Keepers / by Heather Kapplow

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

I tell myself I'm writing this blog for you, but I'm realizing that I write this blog for myself. It's rarely actually about my work in progress in terms of technique or strategy, but about the ups and downs of living as a non-commercial artist. I'm writing about the navigation of the experiences involved in seeing my efforts as worthwhile: Not justifying them in terms of value to an art market or a community, but justifying them in terms of how much time and energy I put into developing the ideas and/or their realization and what I get out of that time. I also write about the evolution of my understanding of community is as it has developed and been defined through my relationships with those around me, working in similar ways.

Each of my blog posts lately seems to have a similar formula: an update about what's going on; a critical assessment of the last thing I've worked on or what I'm working on in the moment; and then some reflection on my milieu.

Since I'm very aware that I'm writing this for myself today, I'm feeling a little lazy about following the formula. I really just want to post pictures.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

But there's nothing that isn't implicated in the larger conversation I'm having with myself here. The photos came out of (or generated) a conversation that felt meaningful and like it might be a bridge to other things. The performance being documented, though it (like most of my recent projects,) did not meet many of the goals I had for it, accomplished things that I value just as much: a more detailed inspection than ever of my beliefs about how best to work with other people, and how teaching and learning work. And it forced me to think about masks and costumes and spectacles from a position directly opposite to the one I've been most rooted in for the last year or so. All these things feel useful to me.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Today I went to see two performances by other artists: one in an unaffiliated, non-commercial gallery space, and one at an academic institution. Then I had a long conversation about what and who this non-commercial art is for. What it all adds up to or intends. It was also a conversation about utopian urges and cultural gatekeepers (curators, museums, galleries, grant-making foundations etc.,)

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

My old friends at The Residency for Artists on Hiatus (who are wonderfully supportive in an ongoing way) were thinking about this theme this month too. And where I landed (on the walk home from the conversation) was that the main difference between the part of the non-commercial art world that I live in and the more institutionalized art-community that stands between (and maybe buffers?) us from the true art market, is the difference between gate keepers and keepers. I'm realizing I live among the keepers of an amorphous, ever-changing tradition, and that the institutions that essentially act as gatekeepers to the commercial art world are also (perhaps inadvertently) acting as gatekeepers from the infectious influence of the commercial art world. And suddenly, for the first time ever, I find myself deeply grateful for the gates.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

What I'm doing next (starting pretty much this week, but the web copy is not quite in place anywhere yet,) is a residency at the Diablo Glass School. I'll be experimenting with flame and breaking glass and thinking about how vulnerable our bodies are and how fleeting life is. Plus hopefully getting my chain constantly yanked by the school's most down to earth, scathingly sarcastic owner, because who the hell doesn't need to be knocked off their high horse a few times a week?

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.  

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.