Kathy Loomis and I spent almost seven months from September to April in a joint daily art project which we have reported about here and here.
In December, at approximately half-term, the whole project went through a crisis because due to some problems of their provider, Kathy was unable to send e-mails for several days, although new postings were still appearing on her blog. Before (and after) that crisis we had always made sure to announce to each other when we would be out of town, and we had either posted ahead, to be opened on the date indicated, or we would make up afterwards.
So as it is with crises, they usually offer you a chance to change or reconsider something in your life.
This sudden and unannounced silence on Kathy’s part while new posts appeared on her blog left me slightly at a loss. I felt abandoned – and understood how important the whole project had become for me. And for my artistic development. Not only was I having fun preparing our daily mails. I was taking pictures at a higher frequency rate than ever before, and I was also taking different kinds of pictures. Some of these have meanwhile been published in our local newspaper after I sent them in on chance. (And I am even getting paid a token for each picture published, I just found out!)
During those days of not receiving anything from Kathy I spent a considerable amount of hours contemplating on the art value of our project. I realized that it was much more than sheer fun for the two of us. The concept behind the whole thing was the setup as a dialogue between two different people from two different cultures, though with at least a certain amount of shared interest. Kathy has already mentioned the cultural exchange aspect in her last post on the project as we exchanged pictures of national or local peculiarities. But the dialogue also went beyond the immediated reaction to each other’s themes as they were developing, in that each of us started seeing new constellations or aspects which we hadn’t noticed before.
At one point, Kathy had started sending pictures of ‚men at work’:
|Kathy's picture of 'men at work' on Tenerife|
Now that was definitely a theme I had not been paying any attention to in my picture taking. (And I admit I haven’t taken her up on that theme, although I do ‚see’ them now - but I feel slightly shy about taking pictures of – to me – strangers when they might notice. These must therefore be considered my „untaken pictures“.)
In turn, I have been taking pictures of trees and markings in their bark which I call ‚tree faces’.
These Kathy hadn’t noticed before – but she said she would be looking out for them now, and she has since posted one on her blog.
The ‚found art’ parts in the exchange showed me a lot of parallels between art and linguistics, which had been an important part in my former life. The success of (verbal) communication is always very much dependant on the hearer of a message, which could also be formulated as „meaning lies in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder“. That’s true for art, too. Art is in the eye of the beholder - and with fount art it is most likely going to be the artist, first.
|Fount light-art by Uta|
|Found art in Antarctica by Kathy|
Part of the value of the entire project must have been the fact that we didn’t know in which direction the exchange would develop, neither in the beginning nor throughout the project. Sometimes, a theme would not be taken up – or only at a much later date. Part of the value was the fact that we did include rather brief notes of explanation with our mails, but both of us made sure that these were not too personal. It was a visual conversation with very few extra words put in. Part of the value, too, was the fact that we were doing it every single day. Which kept the project (almost) constantly at the forefront of our minds as we were always looking at things with that thought in mind: would this be worth sending as the next Daily Mail? Permanent repetition with the slightest possible variations gives one a more thorough feeling for what one is doing. Thinking about it, and then doing it again, either with or without alteration, does make quite a difference.
In conceptual art, the idea „behind it“ was sometimes considered as or even more important than the actual execution. In this case, however, I think that the execution was just as important as the initial idea, because none of us knew ahead of time how it would develop, and the final result and feeling of satisfaction at having fulfilled the commitment contribute to my personal positive evaluation of the project.
When we talked it over in April, and we kept returning to the point of „what about it is art?“ Kathy gave me her personal definition of art as „art is anything that makes you think differently about the world“. ‚You’ in this case was meant to refer to the recipient. It’s true for the artist, though, too.