Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend an art program in Aix-en-Provence, France. From 7am until dusk, I was given open studio time. A feat that could only be made better by the ritual dumpster-diving in the town’s spectacular trash piles searching for makeshift art supplies. It was a young artist’s dream.
The weeks flew by in a disorienting, threatening kind of way. One blindingly hot day, I felt unfulfilled by my creations. Frustrated, defeated, and hoping to soak up the floor’s untouched coolness, I laid face-down in the middle of my studio. All was silent. Quietly at first, through a tiny open window, the soft, lilting song of a violin breezed past my ears. The notes were unsure but passionate, the violinist’s sadness and joy fluttered harmoniously together. I wondered how long the music had been playing. Voices began to emerge from the auditory mist in unrecognizable languages. Coarse laughter, children’s cries, and birds’ wings electrified the air. I felt a pulse, my own heart. It was then that I discovered something quite remarkable: I am alive. And even more so: I am alive in France. This came as quite a shock to me. Nearly four weeks I had been there. About thirty art pieces I had created, yet none of them had true expression of place, time, or self. I had been living for so long by rote. My childlike wonder was muffled by proud autopilot’s white hum. Actively using my senses and emotions as a lens, I vowed not to let another detail go unnoticed.
I want to be an experience machine—taking in ever minutia, synthesizing, and spurting it back out, MAGNIFIED. The last day, I left nearly all of my pieces in the places that I’d found them, altered by my presence. I sat cardboard portraits of locals on park benches, a panoramic drawing of Mont Sainte Victoire at Cezanne’s place of death, a door installation by the flat it was inspired by; all of which mysteriously disappeared in minutes.
In everyday life, I began to write, sketch, photograph- anything to record this “here” and “now” from my own perspective. Inspired by the connection of other sensory observations to awareness, I started an “Auditory Sketchbook” to record the sounds of the environments I encounter with ancient tape-recording technology. I also leave my quirky artistic creations around my town in the hopes of stimulating awareness, something to reward those who pay attention. I want people to wake up, to truly live– and some have.
Hearing those sounds on the acrylic-coated floors of my temporary studio in France caused an explosive shift in my life-direction and perspective. I am very satisfied with my evolution thus far. I can safely presume that lack of inspiration will not be a problem in the future- the bigger issue is there is so much to capture. Somewhere in France, the same violinist is playing (as I discovered, he, Victor, did every day from nine ‘til noon) unaware of the transcontinental ripple his song has created, yet softly playing on.
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