What Does It Really Mean to Make Art? | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european

And so the architect Toshiko Mori plants carrots in her garden as “part of the habit of creation,” and the choreographer Raja Feather Kelly waits for the subway, contemplating the uncertainty of arrival. For the artists in the pages that follow — not all of whom necessarily consider themselves to be artists — life unfolds, eddies, sometimes stalls. There are chores, along with reprieves from work of any kind. The procession of minutes and hours doesn’t quite add up to what we think of as a workday, in part because the border is drawn not between work and life but between making art (which might happen anywhere, at any time) and the living that sustains it. In some ways artists must function as athletes, building in moments of recovery, ice baths for the mind.

Work itself is unmoored in time and place. The conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija doesn’t even have a studio: “I don’t wake up and go to a place where I sit down and make things.” Instead, a day — a life — is a continuous act of creation, of work that never properly ends but is neither fully visible. The 19th-century French writer Gustave Flaubert once took five days, working 12 hours a day, to write one page. (Note that he was single and had no children.) How to explain the song that somehow emerges out of the same chords strummed over and over; the commotion and sense of impending doom backstage and then the pin-drop hush on opening night; the vast stillness that precedes the decisive gesture?

For 30 years, the artist James Nares, now known as Jamie, has made paintings that each consist of a single, giant brushstroke, minimalist and maximalist at once. It’s “made in a matter of seconds,” she says, but it takes days to find the shape, engage the muscle and, perhaps most crucially, to make mistakes, each squeegeed off so the canvas is blank anew. The finished piece or performance, the artwork is just the iceberg’s tip, leaving unseen the labor below.

STILL, THIS IS a radical idea of work, especially in an age when we are taught that we are what we do — do to earn money, that is — and that the proper pageant of life is slotting ourselves dutifully from birth to school to the office, factory, plant, mill or farm, and then the grave. “The sacred seriousness of play has entirely given way to the profane seriousness of work and production,” Han writes in “The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present” (2020). Without play, life “comes to resemble mere survival. It lacks splendor, sovereignty, intensity.” We work and cordon off play in a window of time labeled leisure, a brief break that serves only to affirm the centrality (and stultification) of work.

By contrast, the work of art is flagrantly unproductive, even anti-productive. “The poetic does not produce,” Han writes, pointing to how poems disavow language as merely a means “to communicate information”; instead, as the 20th-century French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard wrote, “the poetic is the insurrection of language against its own laws.” The other arts likewise conspire against the pragmatic, the optimal, the proven result. It’s not the artist’s life that’s excessive but art, in its abundance or austerity, its insistence on the urgency of a particular configuration or absence of colors, shapes, textures, gestures, sounds or words that might be brimming or bereft of meaning, that might address the most pressing issues of the day or exist only to announce, “This is beautiful,” or, “I am here.”

The American philosopher C. Thi Nguyen notes in “Games and the Art of Agency” (2019) that there are two kinds of players in any given game: “An achievement player plays to win; a striving player temporarily acquires an interest in winning for the sake of the struggle.” Art makes an argument for creation, for struggle, as an end in itself. The artist strives not to collect the most toys, rack up virtual kills or race to the jackpot square but simply to be in the game, map its corners, make time stretch — and maybe figure out a way to hack this world, change the rules and free us all. For victory is just a blip. The best games never end.

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