On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Colleen Killingsworth, American Cyberculture student at UC Berkeley.
When I read the keyword “making” I was immediately struck with a handful of thoughts about what it means to make something in the artistic sense. I work mainly in the medium of digital media, and in watching my own processes as well as those of my peers, I have come to believe that making something is much more about giving than it is about objectively producing. What I mean by that is that I think that a creative piece of art stands as a representation of some part of the person who created it. The artist must be willing to give something true and honest to the piece to have it communicate anything of value (because if the artist doesn’t care then why should any spectator?). Whether it be in the form of ideology, value, self-representation, or any other number of things, making for an artist means giving a piece of something personal. Art allows for others to peer into the mindset of the maker, so catch an ephemeral glimpse of what is important to this individual. To make art is to communicate, to present the intangible parts of a mind with some kind of tangible representation. Making art is a process of releasing, of exchanging information, of leading outsiders into the privileged realm of the individual mind.
This is why I believe it is so important to understand the context and meaning of everything that I make. I like to sit with my ideas and ultimately the pieces that those ideas yield just to wrap my mind around what exactly it was I was trying to communicate. I often find that, even when I have the most rigid idea of what led to the creation of a piece, once it is done, I see different aspects of myself and stories from my life in the object I created. In this sense, I believe that making can be a voice for the subconscious; the act of making, of creating, allows the more subtle intricacies of my own mind to find a voice of their own. Worries, hopes, fears, concerns, desires: they all pop up in my work and sometimes, in very surprising ways. “Making” then has also become a process of communication between me and myself, as silly as that may sound. Creating something and making decisions about the aesthetic of something or about what aspects must be stressed to convey the proper meaning is a way of being confronted with my own values, ideas, and perspectives. Just in recognizing this fact, though, I must also acknowledge that artistic creations for others serve incredibly similar purposes. I must remember that just as in looking at my own work, I must look at other people’s work with the same mentality that the piece is there to communicate something. Even if I don’t know, or maybe can’t know, what the intended meaning was, making art is the process of representing an aspect of someone else’s personhood, and so “making” becomes an intimate dialogue between artist and observer.