Most artists need some sort of sanctuary--a mentally uncluttered environment where they can get in touch with their muse. From the number of letters I've received it seems there's a new and dangerous threat to a balanced studio life. It's the computer. More particularly the email and internet phenomenon. Artists tell me of addiction, compulsive behavior, on-line avoidance, concentration loss. The medium has some of the same characteristics as a slot machine--neutral mechanical interaction, exciting promise, random reward. Some artists are telling me they are pulling the lever far too often and are considering pulling the plug.
What's to be done about this? There are some questions we might ask. Do we need to be in touch or do we artists function best as islands of unsullied egocentricity and self-direction? How does the medium raise our standards, our knowledge and our capabilities and how does it diminish them? There are similar questions we still ask about TV. Good and bad stuff. Mesmerizing. Soporific. At the dawn of TV Marshall McLuhan called it "foaming nonsense." And then Ed Murrow looked at it and remarked; "This thing can teach." As Adrienne Rich has said "TV created a false collectivity." The internet has the same potential.
I believe in habits. Learning good habits and unlearning bad ones. Humankind has always had to adjust to change and innovation. For good or bad we've evolved to where no thinking being can pass on the miracle of a wired global village. But we artists, with our flagrant and often childlike weaknesses, have to settle down and teach ourselves to use the medium well and wisely. Let the head guide the hands and fingers--and cut to the chase. The creativity chase--that's why we're here, isn't it?
PS: "The skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame." (Virginia Wolfe)
If you would like to see selected correspondence relating to the previous letter "A New York Story," please go to http://painterskeys.com/clickbacks/story.htm