At the same time, I harbour an awful lot of doubt. Doubt is the religion I was raised on – to never take anything for granted, and to always question my beliefs. Doubt ideologically underpins the scientific method which my parents both always practiced.
So I spend a lot of time not being quite sure whether what I am doing means I am being lazy, oversensitive, idle, or selfish. Not being sure means I sit around suspecting myself of having bad qualities, feeling guilty about probably squandering all my responsibilities, and not doing much else.
It may be possible that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe a crippling sense of responsibility and hesitation is morally a better place to be than other options, even if it does seem to make the littlest things most difficult.
One of the qualities I aspire to, and what’s more, I think I possess great ability for, is to be hard working. To be committed and persistent and accepting of challenges.
One of the things I spend a lot of time hesitating over, is what exactly constitutes hard work and what constitutes procrastination in an/my artistic practice. That’s sometimes unclear.
Because a feeling which sometimes emerges is that I am not “doing anything”, and this feels, at present, frightful. The idea of spending months on end not doing anything, or if I am doing something then doing something automatic and mindless to stave of really doing something, feels awfully wasteful and incorrect.
I find myself accusing myself of this crime quite often, and it leads to desperate attempts at being “serious” about making art, (drawing up sketches, plans, scripts and lists of equipment) only to find the results both exhaust and depress me with their merciless mediocrity. Looking back at the year, I have strong negative associations to certain projects. To others, rather positive ones. Most instances where I may be said to have been “working on something” seem to recall more blurry, messy feelings of unease and perhaps a little bit of embarrassment.
At the turn of the year, T and I had already received the NOWNESS short film commission, though we had not quite yet begun on the project.
Instead, we had the Tate Exchange project coming up with our peers across the Fine Art programme at CSM. Obviously, Tate Modern is a massive institution for art, basically Mecca for British artists if not even those more further afield. It felt surreal to be invited to put some work there. The theme was “Art School”, to invite the public into the role of art student and what it could mean to be taught art. We were challenged to rethink the idea of a lesson, a lecture, a class; arts academia itself seems to be uncertain about how courses in art should be conducted, and a typical artist’s education has obviously changed dramatically over the centuries. The idea is actually pretty great I think, it is a good opportunity. But very early on I was rather riddled with anxieties.
Then we started on NOWNESS. This was a very intense period. I had hoped I would find the mental capacity to work on my novel at the same time, but found myself hopelessly estranged from it. At the same time, I wondered how much I could blame my tangential occupation with NOWNESS. Would I really be that productive with regards to the novel if I had free time? How much had I really progressed with it since October? Not much.
Upon return from the extremely stressful filming weekend in Bognor Regis, we had about a week to rest before turning our focus to the Laundry group MA exhibition in Hackney. I began having similar anxious feelings as when the Tate project drew near. I didn’t know what to do and felt I had nothing of quality to contribute. I tried to motivate myself and be resourceful and spark some ideas. Looking back at the film project, which caused me a great deal of grief in return for something I never really felt I had my heart in, I was surprised to find myself quite proud, of all things, of my acting and performance on-screen. It really wasn’t that bad, and it was interesting to see that I had the ability to do tonnes of retakes unfalteringly. Up till then I hadn’t known I could act from a script – that I could even memorise lines at all, and then deliver them absolutely convincingly and in an entertaining way. If all else fails, maybe I could actually have a shot as an actress, I thought. So I attempted to capitalise on the character I had already developed for NOWNESS and use her as a model to play with under more of a Vernacular Spectacular rubric.
I tried this first, casually, with my dad as we cruised around Tate Modern. We weren’t really looking at much art. We filmed a video which he later edited and coined “Voxels of Truth”, which I adopted.
Then I thought, “let’s do this seriously for Laundry, this time”. So I made Lorelai. And I gruelled much over the video material and edited it tonnes of times and lost my mind looking at the same footage over and over. Everything I did to it made it worse. Anyone’s opinion whom I showed clips to had determining effects on my subsequent actions and I felt powerless. I barely gave any thought to install, as I was utterly embarrassed by what I had tried so hard to make great, and my whole oeuvre was coloured with a note of disgust and I failed to approach the entire project with any sort of playfulness.
“My father edited the video, my boyfriend bound the book and my grandfather made the poster. Katarina Rankovic presented by the men in her life” was the result. Because this is indeed what happened. My grandfather made a rather pompous poster about me, my boyfriend bound a book of my stories to try to cheer me up and it was my dad who edited the film and I felt powerless before all these attempts to cheer me up!
I dipped into depression and simply floated about I think, for a month or two. I realised my attitude was the problem, so began almost entirely devoting my time to repairing my bad attitude.
I think that worked somewhat.
Revisiting work from the past year:
Xhibit 2017 in Bermondsey with Vernacular Spectacular
*Winning the Refinery29 Vision Award (for the latter)
Learning to bind a book
*Writing a chapter of Anomaline, my novel
*Starting to read chapters of my novel aloud and putting them online
*Made a performance for Jon Cairns group presentation on Emotion, Presence called Human Radio Channel
*Made a fictional radio programme
Working on a short story, Josephine
*Making a Kickstarter campaign for the novel, with a performative promo video
The university radio is going live again, I put up an advertisement for First Conversations
*Drawing session with Refinery29