I remember very distinctly at the age of fourteen, a friend, who was verging on adulthood, announced to me that she was suicidal. I simply could not grasp the notion of ceasing to exist. I asked if maybe instead of killing herself she could just drastically change her identity and begin a different life… just say to yourself I’m no longer me, I’ll ‘kill’ me and just start living in some different way. It seemed to me very plausible and logical. Based on my optimistic and / or pragmatic approach to her suicidal urge, I never could have foreseen my own melancholic tendency toward listlessness, but I do have one.
So what do I do when I’m listless? I kind of am now, and what if I said I’m too sad to tell you? OK, that’s a little forced, however, ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I tend to get depressed, and bogged down and sometimes even cry when my work is undone. That is when I start to think about following my old advice and start considering abandoning my identity. That would entail forgetting my past and all my handy anecdotes that reside there. More importantly – to abandon my identity – I would have to quit being an artist, quit doing art.
I’d have to quit my job… and my job is my life.
One hundred years ago, my favorite artist, author Robert Musil, wrote this in a letter to a friend: ‘Art’ for me is only a means of reaching a higher level of the ‘self’.
One day ago, a friend of mine wrote, in a letter to me: ‘I think I am addicted… to my identity as an artist… (which is) probably detrimental to the ideal of art making itself, I think you realize this.’ I wrote back: ‘When I think about eradicating the identity – short of killing myself, incidentally or on purpose – the artist-ego always elbows in, making it all seem like a staged burning of the paintings, only to be followed by an exhibition of their ashes.’ And Zarathustra spoke thus: “I love him who makes his virtue his addiction and his catastrophe: for his virtue’s sake he wants to live on and live no longer.”
- Frances Stark, Collected Writing 1993-2003