Friday, April 27, 2012

the artist is just a bystander

One of my projects this spring has been to gather budding branches and wrap them in domestic cloth.
Letting the materials lead. Letting the work that arrives from those materials be the 'other'. Listening to that other, to find out what to do next.
"The artist is just a bystander" Robert Rauschenberg
quote is from this interview with young Robert Rauschenberg


  1. This is a wonderful post. I love the photographs of your wrapped works and the video of a young Rauschenberg is inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Not sure to share this opinion, I have to say...

  3. Montse

    I can understand your questioning of the idea of the artist being just a bystander.

    I been going back and forth between

    a) the idea is the most important thing and should lead
    b) the materials should lead

    I now do believe that my best work comes from when I gather the materials that resonate with me - no other reason than that, then start working with them after really contemplating them.

    And as I work with them, they become something else. Almost like they become another person that has its own integrity.

    So I have to stop, and listen to them again.

    And wait. Waiting is important.

    So of course the artist is not JUST a bystander, the artist has to be a very aware, sensitive and thoughtful bystander who trusts.

    It's good to disagree with me here and I thank you for it. It makes me rethink myself and try to explain what I'm thinking in a better way.

  4. And you DO think and rethink, as always! I sometimes don't go deeper on talking about such complex thoughts because it takes me hours to say it in english and, in the end, I am afraid not to have transmited what I really meant (precise language is important in these situations).

    But now, you just read my thoughts.

    I see it as "listening to the work". Stop and listen. Even if you listen with the eyes (we work with images) and the hands sometimes… (we touch our works).

  5. i've read both the comment and reply and found it interesting and provoking to respond to. i believe the artists takes both roles, by-stander and catalyst...ideas ferment and develop along with the work so in that regard perhaps the by-stander role...catalyst because without there would be no work. there is an interactive role between the materials and the artists so perhaps in that respect not always a passive by-stander. ideas are part of the material base as well. interesting too is that the question of by-stander is brought to the forefront as you were waiting for the spring to gather the budding branches and yet the last bundle the rose was the material and it took the role of waiting as well. something to contemplate. Perhaps that is the role of the artist: to question and question further as no one answer is really finite. thank you

  6. have been thinking of this bystander, as well. the word bystander in this context, "stands-by" or aside, to allow

    i think of a clearing of mind, non-mind, the place you go while stitching; a shamantic open readiness, the well prepared vessel, the womb that receives, carries, gives life

    i like that you speak of listening, of expectations of arrival, that the work is "other" and you respect it as such; prepared to engage it with all your readiness of mind, eye, hand--

    "Thus the blossoming of the flower belongs to you."
    (a line I've been thinking on, plucked from Irigaray again)

    Thanks for your posts.

  7. Sometimes this blog is just so hard to write.

    Thank for the thoughtful reading and love I can feel in your comments here.

    These wrappings are part of an installation that I'm working on - and am not quite ready to show yet.

    Showing too much while it is all still in progress, leaves me feeling vulnerable, yet part of my reason for blogging is to try to show what it is like to be creative. For me to be creative.

    There's such a back and forth all the time. A making, a looking, and then just as often, a wrecking, a clearing away and starting over.

    But what I can feel happening with the particular materials in this post is large and almost obvious.

    About life and death and women and birth - all based foremost on the simple materials from nature and the home made.

    The by-stander word was Robert Rauschenberg's, and I do regret using it so freely.

    Thanks for listening to the me behind his word.

  8. You must not regret. Just before he makes the comment about being "almost a bystander," Rauschenberg says "you begin with the possibilities of the material and then you let them do what they can do." It's a process of inspiration, the same thing Agnes Martin means when she says "To live and work by inspiration you have to stop thinking. You have to hold your mind still in order to hear inspiration clearly." It's going to that place of flow, of stillness, that's what he meant, and you meant. There's always a "back and forth," as you said, and always a starting over. It's difficult to speak about making art, but you do it very well.

  9. i agree, no regrets!
    this post and the word by-stander in context is perfect. Your use of it engages me to deconstruct the word, to carry it into itself again, to free it of some intentions. so i can see. feel know it again. It carried me to the word "m/other"

    I think its just that your art is working. engaging us.

  10. wrapping. holding. swaddling. what better use of cloth. it's vulnerable to not be consciously in control, and yet a vital ingredient of creativity. playing with cloth, i stand aside and let my hands translate the soft whisperings of my bones, show me images from my heart, and take me to places that are beyond the realm of words. when i agree to be a bystander, i am introduced and reacquainted with my self.

  11. judy, this post and the conversation is nourishing me right NOW, this morning. thank you.

  12. i asked Jude once what a kind of
    cloth i had was...and she said
    her best guess was
    "good household cloth"
    i have loved those words many
    times since...
    house hold
    to hold a house
    to be a householder
    to have cloth


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx