If you’re an artist, you’ve probably experienced a moment—maybe even several—when you look back on a stretch of time and realize that you’ve created less art than usual, or even no art at all. Maybe you’re in the middle of some big changes, like becoming a parent, or attending to your mental health. You might be emerging from a particularly busy period, and just want to soak up some rest for the time being. Moving through different seasons is a normal part of both life and the creative process. But what happens when those short breaks in between your art sessions start stretching into weeks, months, or even years? How do we navigate longer, extended breaks away from our art practice and the emotions that may arise with them?
Years ago, I had a roommate who built sets for local theater productions. I would come home from a closing shift and he would be painting a sign for some make-believe business. I would get back from the movies and he’d be hammering nails into some crude, unfinished structure. I wondered what it was like to move through the day the way he did, from project to project, seemingly paying little to no attention to what time of day it was, whether it was time to eat lunch or go to bed.
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For this Seeding Collaborations, we spoke with farid rakun—an artist, writer, editor, teacher and instigator based in Jakarta, Indonesia and a part of the artist collective ruangrupa. rakun is trained as an architect, but “wears different hats, dependent on who is asking.” We were drawn to his extensive practice in working collectively and his generosity in knowledge building and sharing. Our time with rakun was spent hopping from one idea to the next, including the plurality of collectivity throughout the world, making room for experimentation, and the importance of joy in art.
Many of us, myself included, were raised in a world where competing with the people around you is the norm—even when it leads us nowhere. Don’t get me wrong: I’m an incredibly competitive person at heart and have been forcibly removed from a number of casual board game groups. But when it comes to art, I believe that competition creates a false sense of scarcity among artists and keeps all of us hungry for the everyday magic of art.
In a world where our time and attention are continually mined as a resource, reclaiming your focus and directing it towards creative work is nothing short of a revolution. But if you’re anything like me, devoting time to your creative work is an ongoing process with perpetually shifting seasons. Some months, you might be on a roll and fall into a nice, smoooooth rhythm: making art before breakfast, chores after dinner, plotting revenge plus resting on the weekend. In my busy bee era, an entire year could fly by with plenty of creative gigs (and all the admin work that they bring)—but seemingly no time left over for a personal, creative practice.
For this iteration of “Seeding Collaborations,” we expanded our ecosystem to the Netherlands where we spoke with Luke Cohlen and Marianna Takou from Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons (Casco). Casco is an arts organization located in Utrecht, Netherlands, where they are exploring and practicing where the arts and the commons meet. As defined by Casco, the commons is where “the natural and cultural resources [is] held in common by a community.” In this interview, Cohlen and Takou offer insights into Casco’s approach to working for the commons and systems change. As an art institution that presents artists’ works, they are also tackling the other side of an art practice, and how we can actually support artists, whether it’s financially or through other types of resource sharing.
Behind every artist is an encouraging herd of supporters. Our herd can include family, friends, teachers, counselors, mentors, partners—often growing and changing shape over time. Whether it’s my fellow staff members (many of whom are artists in their own right) or the artists we serve on the daily, I’m perpetually curious: who helped you become an artist? What support does an artist need from their community? And in turn, how does art sustain and strengthen a community?
It’s rejection season, baby. For creative beings who bravely put themselves out there this fall and winter, I tip my hat to you—regardless of the outcome. The first months of the year are a notoriously brutal season for artists because, while a small percentage of us just received happy news (you finally got that grant!), the vast majority of working artists are questioning why they poured hours of their precious free time into applications that go nowhere.
Fellow perfectionists, I invite you to imagine the following scenario: you just printed a huge, adhesive sticker. It’s the height of a fully grown hobbit, and feels like a perfect, two-dimensional newborn (“they have your eyes!”). Now, imagine slowly unpeeling it, heart pounding, painfully aware that you have one chance to get it right. To your horror, the sticker begins clinging desperately to every surface it can find, including your skin, your clothes, and itself.
I’ll never forget the first time I took myself on an artist date. Okay, to be honest, I forget most of the details. But I’ll never forget how it felt. The clarity! The creative freedom! The subversive undertones. It was my first taste of anti-productivity.