There is a trend that visual artists’ who enact an undoing (altering or obstructing) of conventions, whether of materiality, form, process, subject matter or theme, in their work also have a writing practice. I believe this practice arises to counter the troubling the artist experiences in identity clarity and maintenance. The artist’s troublings and tweaking of citational conventions undo or blur the social restrictions of identity constitution that allow the artist to continually locate and substantiate themselves as recognizable.
An artist like the transgendered is likely to find that her personhood, her being and doing, does not conform unambiguously to normalized cultural conventions. Transgender congruence is the degree to which the ambiguous dislocation of personhood is performatively reconfigured in a way that generates feelings of acceptability—internally normalizing the unconventional as genuine, authentic and comfortable category.
What comes into appearance must segregate in order to appear. (Goethe as quoted by Robert Morris)
I believe the artist’s writing practice plays a significant congruency function in renegotiating, generating and maintaining the artist’s particular identity as socially discernable and useful.
While writing, I began to discover this strange voice at the back of my throat, which didn’t sound like my old voice at all. It felt red and raw and powerful, and the more I wrote, the stronger it became. Each word seemed to chip away at my former identity and bring me closer to who I felt I really was. Writing had given me ownership over my own life. (Chapadjiev et al. 2008, p. 9).
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My hope was that if I did this (writing as artist) honestly I would discover how to see myself from a perspective that would render myself whole in my own eyes (Truitt, 1982, Kindle Locations 66-67).
In other words the act of writing, like other stylized repetitive acts, assists in resolving the illusion of a stable identity category from which the artist may continue her particular forms of doing, which entails the destablization of particular social conventions.
A notebook is an amazing confessional, a breeding ground, a nonjudgmental wailing wall, a home to build with your brain for every gorgeous, glimmering thing that can slip into words. It can hold some of the ugly that spills out when it’s all too much. Some of this writing is useful, good, important— it gives us insight into ourselves and our world and sometimes helps us find our way to a better place.- Daphne Gottlieb (Chapadjiev et al. 2008, p. 33).
I am beginning an initial probe into parallels between doing gender and doing artistspecifically around the concept of troubling and transgender. Terminology of being and doing artist as well understanding creativity will be mulled over and recast in light of Judith Butler’s notions of troubling, gender regulation, production, resistance and subversion as they relate to performativity, transgender and gender constitution. It is my hope that this will begin building a framework for a more thorough study of the constitution of artist identity and convention troubling as they relate to the possible function(s) of trans-genre practice of germinal/seminal visual artists that both write and make.
I do enjoy the following texts that are coalescing in my mind to frame and reframe my intuition and understandings. I find it entertaining that historically, prior to my readings of identity theory, gender formation, prior to having ever heard of Judith Butler or Roland Barthe, that I had identified my art history papers as art “assemblages” because they were merely an amalgamation and hybridization constituted of things to which I had been exposed. Plus the way my mind works, it takes in my reading and it gets mucked up in my own processes in a way that I can hardly distinguish my own thought from external influences. And there is the fact that my memory sucks. It has the holding capacity of a steel…sieve.
The following are shaping my thinking as I continue to muck around in these texts.
Bain, A. (2005). Constructing an artistic identity. Work, Employment & Society, 19(1), 25-46. doi:10.1177/0950017005051280
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Theatre Journal, 40(4), 519-531. doi:10.2307/3207893
Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge.
Chapadjiev, S. (2008). Live through this: On creativity and self-destruction. New York: Seven Stories Press.
Jenkins, R. (2008). Social identity (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.
Truitt, A. (1982). Daybook, the journal of an artist. New York: Pantheon Books.
Ybema, S., Keenoy, T., Oswick, C., Beverungen, A., Ellis, N., & Sabelis, I. (2009). Articulating identities. Human Relations, 62(3), 299-322. doi:10.1177/00187267081019040