magic studio

by my hand…

Dies Mars
Luna wn 97%v

the looming gremlin of mass production, continuity, and more road blocks I put in my own way

Have had a couple of days to get back into the groove by making a few simple layered metal pieces. My drawing sucks, but I’m doing it.

The metal pieces look like roughly-made mass produced elements stamped out of sheet and assembled. They look like pieces that machines could have made much better and more quickly, economically. It looks like I’m mimicking a machine process, poorly. Do Not Like.

For this kind of piece, most people cast multiples of the elements from perfected masters, but I find myself resistant to that idea. Why does carving something in wax and then multiplying it feel like “cheating”? Am I really that stuck on the one-of-a-kind thing? Yes, I think I am. And I think it could really hold me back.

I definitely have a fondness for the romantic singular event of making, and for the unique and unrepeatable object made by my hands in a segment of intensified time. It seems to come from my background in theater and dramatic ritual in general, initiation in particular. It also comes from living in a culture that places a high value on the individual and unique whether genuine or affected. Ironically enough, that same culture places little value on craft and is awash in ten thousand different (mostly mass-produced) options for any particular thing a person might want.

The fact is that, in comparison to casting 100 identical elements, a heavy steel die striking a piece powered by me dropping a hammer on it just feels better in my mind than casting it from a wax I carved.

The things I like about that that are all but invisible to anyone else:

-the metal is many times tougher, denser and durable for being impacted instead of cast. Its physical state, density is a direct result of its having been a receptacle of focused force.
-the process of the delivery of force that transfers the images/patterns is much more dramatic, more like some sigilizing processes. It is more immediately and easily choreographed to fit within ritual frameworks I’m familiar with
-the process is very old and very simple. The equipment required is very basic (once made & assembled) and can be used almost anywhere, Casting = many more steps and stages, much more required equipment (that I will have to travel to another location to use), brand new learning curve again.

HOWEVER…by not branching out, am I making a lot more unnecessary work for myself for a result that differs only minutely -assuming I raise my technical skill at the hand work to a high level- to most viewers?

The viewer who isn’t in on my particular views on the evocation of spirit out of matter will not see the difference (though I’d like them to). The viewer shouldn’t be concerned with me, anyway. They don’t need to see what goes on behind the curtain as the proof of the piece is in the experience of it. This is my problem with much conceptual art out there. One shouldn’t need to read a page of text to enjoy the art properly. One shouldn’t have needed to have read the book to enjoy the play- these things signal a failure on the part of the artist to do their job.

Should I stay with the time-consuming hand work, is communicating what is “special” about my work going to require that page of text  that I so very much dislike to explain, if what is special about it is hidden behind process? Should anyone care? I know I should, but will anyone else? (The problem becomes how to let the piece speak for itself, clearly, and yet still have it be close to my ideal).

What matters to me does not necessarily have to matter to anyone else. Ideally while making the work, I make no predictions on who might like it and who might be utterly indifferent to it. Easy to say hard to do. I’ll succeed if they have a live interaction with the piece(s). I might as well just concede that I’ll never have the view from the other side of the curtain as concerns my own work. I’ve already thought & written about it too much, about a perspective I will never have. My business is the how, and the opening of ways for these things to get into their forms.

Serving that thought, I do not want to inhibit the progress of the work by being too closed-minded about reproduction technology.

I still ought to take a casting course so that my choice is better informed. I feel so impatient though. Back to the exercises, then. Amd perhaps later have a conversation about material fertility & multiplication with one of my insect patrons.