Performance Art = Honest Art
There's a friend who was sharing with me her uneasiness about what she thinks is a whole lot of performance journaling going on in our art world. "No one's being honest in their journaling. It's all about performing for the blog or the Instagram," she said. For her, she'd rather see a journal page filled with raw angst and rage rather than one adorned with pretty doodled birds, stenciled flowers, and washi tape.
There are others in my life who take a different perspective about the sharing that's going on in our creative world ... people who feel that some folks are being "too honest" in what they share as they point out how they really want to be spared the details about a person's cancer, divorce and heartache. They'd rather see more birds, flowers, and pretty girls who dream big and follow their bliss. (Whatever that means.)
There was a great article in The New York Times recently about Judd Apatow. You know ... the comedic genius behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Freaks and Geeks, and the upcoming film This is 40. Well, in the interview, we learn that what and how he lives and who he lives with spill into his films to influence characters that he develops, situations that get depicted, and detials that get shared. Perhaps it's because he draws from his real life that his work becomes so honest and hilariously relatable to people.
To the matter of his tendency to draw such details and specifics from real life, the article notes how Apatow's explains it to his children: "I've tried to explain to them why we do it ... this is what creative people do. They share their lives, they let other people see that they feel the same things as them — that we're all in this together."
But surely ... if Apatow is like all of us, he has some days that are happy and bright, right? We all have those days. And of course because he's like us, he also has days filled with angst and turmoil. And the thing is ... we see all of that in his work. The good, bad, ugly, funny, and tragic. Honestly, isn't life is all of that?
Maybe when I make an entry in my journal, I have an audience in mind that I intend to share the entry with. And perhaps because I have that audience in mind, I don't share some of my deepest and darkest thoughts. Not sure. But so what? Does the fact that I edit some of my thoughts while I journal or paint or collage mean that the end result is not honest? Are paintings and journal entries that deal with the macabre, or depression or uncontrollable impulses only the ones that qualify as "honest" art? Aren't I allowed to have days and therefore entries that are light and happy?
Having said that ... although sometimes what I share may look and feel light and happy, I have also definitely made and shared entries that unveil some of my angst and turmoil. When I do this, I do wonder for a moment whether I've shared too much ... but that wonder is eclipsed by the fact that I have to let it out. And as Apatow points out ... that's what creative people do: We share our lives ... sometimes the pretty, sometimes the non-so-pretty ... we let it all out to let others see that we are all in it together. That some days are pretty, lovely, and funny. And that other days are dark, dreary and depressing. Sometimes tragic. I don't think any of our days have to compete with each other for validation. They simply need to be respected when shared, to show each other that we are not alone.