It is amazing how a question as simple as “what are you working on” can have such a devastating effect. At the height of productivity it always felt as though no matter how much I made, how many hours I worked, it was never quite enough. While it seemed that semesters and deadlines were in disharmony with the rhythm of thinking ideas through—some of us think about the same ideas for years, and even after don’t get much farther than entertaining different facets of those ideas—the pace of life also feels offbeat. Where one was too fast, the other is too slow. Asking J. Wax how his studio work was going along with teaching and traveling, he said good, but slow. I now understand his meaning, just as I have come to appreciate the difference between slow and a standstill; it might take me twice as long to build a body of images, but at least a body is being built.
Volk used to say I needed a good show and a long residency, (he felt, for my own sake, that I needed to resolve my commitment to the art world) but what I needed was to settle. Shows and residencies are almost an extension of school, a continuation of dodging inevitable contact with the rest of society, and my ability to make work or write about art, relies on being a part of my surroundings, not sectioned off from them. I forget every time I move how long it takes to come to terms with where you are, why you are there, and how it has subtly (or in this case not so subtly) asserted its influence over your perceptions. Richmond had an irresistible laziness to it that bred contentment and passivity, it was lovely and at the same worrisome. It made other places seem too fast, too scary, and too difficult. If I thought Montpellier to So Cal was a jump, I ought to have considered that the south to New York City was a similarly long leap.
Though recently it feels depressingly slow, perhaps my working pace has not really changed, more likely it has been derailed by the transition from there to here. If I had been in school over the past months, I would have been working with old material, while I observed and settled into the new. I remember having to assure Susan that I would make work about Richmond when I knew what about it I was going to work with. Moving to Gotham I left the projects from Richmond, like the monuments, half finished because of other pressing matters. While I wistfully wish I had a chance to finish those pieces, I am glad I have worked out an arrangement of (some) stability with my current surroundings.
In response to Nancy’s question concerning what I am working on, I suppose I could answer then, as usual, that I am working on several photographic series dealing with place. I don’t know how justified I might feel in saying it, however, or how I would defend the slowness with which progress is made. It might be that those who have been on the other side for longer may be more understanding of the “slowness” than I am of it myself.