"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." - Socrates
I've started saying I'm semi-retired. It's both a light joke and deadly serious, as if my life depended on it. So far, in what we might call reality, I'm working more or less as much as I ever have. But my attitude towards this work is hopefully, gradually starting to change. Saying I'm semi-retired is a critique of the fact that, as an artist, I feel I'm under constant pressure to over-produce. As soon as I finish one project I'm already being asked what the next project is. It seems there is a natural, unspoken assumption that what an artist does is produce a never-ending supply of works that fulfill an equally never-ending series of empty slots within various institutions, projects and structures.
I'm naturally somewhat prolific, so overproduction has never seemed like an impossible task. But I've also felt that, for me, being artistically prolific is almost like a bad habit. I think the absolutely hardest thing to do as an artist is to keep making good work, work with integrity, over an entire lifetime. (I have now been making work for twenty-five years which is perhaps why these questions are now hitting me with such peculiar force.) I've always thought that the best way to last is to produce less, to really consider each step and never unnecessarily rush into anything. At the same time, at certain moments, a sense of recklessness and spontaneity is also essential. It's not like I've got it all figured out. And I don't exactly want to figure it out. I want to remain open enough to whatever happens that I might still end up somewhere I previously didn't even have the tools to consider possible.
Nonetheless, I've started saying I'm semi-retired. It has something to do with no longer feeling I have to do everything, feeling some things are more important than others and my actions have to reflect such values and realities. One definition of capitalism is an insatiable need for growth, for more, always more, and I feel as an artist, often living hand to mouth, I am also expected to do both as much as possible and often more than I can. I am searching for ways to say, more clearly than I have before, that this is not where it's at. Time needs to be understood in other ways. We'll still have to see in the future whether saying I'm semi-retired is only wishful thinking or, to put it more bluntly, to what degree I end up a hypocrite. But more is certainly not always more.
Finally, as a critique of many of the assumptions in what I've just written, I will finish with - and very much hope you will read - this piece by Pampi Thirdeyefell: Art with Teeth because #CreativesLabor