Somewhere around the winter of 99 I started thinking real hard about post modernism and the question it raised that never really got answered. How do you make a piece or body of work universal? I had just left art school for the second time and had those easily intoxicating delusions of grandeur that feed the ego and make you believe the path you’re on will balance itself out miraculously any day now….
I am a firm believer that if you pour your heart into what you love and find others that do the same, finally coming to a common goal- then something truly unexpected will happen.
On the whole aside from pop surrealism there hasn’t been a movement in art since post modernism, which lumped so many styles and influences together it, ended up becoming a catchall. The question of the hour is what exactly defines a movement? What brings people of like minds together to make something new? What is that spark that defines a generation of thinkers and makers? I believed it to be a common aim, and what aim could be more intoxicating than the prospect of destroying the barriers of prejudice operating both in obvious and underlying degrees all around us? So I set out to create a way to bring people together based on the tools at hand which became the premise for Motuv or: The Movement of the Unified Voice.
You first have to take a look at what makes something universal; it could be a myriad of factors like form, function, context, or even interpretation. The problem and solution of art is that it lends something different to each person who experiences it and thus gives them the ability to make of it whatever they choose. But I’m not interested in theory or philosophy if they play nor part in action or follow through in the here and now. So stated again: how do you make something universal? You start from the outside and work inward towards the center, you create something that exists in multiple places with multiple people simultaneously. I set out to find those able minds that would see change done in the only way that I knew how- the Internet.
Over a period of a year or more I must have sent out ten thousand messages via email and MySpace and networking blogs and very other platform. For every hundred I sent I’d get five replies and for every five replies I’d get one halfway serious individual and for every twenty of those I’d find one who really meant it. I say all this to illustrate that very few of the many that I met had the interest to follow through. And then something happened, I met Kenna Shapiro, an artist who resides in San Francisco. She met my questions and propositions with an open mind and a practical attitude of how to put things into motion. Then I met a the band a lonely china day based out of Beijing and like Kenna they just went to work. At that point I wasn’t really sure what I/we were going for or how it could be pulled off I just knew that you can either work or talk and I was done talking.
Imagine three separate cities and in each city multiple makers of all kinds coming together because of like minded interests, already a curious thing is happening. Suddenly all the barriers, be them national, sexual, religious, racial or otherwise disappear. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, what matters is that you believe in the purity and honesty of what you’re doing.
But it’s about more than just how to make something universal, I believe there is a disconnect in the way we live our lives, and thus in the way art is being made on the whole. There is this horrific tide of maximalism that preaches the lack of substance, emphasizing critique as some fix all for any problem. Seeming to birth an army of young and old minds alike more interested in being “artists” than in making honest work. Musicians more concerned with what they’re wearing than what they play or even learning how to use the instruments they hold, a seeming abandonment of craftsmanship. We live in a world of quick fixes and cheap thrills where any situation is overridden by the next one and so on, any of them seemingly interchangeable with any other. I believe at some point you must choose what you do and whatever it is that you choose holds a responsibility both to yourself and the world, to make it better than you found it.
The idea was sound; each venue would have a host, a few bands, and artists. When the audience came they would be physically engaged with the work and the vision, they by doing nothing but showing up would become a part of the work itself. They become linked over thousands upon millions of miles by an event in time. Most ideas sound good in theory, I spent more than five thousand dollars over 15 months, put more hours than I care to mention right alongside others doing the same. We did all this for the preparation of four hours in time.
On December 1st of 2001 we would open our doors offering over 30 artists, musicians, and makers from 7 countries who had come together for the nobility of intention and the pursuit of change a context to see it through…What really happened is that 60% of those involved never came through, Kenna and the band in Beijing ended up being power houses that held a fragile and confusing system in place. Some characters in the art world of my hometown made it incredibly difficult for me to get things done, and took to dubbing me “manifesto boy.” We all did the best we could and it was one hell of an experience.
In the end the energy that it took nearly devoured me, after the shows I withdrew from making art, from talking to people, for doing well much of anything. I thought I had taken something pure and screwed it up. Perception is everything.
Maybe everything happens for a reason, I tell myself that things happen; no one really has any idea what they’re doing or what’s going on and when they do we infuse the reason after to make sense of a senseless world. But there are days when even I have to admit that the idea of fate doesn’t seem all that insane. It took a very long time to realize that I had gone about Motuv in all the wrong ways; I had wanted to change things without really knowing into what. Just like the anarchists who preach disorder but never really talk about how they will manage an entire population of chaos. I started studying again; I went into the woods and put my hands in the earth. I drank from streams and burned leaves to ash; I started working with people and once again, slowly but surely, felt at home.
In the end, one person can do great things, but NO ONE lives in a vacuum. Just as Aristotle pointed out, we are social creatures. and so in the winter of 2009, I sat down to share a meal with 6 friends, to create a space that was inclusive, to share ideas, to make plans both tiny and large, to BE COMMUNITY.
The rest, well………….
[The first Sunday] In Gratitude:
Wolfe Brack, Brent Wheeler, Laura Poe, Bryce Olson, Tim Hinrichs, and Jeremy Higgins