Perfectly Useless

Genovese/Sullivan Gallery, Boston, MA, September 2005

Deterioration is subtle. It unfolds over time and only slowly enters our awareness. Our planet is changing. 

In the mean time, we live in Eden. This is Eden, the Eden we have. Our Hell is a projection of decline, or a nostalgia for imagined earlier days. With the fear of the end of the garden within me…do I want to save the world? 

Does this mean the world as it is? Or could be? Or was? 

I don’t want to lose the world. 

In the face of this, perhaps everything I'm doing is worthless, purposeless, useless? Every artist meets this question. When I last met this question I determined to stand it on its head, to assume that what I am doing is worthless, Perfectly Useless…to forestall the critics, not least of which is the critic that resides within my own head. 

The idea that the uselessness of art, painting in particular, is its most positive attribute has been argued before. Samuel Beckett developed an exquisite aesthetics of uselessness, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” I am overwhelmed by the idea of my very creativity…any creativity, being the seed of deterioration. Creative activity pushes change. Change necessarily involves destruction. To create is to incite destruction. We have come to an age where the act of rising from bed is now a destructive act…as my day begins I begin consuming diminishing resources and polluting an over-used system. And then, I go to the studio and begin to make things. These things are unneeded. The materials are wasteful. And so on. Why go on? Because it is perfectly useless, PERFECTLY useless. 

What can art do in the presence of deterioration? Probably, sadly, not much. But who can we be? Art provides a location for us to make choices to exhibit our care, that which we care about. It provides a location to place in the world an argument for what we think is important. A location to argue against those who would make us choose their priorities of beauty and loving. And most of the arguments that we are overwhelmed with/by are cynically manufactured corporate arguments…designed to make us buy. 

Art can maintain us in a state of becoming. It is an act of faith. My gravest worry is to think about the future and the chaos that might be coming as the culture unravels in the face of cataclysmic change and upheaval. Becoming is a process. But it is not a process that leads towards finally reaching the end of becoming and “arriving.” It is a process wherein one remains forever becoming and thus forever engaged. This is a hopeful thing…one is risking participation. Which is risking loving…isn’t it? To choose is to love…which is the danger. This is all to say what it is that excites me most about art. It’s a good fight. Meanwhile, sing praises. 

Read the review in The Boston Globe and the review in The Boston Phoenix.