frailty, thy name is blog

of late the questions have come with an uncomfortable urgency. why? what’s the point? who gives a shit? the answers are predictably reactionary. a waste of time! a mistake! could be doing more important things! yes folks, that’s right, it’s another blog-life crisis. these are different from their counterpart in a human life, the mid-life crisis, mainly because a blog’s life span is indeterminate, and so a blog-life crisis must present itself more frequently as not to miss it’s mark. another difference: sink or swim i have no intention of growing a pony tail. so if doubt is a storm cloud, turbulent and whirling, and misgivings / angst / regret / disappointment are the bits of grime at the center of each fattening rain drop, then consider this post an engineered afternoon storm seeded in the hopes of hastening a return to clear skies.

the mystery of shadow boxin:

as an artist, if you’re lucky, you learn an important fact early on: you create for no one but yourself. may sound obvious but in practice it’s anything but. i’ll repeat it: you create for no one but yourself. by this, of course, i mean you create for your own pleasure, to satisfy you’re own drives, to bring meaning to your own impulses, to celebrate your own existence, to solidify in some way your own fluid perception and wobbly consciousness.

as a child you being creating without much notion as to why. most people, in retrospect, say something along the lines of “i just had to (past perfect tense verb form of particular creative process here).” and it’s as close to the truth as we are able to come. along the way this fact becomes clouded in notions of ambition, success, audience, money, fashion, and fame. it’s the easiest thing in the world to simply forget why it is you do what you do. so it bears repeating yet again: you create for no one but yourself. i can hear objections pouring through the fiber optics but let me just say this, it’s not cynical and negative, it’s a source of strength. much like the adage “in the end you die alone” at bottom you create alone. i am flexible on most counts when it comes to explanations of the ephemeral, but not on this point. this i believe. it’s the kind of belief that just begs to be proved wrong, because in the worst of times it is of no comfort, but i still believe it.

the interesting thing about this fact, and the point which brings me back to the blog-life crisis, is it’s slipperiness. in some way’s it’s the antithesis of “riding a bicycle.” not only does it constantly want to escape your mind, but, strangely, seems also to be nontransferable across disciplines. why is that? is each new project an naive escape attempt? is creating art exactly like living? an endless quest to connect, to get beyond the cramped confines of our mercilessly separate minds? in any case i’ve found that with each new endeavor, each new project, each foray into a new medium, the facts must be learned again, the hard way, through experience. in this case, why exactly am i maintaining a website?

manufacturing purpose:

as with every human endeavor from grandest (life itself) to most banal (ponderous / turgid blogging) all probing and inspection can be reduced to a single, largely unanswerable, question: what is the purpose?
i’ve been asking myself that for a while now with regard to the nonist. what is it’s purpose? unfortunately i can not settle upon a satisfactory answer. in that the site is only a little over two years old i have not forgotten it’s impetus, which much like the child’s unselfconscious art, was undertaken out of a gripping curiosity, a need. but that is not a purpose. i remember my specific hopes. wanting to have excuse to write more, wanting a place to exchange ideas, to discuss matters both abstract and at hand, wanting to form a community. throughout the site’s life span these have been realized to varying degrees. as a matter of course these hopes shift and evolve, but even so, hopes are not exactly purpose either.

i work under the supposition that in order to discern a purpose one must look not to what a thing hoped to be but what a thing, in fact, is. so what is the nonist? ask me some days and i’ll say “it’s a vast, time destroying, vortex which has commandeered my life.” other days i’ll say “oh, it’s a site filled with all kinds of goodies, i’m proud of it” and happily offer the url. most times, like now, i just have to shrug and say “i really don’t know.” this uncertainty leaves me with the annoying task of needing to manufacture some sort of purpose.

i’m a purpose addict you see. time is my enemy and i must make use of it in as productive a manner as possible. once all the nebulous outer mass is removed from a blog, the links out, the links back, the comments, the referrers, the technorati cosmos, the traffic reports, the embryonic community, what is left in the center? it is here i’m forced to remind myself “you create for no one but yourself.” the nonist then must necessarily be grouped with my other artistic endeavors and filed accordingly. the problem with this is simple, it forces a comparison. how does this particular endeavor stack up against the others i choose to while away my short time with? the jury is still out on that particular verdict. but one piece of circumstantial evidence is unavoidably on the table, i don’t paint as much as i once did, i don’t take as many photographs, i don’t do as much physical art of any kind. rebuttal from the defense? (...crickets…)

you may have noticed i’m not selling anything. i’m not offering a specific service. i’m not probing a specific subject nor am i filling a specific niche. blogging is not my career. coding not my strength. administration is not my first love. so again the question: what is the purpose?

fast, cheap, and i don’t know what:

when jason kottke recently announced that he was quitting his job to blog full time and instituted a “micro-patronage” system what interested me about the story was his stance on blogging in general; his vision of blogging as a form valuable in and of itself. evidently he was in the midst of a blog-life crisis of his own but ultimately decided that his site, rather than his other projects, was the source of his pleasure and satisfaction. hence: full time blogger. his adoption of a patronage system to fund his blogging obviously recalls the storied and romanticized past of art. in a way the very name micro-patron, by association, lends credence to his idea of blog as valuable form. i emailed him at the time to tell his as much (and mentioned my fear of his touching off a hobo blogger movement) but i remain skeptical to spite myself.

