There's a book that I read a long time ago by a director/performance artist by the name of Anne Bogart entitled A Director Prepares. It was literally one of the most life changing books I've ever read. I recently re picked it up and I'm so happy I did. The thing that makes this book so special is that Ms. Bogart writes seven different essays based on emotions and emotional acts; Memory, violence, eroticism, terror, stereotype, embarrassment and resistance. Its personal, but it's applied to her practice.
In this day and age of politically motivated art and social practice, I feel its a rare thing to see art that is focused on and based in the artist's personalized emotional state that is successful. These emotions have been felt and expressed time and time again. It seems sophomoric. It seems like something you should have made as an undergrad. When I go to an opening or a gallery and see that you made portraits of your ex girlfriend that I don't know, or painted a picture of your grandma who just passed away I don't care. It doesn't effect me and I can't relate... even though I DID just break up with some one and my grandma DID just pass away. Self expression can be so ALIENATING because even though we are familiar with the emotions, were not feeling them in that moment and were not seeing our interpretations of it. Were not seeing our dead grandma or ex lover, it's some stranger. The key to successful art is making it personal for the audience, and guess what....I don't know your life, so how are images of your ex girlfriend going to relate to me?
That being said, art is a form of self expression. Everything we create is subjective, everything we make is based out of emotions and personal experiences. I like to think that, even though we are all little shining unique snowflakes, life is generic at best. We ALL went through puberty, we all work at jobs, we all poop. Some of us will get married, and some of us won't. Some of us smoke and some of us don't. The experience of life is generic and accessible to everyone. The emotions you feel people can understand and relate to, your dead grandma they cannot. Thats what makes this book so powerful. In the Essay about embarrassment she talks about how every time she's in production she feels like a sham! Like a fraud, like she's not a real artist. Anything we do in life there's always that experience of feeling like you have no clue or idea how to live your own life. Its the life experiences that we can all relate to.
During the course of about four years now or so I've made at least fifty short videos featuring this cast of sick little puppets who all live in a closet in my apartment.* I like making puppet videos because you can create a narrative around them and, even though they do play a role, they kind of act as an empty vessel in some ways. When people are viewing narrative film they automatically identify themselves with the lead protagonist of the film and live vicariously through them. When that main character is played by a ghost puppet, the audience has a harder time accepting the narrative through his/her terms. Thus, creating their own interpretations of the narrative as it happens. I feel that this was the most successful idea I've come up with for sharing my personal emotions through accessible art. who knows if its working though.
Like Ms. Bogart, I've recently started cataloging my own emotions. I've been feeling really overwhelmed by them, to the point where I'm not even sure what my reality is. I have no sense of who I am or what I'm feeling and all I wanna do is detach. Sometime last week, (after getting fired from this shitty shitty job I hate and drinking heavily about it) I opened the closet and pulled out Edgar the baby puppet and instantly I knew... he and I both needed a cigarette really really bad.
Nobody really knows the puppets, they don't have prescribed attributes and personality traits. Like I said before, they're considered empty vessels...SO what happens when I let them tell their own stories and express their own personal emotions?
The Puppet Profiles is a series (so far consisting of 2 1/2 videos ) that examines the puppets autobiographically. All videos are under five minutes and have been shot on location and also in my apartment. During the series I will use the combination of improvisational "on the street" interactions with scripted scenes. I am hoping to make a profile for every puppet i own by the end of summer. These profiles will be available on this blog and also on my youtube channel .While their stories may be extreme, they are relatable... because we live in America and life is generic and I'll eat at McDonalds whenever I want. Thank you.
*they all used to hang from my wall but they scare the shit out of my room mate