Saturday, March 16, 2013

creating a/broad, March 16, 2013

Roots, and Nests, and Supportive Webs
by Cameryn Moore

Artist community. I’ve touched on it before, I’m sure I have, even though I do not want to read back through all of last year’s columns to check. I don’t need to check. Unless I am the most ungrateful wretch on the Fringe circuit, I am sure I mentioned it, in multiple places, how I rely on other artists for so many things when I’m out on the road. I’m sure I was thinking specifically in the context of touring, artists on the move, a free-floating creative amoeba that manages to take care of its component parts through the copious administration of beer, supportive word-of-mouth buzz, and shoulders to cry on.

That stuff is always important, anywhere, but when I’m in one spot for more than a month, there is more to be done, more that can be done. Now that I’ve settled in my winter abode for a while—here in Montreal until end of July, unless I’m touring out to Peterborough or Ottawa or wherever I get an offer—my mind naturally turns to roots, and nests, and supportive webs. I’m not sure what metaphor to use; all of these work. These are some of the things that make art space different for artists in one place versus artists on the move. I’m digging in; I want to make my home here, for a little while, at least. And I want to make it with other artists.

As the sap rises through the tree, so does the artist juice start to simmer with the turning of the seasons.

Now’s the time, now’s the time! I’m prepping for a new show, a new season of touring, trying to pull together the pieces before the sponsorship proposals are due, before the projects goes online. It’s almost spring, it’s my last chance to get my grounding, to dig in and find that fertile supportive base before I start pushing out the crazy tangled vines and profuse foliage and firework-colored flowers.

This urge seems to come up this time of year for other people, too. As the sap rises through the tree, so does the artist juice start to simmer with the turning of the seasons. Before one of my shows last weekend, I was hanging out with Amy, the director of MainLine Theatre, and we were talking about support for artists. A few weeks ago I had pitched her a sort of barn/brain-storming session for creative types, an in-the-flesh crowd-sourcing encounter for people looking for support or leads or ideas about some project. (We want to try it, if I have any room left in my schedule, stay tuned!) Then she told me about the presentation she did at a college artist group the week before, and how the students had so many questions about being an artist, not just about the hows and how much, but about the existential angst, the whole “I don’t really feel like an artist” sensation.

Because this art shit is hella lonely, yo

I know that feeling, man. It is not a case of Schadenfreude to be glad to hear that other artists know that feeling, too, and god if we could somehow harness that energy and pull together the barnstorming and the support group, I would TOTALLY go to that and help make more community happen. Because this art shit is hella lonely, yo, and I for one want to create for other people the space that I want, the supports that I need for myself.

What I need, all the time, are fresh pairs of eyes to look at my stuff and think of new angles. I’m building my own box constantly; even while I need a container for my work, I am outgrowing it. I have to keep pushing the walls down, prying them open, building new things with them, keep the walls from coming back up. New people involved in the brainstorming and planning process will help.

Oooh! You know what else? I need other people’s problems to grapple with from time to time. When I don’t have any personal investment in the outcome, when it doesn’t feel like so much of a life-or-death situation for ME, it is so much easier for my mind to play. And playing is key to keeping the mind flexible. Give me your quandaries, your challenges, your dead ends and brick walls, please! Helping you helps me!

I need a space, a time and a place, where I can vent about how much making art sucks, and not feel judged for whining. 

I need other artists whom I can trust, who I can show my works in progress, works in stasis, works in regress, at whatever stages they may be. I have been used to creating in isolation, and I don’t want to do that as much.

I need a space, a time and a place, where I can vent about how much making art sucks, and not feel judged for whining. I need to VENT sometimes, about how much producers suck, and how venue owners can be pieces of shit, and I don’t know how to reach more audience, and why the fuck doesn’t society value art more because I am fucking tired of pasta and rice and beans, although thank god for chopped garlic in jars.

I want that, I can do that with you, we can sit together and talk about how shitty things are, or maybe how awesome things are—because holy fuck man, I still have those moments all the time—and nod our heads together and maybe a hug afterward. We can do that together. I want to spin a web of knowledge and obligation and skill and intuition and love, spin that love all around my own work, around other people’s work, about all of our work together. I can offer that to you, let’s do it, let’s set a date when a bunch of us can come to the table. Yes, let’s switch the metaphor. 

I will lay them all out there, my burdens and my joys, I will set them down deliberately and carefully, and you do the same, and we will look together at this heap of creativity and art, the bitter and the sweet and the so-good savory, and one of us will say, “let’s dig in!” And it will be so good.

Send me an email. I think you want an invitation to this banquet.
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1 comment:

  1. When I applied "community" to the Montreal Fringe, it was 1997 and I was making the point that "community" is not a noun, but a verb. A group trying to bring free internet to Montreal, actually a second group because the first one failed after 4 months, they were talking about "serving the community" or using the word to refer to a subset, "the black community". I
    pointed to the Fringe as an example of "community" a place where there wasn't much line between the audience and the performers, or even the
    theatre critics. What was happening at the Fringe was like what was happening on the internet.

    But community is what you do. It's helping to move beer bottles at the Fringe because you were just there when the truck rolled up. It's putting up flyers from one act because she sent her parents to the Fringe for All to read a script excerpt and it got your attention.
    It's making a point to be outside before or after a certain act is performing, because she's by herself and has come from Japan. It's saving the flyers after the Fringe For all virtually every year since 2000 because they are otherwise wasted. The acts are no longer using the flyers effectively, the acts can't even realize they should work together and collectively save the flyers, then sort them out.

    It's having a spare set of socks to offer a venue manager one cold and wet night. Its doing something every year since 1997 that tries to recognize
    the importance of the volunteers, who are the face of the Fringe that the public sees, who bring their play time if nothing else, a weird thing that doesn't mean that much in itself, but hopefully adds to the fun that the volunteers bring. Sure, I do it because it's fun, to see the volunteers act like little kids, but community is like that, a two way street. No
    different from flirting with a cashier ("flirting" as in being friendly, not "I want to pick you up") or making a face at a small kid as they pass by, it
    makes both feel good after the brief encounter.

    It's sitting in shows in the early days where there were a handful of audience members and not thinking "we need a bigger Fringe" but "we need to get more people into the seats" and being the expert on making use of the internet, yet mostly ignored. It's doing endless things because the Fringe isn't doing it, because sometimes the Fringe doesn't even know what it's doing.

    Ironically, another reason I pointed that group to the Fringe was because it needed to fund raise, and the Fringe (read Jeremy) had gotten out of debt that at the time seemed not the fault of the Fringe, I was making the point that some unified group that doesn't have diversity is bad at solving problems because they have no solutions for the problems.

    The Fringe is "community", it doesn't need "artist community", there's too much of that bigotry going around. I don't do art, I constantly observe the world and synthesize. I have brought endlessly to the "community of the Fringe" yet am treated like an outcast, in part because too many people think of "community" as made up of people like themselves. That works fine if they bring enough to the group, but I've seen endless bad decisions by artists and arts groups, simply because they are not connected to the world
    at large.

    Sadly, everyone thinks "community" is a group of people, the more identical the better. Not just artists, but the internet has gone that way. Sure,
    that's a great way of telling people who came last year to the Fringe that it's back again, "let's Fringe again like we did last summer", but it doesn't reach the new people. You have to break into other "communities" since the popular meaning of community is monolithic. Diversity means a new type of show, but it may also be an intro into a whole segment that isn't yet coming to the Fringe.



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