27th September Diary: An Aside
I’ve been keeping a diary for the past few weeks in preparation for an assignment. I’ve decided that I can’t make it public, at least at the moment while it’s still ongoing. But I notice recurring patterns of thoughts and behaviours in me, like I’m several different people trying to inhabit one space, one body, some of whom want diametrically opposed outcomes. I have an internal struggle to keep things in check. Whomever this ‘I’ actually internally identifies does, anyway. But it leads to an ongoing chaotic sense of self, such that there is one in me.
For someone with a schizophrenic mother, that description of myself sounds like the way some people understand schizophrenia, which isn’t what schizophrenia is at all. But still, it makes it a hard thing to recognise in myself and an even harder one to admit. There’s always the question mark over me when people know I have a mentally ill parent; is she mad too? I can see it, the question forms mentally, and as the impression forms in the mind it also forms on the face. I suppose that people see mental illness like an infection that can spread. And I suppose that if it’s not dealt with, then whatever pain caused it in the first place can spread down generations. In my family, I am the one who deals with the nasty stuff that no-one else wants to acknowledge. I am the one who takes the backlash. And I am the one who can face it and not break, as long as I do it carefully; right now, my carefully is through art.
When I woke this morning, I opened Pinterest on my iPad. And the first thing I saw was this image, with this text,
“In the end it’s all about finding a way to live in this world, to create your own structure.”
That text really jolted me in some way, because it seems to speak to an issue that I struggle with, as do most people, about meaning. It also speaks to me in terms of structure, which the amorphous ‘I’ can find utterly intolerable, but whomever I is on any particular day, she also appreciates the need for it. So I set about finding out the context for the quote, and in doing so came across the Belgian artist, Rinus Van De Velde.
I won’t go into a description of the artist and what he does, I’ll leave some links here and let those images speak to each individual themselves rather than adding my personal layer of dialogue. But the more I discover, the more my own work around this diary and fragments of ideas I’ve been working on for the entire course, are crystallising for me. There are ideas I’ve been prodding from several different directions for a long time, and sometimes when you probe something that hurts and prod at it, it gets more painful, so it’s all uncomfortable, but I’m starting to see way to tackle it now.
The quote above seems to be taken from an interview with The Word Magazine:
What subjects do you deal with in your art?
With the mystical aspects of friendship for example. Or with the romantic idea of genius in the case of Bobby Fischer. When I look back on my work I always dealt with romantic ideas in a way. But my art is also about lying, imagining, fantasies. In the end it’s all about finding a way to live in this world, to create your own structure. Everybody has to create his or her own fiction and live in it, otherwise you can’t survive.
In many ways, the last sentence of this is more important to me than the one I began with. The idea that everyone has to create their own fiction and live in it to survive; I think that’s really profound, because it is what people do whether they understand and realise it or not. Sometimes people break when the reality of the fiction becomes clear to them. They can go to extreme lengths to convince others and themselves of their fiction, but in the end, a fiction it is and a fiction it remains.
I’ve been thinking about fiction a lot lately. Watching Neil Gaiman on Masterclass has been really good for getting me working again, just because I feel I’ve been given licence to spend time actually finishing things. He clearly thinks that finishing is important, so that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s really helped me.
This has gone hand-in-hand with the work on masquerade and self-portraiture, and now with Van De Velde it feels like loose ends are being tied up, and all that is left is what should be the easy bit – doing the work, rather than thinking about it, researching it, and planning it.
I’ve made a few tentative starts, but when I work honestly, it’s very difficult to share. So I try to give it time to settle, so I can make the work, leave a gap, and come back to it to assess it afresh, to decide how honest I really want to be. But in the end, there are things I just don’t want to share or am not ready to share yet, not even with myself. De Velde’s fictions are revealing a possible way to navigate some of these issues.
I printed this George Orwell quote out about a year ago, at some level I knew I wanted to base work on it.
“It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Ogilvy, but a few lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence”
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
And now Einstein comes to mind too.