August 30, 2006

One Year and a Day

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I have now been doing this blog for one year and a day. In the beginning I posted quite contentiously every Monday. However, more recently I have posted only occasionally and quite often not at all. What started as a fun idea has slowly graduated into a confusing chore. More precisely, I have become quite self-conscious about the relative merits of any given post. On several occasions it has been brought to my attention that the general tone of my postings is consderably bleak. Of course, I already knew my writing was bleak but there is something very specific about the process of a blog – the assumption of a diaristic/autobiographical tone, the near-instantaneous distribution into the void, the readership of friends and acquaintances who perhaps read into these musings aspects simply never (or only barely) intended – that makes me aware of this bleakness in a different light. There is a rather famous art work by John Baldessari where he wrote “I will make no more boring art” on a chalk board over and over again, like a student kept late after class, and I suspect I should undergo a similar exercise with the phrase “I will make no more depressing art.” It is this fear of posting something too bleak and dispiriting that most often keeps me from posting: a strangely specific form of self-censorship. (If E.M. Cioran had done the same he might have written nothing.)

In the current issue of Artforum, in an article about the queer collective LTTR written by Julia Bryan-Wilson, the following passage caught my attention: “Lauren Berlant, a professor at the University of Chicago, has recently proposed that negativity and depression could be politically necessary responses to the disenfranchised character of our contemporary age. Yet during an era of real despair, a time marked by hatred of all types of difference, we also need these localized moments of pleasure and unsecured possibility, moments motored not only by passion but also a willingness to fail.” It is the first part of the quote that I originally focused on, that “negativity and depression could be politically necessary responses to the disenfranchised character of our contemporary age.” And yes, as the post-Sept 11th debacle – the ever-sharpening acuity of the proto-fascist, globalized now – continues to increase, my ability to look on the bright side of things (never my strongest suit to begin with) continues to apathetically drain away into not even the image of embers. Yet as I copied this quotation into my blue notebook the second part also seemed strangely relevant, that: “we need […] moments of pleasure and unsecured possibility, moments motored not only by passion but also a willingness to fail.” Passion and a willingness to fail, the connection between them at first seemingly slight but with further consideration it grows stronger. To enter into an endeavor in which success seems likely or guaranteed requires no passion. Only under threat of failure, only under the strictures of such risk, is ones passion required to push through the limitations and break through the fear.


[P.S. For the next year, as a small challenge to myself, I will attempt to post one passionate, engaged, non-depressing text on the first Monday of every month. This proposed year of anti-depressing texts will begin on Monday October 2nd.]



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2 comments:

oversion6@yahoo.ca said...

i'd post contentiously if
i was always posting on a monday
as well.

no more depressing art? how judge
effect tho. the movie UNFORGIVEN
could hardly be more grim,
but i found it most leavening.

when will you next be in toronto?

john

Jacob Wren said...

That's really true. Art that on the surface is depressing can often have an exhilarating effect on the reader. But I'm simply embarking on a temporary experiment. Because a certain kind of depressing writing, a certain kind of writerly ennui, is also simply a cliché.

I should be back in Toronto for a few days some time in October/November. I'll let you know.