I’m pretty self aware. I have had to be to survive and make any progress through my own world. I have recently had dealings with someone who clearly isn’t. I know who they are now and I must admit that I do find it rather amusing how he did everything he did without a hint of irony, he walked past me twice this morning, shit brown cords and slicked back hair, utterly failing to look inconspicuous. Me, I know I’m not the best artist in the world, never will be, not important, there are others who can do that, but I get stuff down, permanently, in the Soannes museums, the Lewis Carroll society, the v&a, I’m working on the British library right now. I’m an ideas person, an observer of human nature, I watch as humanity makes the same mistakes over and over again, marvelling at the optimism and saddened by the lack of learning from thousands of years of documented human history. As Boethius wrote a millennium and a half ago, it’s all a big wheel, it just goes round and around. We have been in the 1920’s again since thatcher and the thirties since trump and brexit. Humans have been selectively wonderful and appalling throughout, podgroms, killing fields, death camps, gulags, crusades, purges, cleansings, left and right of the political spectrum. When a group gets together, there are always leaders, always enablers, always egos and those willing to prop them up. As Orwell wrote “all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others”.
I like to sit on my, allegedly fat, arse and read a lot, new stuff, ancient stuff, stuff from all over the planet. You see the same characters emerging, the same people types. How we want things then, when we have them, we cease to appreciate them and over time lose them again, from trinkets we own to human rights. Struggling all the while with pride, jealously, lust, power and all the old themes with jaunty new hats on them to match the times. That is why I let others do the donkey work on politics and whatever, even when as now the Tories tie another noose around my neck again. I watch as the world and its significant non gender specific long term partner watches “I am Daniel Blake” in horror and like Quint in Jaws displaying his scars, I’ve been there… Twice! Eviction, been there! Bailiffs, been there! And on it goes… Another drop in the ocean.
The thing is, we are all fleeting, all temporary, the only stuff that lasts is what we get down and what we pass on and even that I’d give a million and a half years before it becomes stardust again or as the Sufi poets of the 11th century so rightly said, “this too shall pass.”
When people try and piss me off or have a pop, I tend to think one of two things either, “ooh look! I got to them,” or I remember the words that Chinese warlord Sun Tsu wrote 450 years before Christ “if you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies float by.” Me, I’m good at waiting… I usually have a book to read whilst I do it.
As I said, you see the same people, try to do or set up anything and there they are. The alphas trying to run the show, barging others away with force of will, not brains, not talent, just an unshakable belief in their own rightness. People like that have an agenda before they even walk in the room for the first time. There are the dabblers, who go along for a bit until they get sidetracked by the next thing. The true believers, trying to prove a point. The pleasers, wanting to be liked, wanting to be of use. Then, lastly, the sheep, just bobbing along feeling safe amongst a like-minded group. It’s possible to shift from one role to the other but people so rarely change, not much anyway.
Me, I’m the outsider, the second someone else is doing something, I don’t want to, I don’t need to. I am here this one time and I’m buggered if I am going to waste a second of it doing the same old shit as everyone else. It doesn’t stop me doing stuff though, having to mostly do it by myself, numerous publications, stuff worldwide, couple of little shows a year, some writing, some art, some teaching. When you are not being swept along or subverted on other peoples agendas, you can get such a lot done without distraction and without someone having their better way of doing something that invariably makes what you are doing look like a bad rehash of everyone else’s thing, you find your own way. It may be weird, it may be clunky, but it is your own. That is why I dislike it when artists brag about working in studios all the time. Unless you are Murakami or have little kids or a nasty outbreak of cats it’s either an affectation or an inability to function on your own. I’ve been asked to be involved in them in the past and in group projects and the answer is the same, I quote noted philosopher Eric Cartman who said in the 1990’s “Screw you guys! I’m going home!”
Home to sit on my supposedly fat behind making art, writing stuff, making bears that make people happy for generations to come and becoming a little bit wiser every single day, hopefully.