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I've always been fascinated by the art world
oh ya, fascinating is a good word for it
like because it seems exotic or something?
because it feels like a wash to me. some great things, some gross things
I guess from my perspective
It's a bit of a rebellion to the structure we're imposed as kids
Or at least I was
The unstable income
The lack of a 9-5 schedule
oh ya ya
Why is it a wash for you?
well, maybe that is being kinda reactionary on my part.
Because there are lots of great things, the freedom, the introspection (like you mentioned), the fun
like i'm working with an alternative space in Peoria, IL, in a garage that is run by three recent undergraduates from a small college and it feels really great that they just do it on their own because there isn't much contemporary art in central Illinois
the community is super supportive and ecouraging
but then i just had lunch with a friend who moved to New York and we were talking about how the life of an artist is one that is always in transit
which is exciting but also worrying
he said he has about 20 years before his body starts to go to shit and he has no savings
his plan is to save enough to move to a Greek island where he can live an ok life, take photos of people, and die in peace
and the art market is super gross, maybe the grossest part, because it mostly isn't interested in what the artists want
mostly the art market is about what makes the most money: trends, certain materials, pedigree
so the wash is in those things, but then also the choice to participate in it. like we are selfish for deciding to do this thing
So why do that instead of say, being a real estate broker or something?
because maybe i'm kinda selfish and just want to make art.
maybe because also i can't feel fulfilled with those kinds of jobs
i guess i'm lucky that i love art and curating, but i also have a strong calling to teach
Are there any themes you like to explore with your art?
ya - big ideas are mortality and fear. within that, and most recently, i've been working around the ideas of climate change, white protectionism, social justice, and survival
climate change is a social problem, and i think it often isn't understood to be more than melting ice and droughts
What about mortality fascinates you?
that it is mysterious
and it makes most things seem futile
i was the kid in high school who drew skulls and swords and watched Faces of Death videos
Ah that guy
You've been interested in mortality since then?
I've been into it as long as i can remember. like not so much actual death but the remains/ruins
like as a kid i collected bones from the forest by my grandparents farm and now i'm looking at other symbols of ruins/deaths and calling them art
like this: http://cementruin.tumblr.com/
it's a photo project i've been doing for a while.
each of these instances of people leaving marks in cement seems like a remnant to me.
sometimes they are actual memorials to people who have passed
and they are things that will outlast the life-span of the person who made them
and they're like fossils
That's super interesting
I feel like all I think about is how to position myself to leave a legacy beyond my lifespan
Not necessarily so that "people remember my name"
But to "leave a mark" that outlives me
i'm really into that too
I suppose I'm also obsessed with mortality
it sounds like the thing you're saying is that you're not obsessed with death but with the condition
What do you mean?
maybe i'm projecting, because this is how i feel too - that the interest in mortality isn't morbid or depressing
but more about a longing for life, a continuation
"leaving a mark"
i think that is part of what motivates people to write in wet cement
to write in many ways really
our words are a record of ourselves
does your interest in mortality seem different?
No I think that's right on
It's about the inevitability and permanence of it
There are no do overs
No gates in the sky
There's only nothing
i think if someone came to those kind of statement they might think you were depressed or something
Well, it is terrifying at first but when I really think about it just enhances the "life" side of the coin
yaya, i feel the same way
it makes the present way more important
But I can't help but contrast that with how everyone else feels about mortality
Or how I *think* they feel
We make up gods and bury corpses under fground
It's hard to imagine we're the first ones with this obsession
Yet we have been doing this for centuries
like maybe it is easier to find an explanation that removes the responsibility
that if we fail in this life it will be ok because there's a heaven for you
It certainly sounds nicer than the alternative: nothing
that is scary
we fear the unknown
and there is nothing that is more unknown than death, i think
"what does that mean for me"
"what does that mean for my family"
i'm constantly thinking about it and often researching it for my work, my classes, and just my curiosity
Maybe people fear death and avoid it because to acknowledge it would put too much pressure on life. Like this all has to really be perfect. I'm making an educated guess.
Thinking about death was inescapable last week
It highlighted how divided we really are
We have racism and blatant discrimination, like many other countries, but the difference is that in the US it's so much more lethal than anywhere else
Oh god. Yes
I went to a BLM protest that disrupted the Taste of Chicago yesterday.
When I mentioned before that my work, because it addresses mortality, needs to also deal with privilege
You know, I've been thinking about death as something that comes eventually, when you're ready for it, when you've done everything you want to do
But last week was a stark reminder that for so many people, death is around the corner every day
The presence that we're feeling in the media and in protests is making present the oppression that people feel all the time
that people of color in the States have lived with for a long ass time
Yeah, these are hard times for all of us but it's eeven tougher to realize that they've been this hard for a whole generation of people for a long time
So I'm left pretty confused being disgusted by a nation that is this divided yet weirdly grateful that these problems have come to the foreground so that we're forced to reckon with them
From how I understand it, it seems like a new thing because it's in the streets, and news, now, but people of color have been oppressed, murdered, disenfranchised, treated as less human for generations
I think what I want to do is have my art, my teaching, and my activism be a place or vehicle for other people's voices
I'm not completely sure what that looks like rn
The big idea in my work is that I think we/culture doesn't address the emotions that are caused by climate change, and by extension morality. I hope that my things give light a complexity to these things
Has the last week or so changed you perception of mortality?
I don't think so, or at least not in a major way.
I think I've understood how my interest in mortality intersects with justice since Trayvon Martin was murdered
It coincided with my understanding of how justice works, and it was simple. If that was me George Zimmerman ran into the outcome would have been different
I can't know that to be true for sure, but the symbols and responses and biases all point toward that
And I've made my understanding more complicated and complex since then
Do you think the past week has changed your opinions of mortality?
It's just broadened my perspective a bit
In that to a lot of people, living is more like not dying
And so there is less room for this idea of a legacy or leaving a mark
I hope this movement make a permanent change to the system of oppression in the States
It seems like it has made some changes. But I'm not that old and maybe I'm naive
I'm not sure where you're finding hope from but I sure wish you can spread it ?
So I just got off the phone with a friend. We talked about these things, about black justice, but also LGBTQ justice, and I think the thing that makes me hopeful for the BLM movement is that people are angry, and are justified in their anger.
That it seems like BLM can't be absorbed into the system
That is what feels hopeful
I hope you're right
do you think you're a nihilist =?
Me? I oscillate between that and a total optimist that believes they'll find a way to transfer our conscience into other beings to live in perpetutity
Maybe that's not very optimistic idk haha
living in a machine sounds horrible
I think so. The label is tough, like all labels
I'm not the Germans from The Big Lebowski
but I do like death metal
Adam is an artist, curator, and educator based in Chicago. He has exhibited his work at numerous venues and lectured on his work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Performance Studies International 16 conference, among many others.
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