(This post originally appeared on the Art21 blog.)
I spent yesterday with two of my oldest friends. At ten, Ben and Neill came over. We’d cleared our schedules to hang and create material for A WeavexxYuxtapongo. Weavexxis the operational name of a thirteen or fourteen year-old improv music project we began in Ben’s parents‘ basement on weekends and summers off during college. The model for the Weavexx jam was always Can — the persistent Kraut rhythm provided the ground on which we’d build wacky, heinous, uncanny rock spectacles for our own expansion and enjoyment (and ultimate commitment to Maxell audiotape]. We don’t meet often to play music together anymore, but the principle still holds: spontaneous, creatively-centered interaction and collaboration for hilarity and poignance.
Yuxtapongois Neill’s monthly cable-access show devoted to experimental video, broadcast in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham, North Carolina. (More on the show and project of Yuxtapongo in future posts.) Though the program has an expanding international cast of contributing artists, Neill produces much of the content each month. Collaboration and spontaneity oil the chassis. Yesterday’s shoot and editing session was a pretty brilliant example of what this kind of work scenario can be: maudlin, exhilarating, stupid, fraught, hysterical, mundane, sublime and finally, somehow, completely satisfying. Starting from nothing, we called it quits with three finished pieces of totally different video, interpolations of experience documented and remade into something I’m going to go ahead and call art.
Figuring out that the things we did in our parents’ basements qualify and stand as records of creative, intentional engagement with the world is a pretty big deal. For me at least, these unstructured, oblique, contraproductive projects were always for their own sake, manifesting zones of transcendence wherein I didn‘t have to correspond to any reflective or higher-order processes or considered decisions or plans. The immediate was the grail. The realization that I seek these spaces as part of a practice has been parcel of my fundamental appraisal of my life as an artist, which is relatively young in title even as I begin my thirty-fourth year. Practice, of course, connotes mindful intent and skillful engagement in a particular scenario. As I move forward, I look to these signposts to indicate where I might find rich ways to meet the world.