Sunday, August 31, 2008

Scenes from a Floating Life: An Artist’s View of Shanghai

Christina Shmigel

Tasking & Musing

Trust me to start blogging in Shanghai about Shanghai and immediately afterward leave town for six weeks. And then write a post from NYC all about place and how maybe all cities have, like Shanghai, that layering of the city-that-is over the city-that-was, and then not get around to posting it. To arrive, then, back in Shanghai ready to post, only to find the blog file lost from the face of the computer. And then, finally ready to post, to discover that Blogger opens here in Chinese and it’s going to take a proxy server to do this, etc etc. And maybe there in lies the rub of my creative life: all curiosity and dreaming and not much structure or discipline or what my Ukrainian parents refer to, in German, as though it were characteristic of Germans rather than Ukrainians, sitzfleisch, by which they meant, “stick-to-it-ness.”

Reading over Patrick’s shoulder, in Elliott Jacques’ Requisite Organizations, I receive a shock of clarity: “Human behavior can be divided into two different and all encompassing activities: work or goal-directed behavior and musing, or reverie or dreaming, which has no articulated goal to bound or direct it.” I immediately recognize something central to my way of being: that I live for musing, that I love to sit in the soup of possibility but that the getting-things-done part seems to elude me, especially these days when I am working without the pressure of an external deadline. That external deadline - the looming threat of public humiliation if I don’t produce the scheduled show & a show that I can stand behind - is a great motivator for me but it also creates a kind of frightful stress that these past few years I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm for. Even as I sit here determined to get this entry written, I wander off to other small tasks, that prompt dreams of possibility. And it’s really the dreams, the reverie, that sustain me, give me my reason to live: just now, airing out some Burmese marionettes the cats have peed on, conjuring steel stands that would let them stand in their postures on a shelf, how great that would be to live with, a tableau of dancing alchemists and princes, I might even get as far as drawing something up…and there, my need to make the magic that transforms the ordinary into something aesthetically heightened has nearly been satiated & I never will get those things made…or I might think the whole process through several more times over several more months & eventually, actually get that tableau made a few years from now…

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