Dave C. recently sent me a link to a video of Walead Beshty talking about the process of his work shown in MoMA’s New Photography 2009. What really interested my in this video, is not so much Beshty talking about the “generative relationship between the material and the image that comes out” although I feel that is pertinent to my recent works. What resonated is the talk of the process itself or as Beshty refers to it the Game or the Gamble.
The Game or the process is one of the most important factors in my art practice, (sometimes it exasperatingly seems like the only thread that can tie my eclectic assemblage of themes together), rules and parameters are set, a process is created and then those instructions are followed and the resulting material is used or discarded. I agree with what Beshty says about how the parameters, the forces around the process are important because they make it significant, that is where the thinking part really comes in, it is not in the outcomes themselves that the meaning occurs but in the constrictions.
Once the rules of the game are set then the process is followed, Beshty speaks of a “dumb point” where he becomes part of the process, an unthinking machine or automation that stumbles blindly in a darkroom for two hours. For me this part of the process is no less valid for its automation. It is where as things play out, I have time to notice things, to allow my attention to wander, not off, but in and around the constrictions I have set, a time to contemplate. There is a release from the pressure of creation, its happening and there are no decisions to make until it has been played. Sometimes here is when I find out what the work is really about, other reasons for making it or what it means when I am in a different frame of mind. Because the creation of the rules is done in a different time from the actual making of the work, there is a kind of distance to it, in a way I have passed it, I am revisiting something thought of weeks or even months ago, sometimes there is wiggle room to change the process from within in this new frame of mind but often I am just following the directions of a past self who often does not know what the present me knows.
Even when the game has been played out there are parameters around what can be done with the product. Failures are as valid as successes, so can be included with as much merit as anything else, the questions become around what to include, how much information about the process or the rules do you allow the viewer to see? Is the process shown or the product? How can you use display methods to show the process without having to waste words explaining it, to make work that can explain itself without words. Work that becomes complete in itself.