LOOK FOR ME (2016, 16mm) by Lucy Kerr
I am writing this article in response to some questions I’ve been asked recently: “what keeps you so disciplined,” and “how do you stay so focused on your work” and in general just questions regarding how to get art work done. I appreciate these questions and while I suppose I could be seen as disciplined person, I am not sure that discipline allows the work to be done. Maybe it does technically allow the work done, but most fundamentally, I would like to believe that the work is born instead because of more fundamental relationship that I have with the mysteries of my own existence. I strive to value moments of wonder and love for the unknown, moments that I have had since I was 6 years old, which at times are also the most disturbing feelings that I have had, as what must propel my work. Though it feels a bit strange to write an article like this, I hope to open a window into what it is like for me day to day in the creative process, and it is not easy, or as productive as it seems (in the way we usually see productivity), or as organized as it looks. For me creating work may seem on the outside to be efficient, but my actual relationship with it is rooted in the continuous, gentle failure of myself in face of creating something that might make tangible the essence of what it feels like for me to experience the world.
I am reminded of Werner Herzog’s writing on self-producing and David Lynch’s writings on having a love for the ideas. As I am writing this I think back to their texts and am reminded of how they grounded and inspired me when I first started to make my film and performance pieces. The writings made me realize that at the end of the day what I am doing is grounded in how I most fundamentally feel when I am confronted with my life, and that is all that matters. It is not necessarily about my daily routine, or how I am able to stay focused on top of deadlines and emails. And I do deal with a burdensome amount of emails, day to day work, planning, applications, and just general BS, and sometimes I have a very hard time dealing with these things. I spend most of my time creating a piece looking at the minute and seconds, planning out the timecode of the entire work and doing what are excruciatingly tedious tasks, and yes, I guess these tasks take discipline. But I am reminded in these moments of day to day stress, when I know I need to send this or that, I still do not yet know why I am or how I am. Most fundamentally I know that I will die and I have no idea what happens then or why I have existed before then or why I have done what I did before then. I only hope that at some point before I die I will be able to make work that might describe the indescribable feelings that I feel in the moments that I admit that I do not know. Through an indirect form of creating art I would like to make realizable the feelings that I have when I am most uprooted from the world.
What I have also gained from from Herzog and Lynch’s texts is a reframing of what productivity means in our society. I am often disappointed with the way our contemporary society views the artist and views performance work. Performance is fleeting, its usefulness is questioned and sometimes the amount of a performance's usefulness seems to be a ground for granting funding or support. What I am wondering is why it needs to have a particular kind of usefulness that we’ve come to condition ourselves to believe in. Film and performance, and in terms of film I am mostly talking about analog formats, are fleeting mediums that, while they may not be seen as something that can provide a kind of utilitarian purpose for us, they do mirror what it is like to experience life, so long as they are composed with utmost rigor and carefulness. Life is not understandable, it is not useful, and it is inherently fleeting. While usefulness is a quality to value, a work of art that might successfully uproot and uncover the core feelings of uncertainty that are left when usefulness is stripped away is also important. And so day to day when I am working on a piece, there is no immediate productivity, and all the work I am doing, the 20-40hours of work I do a week for free, I am realizing that what I consider to be significant fundamental structures are the structures that I am honoring.
The creation of the work itself is born from an intense love that I have for the unknowns and mysteries of life and a fascination of my ability (just as a human) to extract and reframe what I can observe in the world around me and reframe it. And it is not always easy. I am often run down, or sometimes my anxiety, whether it being my frequent social anxiety or anxiety regarding my own work as an artist, leaves me laying in my bed hours. I do not feel happy in these moments when I am left with intense uncertainty, yet I honor and value these moments. I know that it is these moments, the moments when I am most vulnerable to my own existence, that will allow my work to progress so that it may ultimately become meaningful.
“I find the notion of happiness rather strange… It has never been a goal of mine; I just don’t think in those terms.
I try to give meaning to my existence through my work. That’s a simplified answer, but whether I’m happy or not really doesn’t count for much. I have always enjoyed my work. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word; I love making films, and it means a lot to me that I can work in this profession. I am well aware of the many aspiring filmmakers out there with good ideas who never find a foothold. At the age of fourteen, once I realized filmmaking was an uninvited duty for me, I had no choice but to push on with my projects. Cinema has given me everything, but has also taken everything from me.”
- Werner Herzog, Werner Herzog on Creativity, Self-Reliance, and How to Make a Living Doing What You Love