Wednesday, July 9, 2008

writing history

A couple of conversations about the Punk past and the oral history collided for me. The first was in my previous post on No Wave and the second happened on the radio with Cyrus Smith. Cyrus captured the plight in a nutshell when he observed, towards the end of the interview, that the punk era really defined a crux of my lifetime. He is correct but the hook to this story is that it almost didn’t happen. It was buried. I relinquished my voice for awhile - and that’s why the writing of history is now important for me.

I wrote a history – my diaries – and over time almost forgot all about it. Life takes over, survival. I almost forgot what I learned at that time. In my 30s I fell into the rabbit hole of being not only a working woman of New York, but also the rabbit hole of the artist who bought into the gallery system in exchange for her previous expertise – what they call these days DIY.

You know, you dive into a studio practice and you make objects and then you make slides and you make friends and you get a gallery to represent you and then they take care of you. Etc. I never fit well into that mold in my youth. At the time I suspected it was all about the objects I made, but that was only part of the story.

Even when I made “beautiful” objects, somehow the system didn’t feel like a true fit. That’s because my initiation into my generation’s “art practices” (almost have to laugh at the phrase) was not about objects per se but about living a life, haphazard collaboration combined with vigilant self-invention. And that was never completely erased.

But of course I didn’t know that during my 30s and early 40s. I just felt like a failure, that’s all. It was only when I had that chance to read back and review in 2000/2001 and it hit me like a ton of bricks. History mattered, even if it was only a private one. Not the one written up in Lipstick Traces or whatever. If I had never had the chance to see it so clearly in my own words, there would probably have never been the radio shows or galleries or none of it. And I might never have had the momentum to make the paintings I had buried somewhere inside of me to make. It's almost shameful because we ought to be stronger than that and more determined. Like how can you forget yourself? But we do.


namastenancy said...

Winkleman's blog has a long post - and even longer comment thread - on the potential of the art market crashing and how one survives. Or, in some cases, not. I think that it's always difficult to hold on to our vision as artists and if we occasionally lose our way, we (well, you and I) find our way back. What was that saying about the "unexamined life?" It's always difficult to examine our lives from OUR values and reject the examination based on other people's values - but you continue to do it. Keep on trucking on is such an over used mantra but really, what else is there?

Eva said...


I found that thread pretty interesting. Several commenters wrote of landing in NYC in the early 90s after they had just completed their degrees.... oh dear....I guess they had to go get a real job!

I was already deep in almost nothing but. It never really bothered me much when that recession in the art market hit. Soho slowly went into a crumble but it wasn't affecting me...

When Comme Des Garcons closed down, I think I was actually sort of happy. In fact when things really crash, there's a certain kind of artist who does better. Maybe. This all kind of goes back to the No Wave thing and that immense creativity. It couldn't have happened in great economic times. It could have only happened in this bleak space and era.

S.A. said...

Eva --
"This all kind of goes back to the No Wave thing and that immense creativity. It couldn't have happened in great economic times. It could have only happened in this bleak space and era."

You hit the nail on the head -- when the "market" is no longer seductive, artists are more free -- nothing to lose.

Eva said...

Well then I am looking forward to the recession!

Just kidding.

Then again, the certitude and dismissive confidence I would not miss.

namastenancy said...

I know what you mean about the freedom. As the little art market in SF for unknown artists crashes and burns, I feel more and more free and happier and happier to just do what I want to do.

nod said...

oh.. bondage.. up yours...
Poly Styrene

love you eva

Anonymous said...

Hey nod..... indeed, bondage up yours.
I used to see Poly Styrene around in Fulham! And she always smiled and said hello.
Then I saw Xray Spex at that Rock Against Racism show in 78 with the Clash...... But no doubt I told you all that in our fun ramblings back in the day.