I probably need a haircut. In the interim I’ll curse this highly unseasonable humidity and extra helpings of rain. Adelaide’s normally subject to 2-4 Sydney-esque days of weather per summer; instead, the beautiful yet beguiling La Niña’s working her phenomenological weirdness over South Australia at present. It’s like the Thai climate I was subjected to in December has followed us back to Adelaide.
What’s this post all about? Something new, I suppose. I used to do posts like this many years ago on my old blog – mostly detailing my wayward, unfocused post-graduate studies and musings on self-imposed poverty and why nobody understood me. MySpace was also handy for that kind of thing. Ah, MySpace.
However, occasionally I’d touch on something that was a little more interesting – such as the creation of my Infuser work in early 2007 or musing on the work of Alvin Lucier. At some point I stopped doing that and in the intervening years I’ve struggled to find any direction or purpose for this blog aside from posting links to music, reviews and Fleurieu Sound Map updates. There have been several occassions I can think of when this blog was nearly shut down and committed to the archive. These notions have been entirely justifiable at times – after all, there’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a dozen other platforms to push our stuff out there, soak up valuable time…and honestly for lengthy patches of time I didn’t really have much to say or put out there.
The last couple of years have been difficult for me artistically. Since 2015 – in spite of regular projects – I’ve been at an impasse of sorts where I’ve been seriously doubting my ability as a creative practitioner, whilst frustrated at my relative level of success and recognition as an artist.
Dear reader, hang in there with me before you get thoughts that I’m drifting into self-indulgent word-wanking territory, I’ll do my best to get this scenario across.
Would you like to go and make a cup of tea and come back?
Right, you’re back.
Let’s address that first issue of doubt before we get onto the more trival matter of success.
When did the doubt kick in? I think a lack of confidence has always been there; buried in the morass of projects I’ve been involved in over the past decade and a bit. Whilst it certainly prevented me from undertaking certain things or communicating things adequately from time to time, there was something still kicking things along; insofar that I kept moving along from one project to idea, from one idea to the next project reasonably undaunted. I reflect on this time, culminating during a period (c. 2009-2010) where – now looking back – I’m certain this immunity to doubt was largely fuelled by a combination of confidence, arrogance and an increasingly risable ego. I’m frankly suprised I didn’t lose friends or seriously alienate people around this period. I feel very uneasy about this period – I was a real prick.
The next couple of years brought on some of the most rewarding work I’ve been involved in to date. 2012 and 2013 were hugely productive years with successful installations (The Roil, Ecocline), work in theatre and the release of The Path Described on 3Leaves. Once 2014 came around things changed and for the first time I remember seriously doubting whether I should continue with my work or take an extended break. It was certainly a quieter year in terms of opportunities coming in; read that as “people offering me work” as opposed to activly seeking work or putting proposals in.
I’m going to sidetrack slightly at this point and make reference to that bit in parentheses, which can also be read as: “people approaching me to do x“. I’ve always been a private person and this thing of waiting for people to come to me has – since I was in my teens – extended to socialising with family or friends, going out or looking for work. It’s a built-in bit of programming that’s seriously hindered me at times and occassionally put me across as a person who doesn’t really want to be disturbed or bothered. He’s a serious guy after all.
So, with that in mind I think I know what was happening around this point. With my ego and arrogance significantly bevelled off and a lack of work put in front of me I had to actively motivate myself to keep making and feel good about my work. This didn’t happen at all and it certainly created a space where deep doubts and insecurities crept in and affected virtually everything I did from that point.
This space can be summed up as follows:
- Double, triple check everything you do in the studio.
- Agonise over the slightest details.
- Start something and abandon it quickly like it was on fire or corrupted by poison.
- Feel profoundly lonely whilst surrounded by lots of lovely expensive equipment (see below image.)
- Tell yourself, “I’m going to read Curtis Rhodes Complete Music Tutorial from front-to back.” All 800 pages. Which never happens and you mentally admonish yourself for not commiting.
- Tell people you are sick of being branded as a ‘sound person’, ‘sound artist’, ‘sound designer’. “I WISH TO BE JUST AN ARTIST.” [bangs fist and promptly kills the life at the party.]
That last point is where the dreaded issue of success, recognition and perception comes in. Fucking hell, dear reader – have you made it this far? Good on you, I owe you a beer.
Success – whatever the hell that is – as we all know is relative to a myriad of things. Obviously, by being incapable of motivating oneself and not actively seeking opportunities will create a cosmic vacuum where you’ll feel directionless and deeply insecure about your your work. On any given day you can spy many a lonesome confused artist wandering around on the beach screaming into the roiling seas, “NOBODY UNDERSTANDS MY ART!”. Also, envy’s also the worst, most poisonous thing to slump into. Thanks to social media platforms, this has the potential to amplify these feelings to an almost unbearable extent on a bad day.
Let’s take a breather, here’s a kitten:
Dear reader, you’ve been incredibly patient with me. It brings us to the ultimate question: so what the hell am I going to do about this? God forbid they’ll be another post like this detailing my anxieties to such an agonising, vomitous extent (well, at least for the remainder of this year.)
Look! I’ve hauled myself down from the proverbial cross so I can address it. This is what I’m going to do: actually do things – submit proposals; send work to conferences, radio, labels; have conversations with people; get back behind the local Adelaide scene and support artists. The list goes on, but I’ve got an agenda which refreshingly isn’t being driven by a) others generously offering me opportunities; b) an iteration of my ego that I hopefully divorced by the time I turned 30; and c) a moribund fear and self-loathing that I haven’t yet shown any work in Japan.
2017 will be a year of looking after myself a bit better, being much better to those around me whilst being thoughtful, considered and patient.
More posts like this to come, but next time they’ll come far less saddled with therapy sessions like this. I’ll actually show you some of the things I’m working on.
Everything is going to be OK.
Peas & Love,