art making as contextual other–as resolving alternate avenues of being
MORNING MUSINGS. “Moments of unknowingness about oneself tend to emerge in the context of relations to others, suggesting that these relations call upon primary forms of relationally that are not always available to explicit and reflective thematization. If we are formed in the context of relations that become partially irrecoverable to us, then it would seem that opacity is built into our formations and follows from our status as beings who are formed in relations of dependency.” – Judith Butler, “An Account of Oneself” in Conversations with Judith Butler…, 2008: 29.
Though I may misinterpret or misappropriate Butler’s logic, rarely do I disagree. Lived experience and my own ponderings align neatly with her suppositions and neither seem overly contained to notions of gender. The delusions that my formulations of how we function are insightfully new I would love to hold. Butler regularly undoes any self revelry I might gain in being unique or insightful. I am not. Oh, sad face. Of course notions of my own originality, uniqueness, significance dissipated long before my textual intro to Butler or Kenneth Gergen for I have been cognoscente of how I work and that my work resides well within the restrictions of existing knowledge sets. I have ridden social theorists waves regardless that I was oblivious to their previous codification.
A few lecture slides from an art practice course (2010) to entertainingly account for my self claim–shoring up my identity in some way as thinker, insightful, through affiliating my thinking with Butler’s. ha. On upload, I glanced over this quickly, a smirk tugged at my lips of my pre-Butlerian usage of doing.
Frankly, I do not cut new ground nor ripple out waves of change. I don’t believe anyone does–but the thought of pushing the fissures in the ground further open with the wakes riveting attention to the discrepancies and incoherence of particular ways of knowing and doing, appeals. It seduces my compulsion to fulfill some kind of societal function beyond walking my pup and scooping up her poop so as not to offend.
All this to say that the Butlerian idea of the opacity of self, that JoHari (1955) window pane that is unaccessible in ourself and other, the unknowable, emerging in the context of relations with others, seems spot on. In the same way that the transparent panes are only apparent relationally.
In terms of doing artist. Is the relationship with making, the art object, and the point of public contact somehow function for the artist as an “other” in which they can locate them self as well as note areas that remain inaccessible? In a twenty three year marriage in which I found myself both erased and complicit in rendering myself largely opaque, in a way that was both inauthentic and inaccessible to me. Was the introduction of my art practice into the system a substitionary relationship to reduce my own opacity. Did my relationally experience with materials and making assist in rendering myself as recognizable, legible, in a way that seemed authentic? YES, damn it, it did. The costs in resolution was collateral damage–uncovering of how unfit, even inauthentic, the spousal dynamics were. It allowed me to see that doing outweighed saying. The stability in an identity as wife as it related to husband simply did not exist. It was repeatedly undone by two decades of action that dissolved my ability to hold on to the conventions of wife. And I had stood complicity within the system replicating it. Art as other, provided a different venue of relational mirroring in which I discovered areas that appeared unknowable about myself as knowable. Admittedly ripping out the illusion of tethering to the category of wife on which I depended, shattered much of the infrastruction from which I operated.
And though much still remains opaque and irrecoverable, my relationship with my art practice provides a more reliable alternative to spouse. Sure it brings its own baggage, its own nonreflective opacity to the table, but it is refreshingly different uncovering unsuspected avenues of being. Perhaps it is only a transitional object, a transitory relationship. But, I think not.