Thinking about “personal narrative”

July 25, 2010 at 10:21 am (Uncategorized)

I spent some time online looking at different art sites, just sort of reading some of the latest blogs and comments people have posted to them. One thing I kept discovering is how many people very proudly declare that they don’t like personal narrative in work. I understand that this is a valid point of view, one that is actually held by the majority within the art world. I was just startled by it, because I couldn’t disagree more.

Again, I 100% accept that this is a valid point of view. But to my mind, if I wasn’t doing something involving personal narrative, I would feel as though I was doing design – not art. I would feel this sort of clinical remove from my work (which I know is something I was encouraged to find when I was in art school) that would be ok, but ultimately meaningless to me. At the point at which I think of removing the personal from my work, I may as well be a graphic designer (nothing wrong with that of course, but you’re working on assignment and the stakes are very different).

Without some kind of personal narrative – even something tangential and distant – I’m not sure what deep personal investment there can be in an artmaking practice, and without that, I’m not sure I know what the point is. I tend to view everything through the lens of the personal – I adore Conceptual art, but even that I always bring back to, Ok, why did the artist make this, why are they interested in Saussure or whatever, what lead them to this point, and what did they get out of making this work? It’s the person I’m interested in, not so much the idea – the idea is a way to get at the person, but that’s all it is. To me.

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