I revisited an online bulletin for alums in my major at art school. I read a post I made two years ago responding to the question, Do you enjoy where you live? I think I still believe now what I wrote then in 2005:
I've been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for two years now. Yesterday, in a cafe, I was rereading an essay by Susan Sontag about anthropologists:
"The anthropologist's vocation requires the assumption of profound detachment. (Quoting Claude Levi-Strauss) "Never can he feel himself 'at home' anywhere, he will always be, psychologically speaking, an amputee". - Claude Levi-Strauss in Susan Sontag's "The Anthropologist as a Hero"
What struck me about what Sontag was saying is that for some artists, and certainly for me, practicing art is also an act of voluntary amputation. You know the advantages of comfortable living, yet each of us has chosen to embrace a little risk at the expense of a prescribed life. I still feel my phantom limb, those pangs of what I miss most about America (free press, bookstores, trashy television). I miss education and I miss being able to find things when I need them. But one, in time, becomes familiar with disability, locating temporary prosthetics and ultimately, one forgets that they have braces when they smile.
Certainly time spent at home offers adventures. I see it like an extreme rock climber, taking risk but always a sport of familiar terrain. Until one day, the climber finds his leg jammed between two stones. One can either waste away or one can cut themselves loose.
I can't say whether or not I've chosen the right place. My instinct tells me that Beijing, Havana and perhaps Berlin are in the future. It is clear that I'm interested interested in places undergoing rapid change. Also, in the same essay Levi-Strauss is said to believe that the anthropologist is a witness to dying culture (during a period of colonization where 'first contacts' usually meant the decimation of entire cultures through disease, warfare, slavery). Such is the practice and struggle of art. To maintain culture in a larger society that could care less. I currently live in one of only a handful of remaining communist states. To see the rapid changes, the growing pains, the struggles of nations and cities in transition is the energy from which my work borrows. I'm never really 'at home' anywhere, but that, for me, speaks to an artist's life. And that is why I like where I live.
Posted by on February 6, 2007 2:29 AM | Permalink