thoughts: labor, process, and the finished project

I watched this lecture by andy goldsworthy where he mentioned that to finish a piece, one must conceal or extract all signs of effort from it. this is something I have struggled with and hate about my work when stacking, and thus love. everything you struggle with, in some way, becomes something you “love”, if love is caring.

if you’re at the beach working, you start out with nothing but the jumbled beach and maybe a piece of driftwood or an outcropping. no one knows what you’re doing when you start.YOU don’t know what you’re doing when you start. you’re just some weird guy moving rocks. you get no acknowledgement, because, what is there to acknowledge?

in the middle of your work, it’s unfinished, and thus looks like nothing, really. others pass by and see you stacking. they may ask what you’re making, and you have no real answer… other passers by will stop, casually glance sidelong at you, and aimlessly stack a few stones themselves, trying to seem nonchalant, but secretly wondering what has gone into the work. they tire quickly of the tedium, after around 40 seconds. not seeing the point in continuing, they usually forget about it altogether.

when you finish, the traces of effort begin to vanish from the work for you, yourself. you pull out your camera, and suddenly even the sense of accomplishment is gone. it is as if the thing assembled itself in a reversal of entropy, coalescing out of the ground, and you have just seen it. when I am taking photos, I become the same as the other spectators. I am not the artist, I am not the workman, I am just the curious passer by. oddly enough, the sense of accomplishment returns when I close my car door and turn the key in the ignition. the memory flows from my hands and my back, feeling the accumulated weight of the stones and their textures pour through me and make me calm, firm again.

I hate that I cannot share this feeling. I do not want to be recognized as a maker, I don’t want to be lauded and noted and gawked at – I want the viewers to feel the heavy roughness and the warmth in their own hands when they look at what I built. I want them to feel the sunshine on my back as I lug a particularly large piece of rock up the beach, staggering and tripping on the loose pebbles. I want them to smell the salt and taking in the panorama just as I did, but without having to spend the day. I wish my work could fill you up in a moment with feelings that took a day to produce in myself. I want to share.

I write this from my room in new jersey, procrastinating from a school reading. the day began without sleep from the night before, but somehow cheerful, as I had picked up a stone outdoors and felt all the feelings of the beach washing over me, strengthening me for the day ahead. I wonder when I’ll find a place down here to refill that well of emotion, joy in living.

One thought on “thoughts: labor, process, and the finished project

  1. Saw a stack of yours today in the Watchung Reservation. Thank you. I make words in the sand at the beach and love doing it for the joy of doing it and seeing the pleasure in the faces of passers by. Your rocks evoked the same feeling of awe at a found object for me. Great.

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