The thingness of things

I think about art all the time. I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t draw, or when I didn’t love making things. When I made my living as a printmaker, my bread and butter was my alphabet cards. I made them quite literally by the hundreds. I never lost my pleasure in starting with ink, copper, tools and large sheets of rag print paper and ending with a stack of folded cards, each bearing an image that I had designed, cut and printed myself. It wasn’t order out of chaos, since there was nothing chaotic in a package of Arches rag paper or a tin of sepia intaglio ink, but certainly I was taking the potential of those materials and making something actual from it.

It’s the same with a story or poem – there’s a moment of potential, inspiration, and then the poet or storyteller has to figure out how to use the tools and materials of her craft to bring something actual out of that potential. Otherwise all you have is a package of paper and a can of ink, metaphorically speaking.

Even when I’ve written on the computer, when my stories have been made of words written in electrons rather than ink, I’ve printed them out and made them into books. I trust the thing-ness of books and paper, more than I trust the thing-ness of electronic print.

So it amazes me how much I like the little slide show I made of my pictures for “The Goblin Baker”. It’s not tangible; it exists in that realm called “cyberspace”, the extra dimension that somehow came into being when we invented the internet. I don’t have a film-strip of it, or a reel of film, or a videocassette. I haven’t even put it onto a disc yet, although I may do that in future. For the moment it exists only as an electronic thing.

Since I made “The Goblin Baker” slide show, I’ve begun thinking of making as something which, perhaps, doesn’t require the same kind of thing-ness I’ve been used to all my life as an artist. I’m beginning to see how I can make things electronically, things that have a different kind of thing-ness, odd as that may sound.

I don’t yet know how I feel about this kind of thing-ness, but I do know that I’m thinking more about how to make electronic art in the form of slideshows, stop-action films, or animated shorts. They will owe their existence to the accessibility and simplicity of the medium as provided by the internet and digital cameras. I don’t need a studio and someone to develop film – I just need to learn a few things and acquire a few simple tools and programmes. It’s not Francis Ford Coppola, or even Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, but it’s storytelling and art, and I can do it.

I’ve said for years that art is ephemeral. I guess it’s just a little more ephemeral than I thought.

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