February 6, 2012

Some notes while working in the Ehime Prefecture


I met Tori Kudo for the first time on January 25, 2012. It’s not so long ago really. He suggested we begin our collaboration by doing pottery together. Though I came to Matsuyama because I was a great fan of his music, and I know absolutely nothing about pottery, I could not think of any reason we should not begin by throwing clay. As the clay spun in front of us, I began to think of Tori’s practice as a sort of double life: on one side is music, on the other pottery. (Tori told me that he tells musicians he is a potter, while he tells potters he is a musician.) In a similar way, I also lead a double life – I make performances and write novels – and when asked how these two practices relate to one another I am never quite sure what to say. I think there is something extremely beautiful in leading this sort of double existence. When one starts to feel trapped in one part, you can always escape to the other. (So much of my life is about not wanting to feel trapped.)

Tori Kudo’s band Maher Shalal Hash Baz is a rotating group of amateur musicians. (I believe there are over fifty so far.) I started to wonder what the difference was between an amateur musician and a professional. One difference might be that a professional does work for money, while an amateur does something he or she loves whether there is money involved or not. The amateur musician might also be said to lead a kind of double life: a job during the day, music during his or her free time. At the time of writing this I have not yet met the members of Maher Shalal Hash Baz, so (during our first try-out in Yokohama on February 16th) the audience and I will meet them, more or less, at the same time. I am extremely curious to see what will happen, what they think about all of these questions, how we might turn these questions into a performance together.

I am a professional in the sense that I make my living entirely from my artistic practice. At the same time, I always approach making art with a certain amateur spirit. Often this is only a question of intuition and instinct. When I am making, I know what I'm doing and don't know what I'm doing at the same time. I see myself on the side of 'not knowing', that's my team, but also fear this 'not knowing' is only a cover for knowing all too well. I've been doing this for a long time now. I'm full of tricks and the trick is most often on me. I know from experience that my most honest work is not necessarily my most popular. People say it looks amateur. Yes, I want to explain, why can't you see that this is also beautiful. And then we are in a battle of values. I value that which is fragile and unsure, while perhaps they value something more strong, effective or powerful. In my way, I also want to be effective. (But, I suppose, only in my way.)

In different ways, it can be said that all of us lead double lives. Whether it be between our public and private life, between work and home, between how we are with our friends and how we are with our family, etc. Some might say that in order to be authentic, in order to be true to oneself, you must be consistent, you must behave the same way all the time. (Would this be the 'strong, effective and powerful' way to live?) Of course, I believe the opposite: that in order to stay sane we need different habits, different personalities within our self, each personality able to get along with the rest. One behaves one way with a lover and a completely different way when being interrogated by the Gestapo. (You tell the truth to a lover and lie to the Gestapo. At least that’s how I would do it.) If one of your jobs is making art, having another job for money might be a way of saying that you don’t want money to corrupt your art. Or maybe not. You do not always have a choice in such matters. And I have never believed that art is particularly pure. However, living in only one room feels a bit claustrophobic. If possible, it’s always nice to have a second room where you can go.


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