i’ve always been slightly suspicious of digital art forms. it goes back to my art school days. digital art was not quite as wide spread then and the prevailing attitude among fine artists i knew was one of distrust. it felt disingenuous, like cheating somehow. use of the dreaded / coveted projector times ten. though i’ve gone on to do a fair share of digital art myself, some of that distrust still remains for me. i have a hard time estimating its weight and its worth. remnants of this distrust still linger in my photography which takes as badge the utter lack of digital manipulation, set up, re-shoots, re-touching, anything. it’s my nod i suppose to old notions of purity. the same nagging distrust goes for blogs as well. i have a hard time viewing them as anything other than hobbies, distractions, entertainment on par with television, etc. but then do the notions of high and low art even have any meaning today? are artistic pursuits anything other than distractions meant to get us, the artists, through the days? 

in kottke’s case the move is a no brainer. the same drive that has fine artists wanting to throw off the yoke of wage slavery in order to create all day has jason devoting himself to blogging. but he is a special case because such a move is actually a possibility for him. i, for one, am not sure blogging alone would fulfill my creative needs even if such a move were viable. is his plea for patronage a real vote of confidence for blogs as an emerging form in and of themselves, or is it a slightly disingenuous move to attain the highly prized role of non-working stiff? i don’t know. would i reject the chance to essentially be my own robe draped, bare footed, meta-linking boss? hell no! but there is something just so damned impermanent about digital art forms, let alone digital journalling…

an impermanence by any other name:

in the past few months i’ve made what might be the mistake of seeing a whole slew of art documentaries. sculptors, architects, old masters, modernist painters, etc, the result of which is a childish longing for some kind of permanence. a desire to abandon all this intangible digital noodling and get the old hands dirty. create something physical. to quote paul mccartney, “get back to where you once belonged.” i perceive permanence on a sliding scale with sculptors and architects at the top and all forms of digital content at the very bottom. i need only look to my piles of dusty syquests and jazz disks to be reminded of where all the hard work can end up. but then as friends are quick to remind me it’s all impermanent in the long run, every last bit of it, nothing excepted. and they are right, of course, it is. and yet there is a satisfaction in laboring through a painting that no amount of digital tomfoolery can attain. stack 778 blog entries on their sides, throw in a portfolio’s worth of digital illustrations, and the whole mess doesn’t weigh as much as a set of bare stretcher bars.

if i ignore that particular feeling and assume all impermanence is equal, then what makes them different in detail? best i can tell it boils down to this: creating physical art leaves you with an object but guarantees no audience. creating a websites offer you an audience but guarantee no substance. if in fact as i believe “you create for no one but yourself” then one method seems much more straight forward and to the purpose wouldn’t you say? but then their is this to consider: i love the nonist somehow. why? to what purpose? i can’t say. is it a vast off-white and orange self portrait? i hope not. is it self absorption manifest? i certainly don’t want it to be. is it art? no fucking way.

and what have all these words accomplished? as with so many blog posts, here and elsewhere, nothing.

as time goes by:

an interesting fact about blogging- a blog is like a child. your own child. you pass your dna on to it. it has your strengths and your weaknesses. i’ve found that all the over analyzing i do in regards to my own function and purpose, i now do to the the nonist as well. i worry about it. i am disappointed by it. i admire it from across the room. the site is often depressive like it’s father. also as it gets older, as possibilities narrow each day and it becomes itself, i find it harder to control. as it has grown and brought in more readers i have had a harder time with it. a harder time understanding it. a harder time guiding it. i’ve always wanted it to strike out on its own, but it remains the strange, uncommunicative child who lives in the basement, drawing it’s allowance but rarely confiding in me.

as time goes by i’ve found discussion, involvement, meeting strangers… simply put, community, is what i value most about the site. i’m not interested in the “audience,” the passive onlookers mumbling to themselves as they mill about drinking the free wine. as time goes on participation is the element which keeps me interested. the folks who come here and speak, get involved, they are the source of pleasure for me. years of doing art in a vacuum have cured me of the pathological need for an audience. those same years in a vacuum though have fostered a desire for community. it’s a weakness i suppose, but there it is. the truth. if art is done for me alone, and a blog is not art, then it must have a different operating principle. and it must! because i certainly don’t see any value anymore in maintaining this sort of thing for no one but myself.

so there’s the source of the angst i suppose. trying to achieve that goal is slow going and uncertain and patience has never been my strong suit.

if you’ve read this far:

then kudos to you. you’re more patient or have more free time than most. i thank you for putting up with these meandering, low-energy, outbursts which occur here occasionally. it’s just that i’m conflicted about this site more than usual of late and need to work it out. i find myself wishing the site didn’t exist. wishing i weren’t so prideful as to keep it going just out of spite. wishing no one read the site at all so i could just update once a century. wishing it were better and brought people forth from the anonymous crevasses of the web to do more than look. wishing i had two lives to accomplish everything i’d like to. wishing i could paint and shoot and blog at the same time. wishing i lived in a shack on a mountain and never heard of the internet. wishing that my efforts to reach out were more successful. wishing any number of silly thing really.

in the end i just don’t know if i can rationalize maintaining the nonist as it is now. perhaps i’ll make some changes. perhaps i’ll cram the site so full of ads i won’t need to create content anymore. perhaps i’ll just shut the thing down, wipe it clean, remove any trace. perhaps i’ll let it sit here and rot, a trackback and comment spam infested corpse. perhaps i’ll finally re-learn the “do it for yourself” lesson in this new sphere and rationalize a good reason to continue. not sure. i guess in the end i just don’t know what the hell blogging is for or where it’s supposed to fit in a life. i enjoy it by and large but it sure does sap the vital essence of a guy.

to everyone who reads and/or contributes i just want to take a second to thank you. when i’m not despising this site with every fiber of my being i’m enjoying it thoroughly. hopefully tomorrow, or later today, i’ll resume blogging on the sunny side of the street, another blog-life crisis averted. best to all!