On before and after

I’ve been stuck on this post I told myself I needed to write.

I want to tell the story of the before and after my Vimeo removal. I want to play the game of spot the differences. Make sense of what it meant to me then, what it means to me now. Because I’m trying to be on Instagram, because I’m considering coming out about my project, because I haven’t been making new work.

There’s so much tension, I wish I could chop it up with a big kitchen knife.

I have all these notes, half drafted posts, one liners, ideas for series I’m not starting. I have all these videos, photos, clips to edit, images to superimpose, visions to manifest. It’s like having dug myself into a grave of unrealized potential. The longer something stays in the todo pile, the more stuck to it it gets.

I need a turning point. Put to bed what was and wasn’t done. Tuck it in real tight. Or let it kick the sheets around. Whatever the fuck it wants, as long as I’m moving on.

I tried to write about when I first put my work online. It’s a good story. But every line I write, every tense I pick rings fake. Like empty noise, no sound to it. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe I can’t tell this story yet. I’m still trying to justify myself. Still trying to prove to myself that I am relevant, that this is meaningful.

If you throw a ping pong ball at your reflection in the mirror, chances are it’s going to bounce back and hit you in the face.

I started making videos almost three years ago. I started putting them online a year and a half ago. Everything I have done, everything I am now, was completely unimaginable a few minutes, a few days before it happened. I think maybe that’s the real before and after I’m trying to get at. The shift from unintended to attempting, from surprise to expectations.

For the five months my initial stint on Vimeo lasted, I was so darn gratified. Free flowing in a reciprocity of self expression and what can only be self described as success. The numbers mean nothing to anyone else but me, and isn’t it convenient that I don’t remember exactly how many followers, views, comments, messages I actually got, so that their memory can shine brighter than their past reality. What I do remember though is the taste of the dopamine. I miss how high as a kite I was on it. It still trickles in sporadically, but it’s not the same as being plugged into a steady stream.

I wish I could say I don’t need the resonance. But the truth is I thrived on that crack. I did a good job back then convincing myself I wasn’t doing it for those reasons. Yeah right. How easily deceivable we can be to ourselves. Of course the viewership was only meaningful because the work was meaningful too. Empty numbers are senseless, unseen work suffocates, but put the two together and you’ve got synergy. The kind that sizzles.

I know I can never go back. I just wish it could feel that fresh again. That I could be this unencumbered again. It was truly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. It came with such a sense of aliveness, directness, effortlessness. I guess it was purpose? The feeling of being carried by some inner holy flame. Joan of arc with the voice of God in her ear.

I never thought I’d have an audience unless I built one. Then an audience fell from the sky. Then it went away. Can I really be upset that I lost something I never expected to have? Can I not take it for the gift that it was? Being told of the impact my work had on people shifted my relationship with myself in ways I cannot even start to describe. Here I am now, feeling washed up on the beach because the tide went out. But aren’t I feeling this way simply because I’m exposed and can’t hide in the water anymore? And isn’t that the exact point of what I started in the first place?

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11 thoughts on “On before and after

  1. Rain I think I’m right there with you. That ‘crack’ thing is so true. My followers and comments have dried up. Which makes me not want to pour my heart out. Not to mention some personal stuff keeps a fog over me and keeps me from finding creative space. But still I stick with it. You should too 😄

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    1. We all want to be recognized, to be known, to feel that we exist. It’s the underlying driving force beneath our lives. I think the web, social media et al, just like any other platform, a village square, a town hall, a soap box, is basically just another invitation to practice being alive together. And then we run into the same issues no matter what time, what medium, what flavor our circumstances have: the dichotomy between doing things for ourselves and for others, the inner and the outer, belonging and connection versus autonomy and freedom… I realize I’m not really making a point here, because there isn’t one to be made. Life isn’t a “point”, it just is. That we are doing it is the only irrefutable point.

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      1. No its actually a good point because what it boils down to in the end is, does it feed you? Does it feed your soul. We may want to ‘feed the souls’ of others with our work, but that can be a happy result of it. Pick the most obscure topic in the world. A film widely disregarded and forgotten. A book that had one printing. A rare insect. Somewhere there is probably somebody working on cataloging all the reasons why these things need to be remembered. I actually just read a book where a character had become obsessed with a rare children’s film that had been on TV exactly once. They followed every lead about it to the point of obsession in the hopes that they could bring this singular work to the greater masses. But it didn’t happen. Will my works become part of a large scale movement, or will it just live as an occasional blog post? Though I get frustrated, it does feed me. And my answer is, I’ll take whatever I get 🙂

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      2. Well put! Let’s keep feeding ourselves, feed our need to hear our voice out loud, to see our image reflected, to express our mind and soul. The rest is just a conditioned script running on automatic pilot. Let’s really leave mechanic physics behind and fully embrace our quantum relative reality!!

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      3. Definitely! I like that idea. If nothing else at all, I still have my photography and am happy just sharing that and there is a lot I can do with it. I have been working on a book but it comes in fits and starts. Maybe time to focus on that more!

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      4. Maybe art projects need to be considered more like children. As much as we are their shepherds for a time, they still have a life of their own, and we need to respect their autonomy and their needs, which may different than ours.

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  2. When the fear floods the ego, rather than the uplifting “crack” of affirmation, self doubt arrives and soon the paralysing grip of procrastination poisons all possibilities ( and all these “Ps” arrive…)
    Anyway, you describe the wasteland that invariably appears after a first flush of a creative endeavour. Many abandon the dream in that hollow space and retreat, instead, into the dull happiness of a life less lived. The few who persist (another p) discover the ground rises further on and then a second wind of creativity that has a power and precision which the initial endeavour could not possess. So, perhaps it is time to pause, but not to stop. Space, rather than direction may be the issue here. Space and time to accommodate what your unconscious endeavours to express, and to assimilate the true value and direction of your project – rather than listen to the anxious voice of the saboteur and act out of desperation. Surprise yourself, and then surprise the world.

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    1. “Space and time to accommodate what your unconscious endeavors to express…” I love this. It makes me feel justified in taking my time and in resenting this feeling that one always has to create consistently. There are moments when that happens, and I cherish them, but then there’s the time and space to let what is buried come up to the surface. You can’t rush a good thing. You can’t decide what the surprise will be, or it won’t be a surprise!

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  3. True. Real art is often a surprise to both the artist and the viewer. Free surprises, unfortunately, are rare – the artist usually pays in advance for surprising moments of enlightenment. And advance payment is often made while contemplating the failed past and futureless vista of the wasteland.

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