Work in progress, acrylic on small mdf panel
“The first question confronting artists is, ‘what should I do’? And the next question is, ‘what would make it better’? Is this ‘aesthetics’? I don’t know – but I know that we are no longer making things for the Beaux Arts, for truth, beauty, elevation or virtuosity. Yet the familiar forms of what could be called ‘negative aesthetics’ also fail to adequately describe what a lot of artists are doing in their studios. Dada, the readymade, ‘bad painting’, the Dandy, ‘provisional’ painting, deskilling, etc. – none of these ring quite right in accounting for something I would call negativity-at-work, the arduous search for form, the feelings of dissatisfaction, the endless decisions and changes that constitute the work of various artists. How to discuss this, without resorting to a cliché of artistic work? What is everyone doing, and how do they decide to make it ‘better’?
We are trying to surprise ourselves and that is hard to do. I think it is a kind of metabolism that drives me to change and change and change my forms, searching rather earnestly for something I don’t quite know already, a kind of questioning machine, endlessly discontent. I would say that form is the shape of my discontent, and that what interests me is how form can match that feeling or condition – of funny, homely, lonely, ill-fitting, strange, clumsy things that feel right. In other words, a form that tries to find itself outside of what is already okay. Awkwardness is the name I would give this quality, this thing that is both familiar and unfamiliar.”
Amy Sillman, from Notes on Awkwardness, Shit Happens