i sit here now and wonder precisely what is to come in the last half of my time in Bhutan. there's some big plans on the horizon...one very big plan. but, aside from doing as much as i can to make those things happen, i've decided it's best to just float until the other pieces of the plan really really commit. and i am indeed floating.
back home i always used to make these ridiculous jokes about how all i did was float and all i wanted to do was float. "floating" made up a big part of the ideas behind the work. (of course, the idea that i wasn't in any way floating and have always convinced myself i am floating was the real situation in the work...among many other situations that were also there.) now, here, i find myself actually floating. i wrote about silence some time back and i still feel it around me. i feel it over my lips and when other people's lips move.
in all my honesty, aside from sketches, bad paintings, and lots and lots of, sometimes, nonsensical writing...i haven't produced any particular art work of my own. i've done quite a bit with the children...but there is nothing that has been done on my own. many many things are started and left in corners in my tiny home. unfinished.
so floating and its negative effects are bad bad news these days.
now, it's not like me to be unproductive. it's actually completely opposite my nature. but i find, in all the madness of processing what i've seen, felt, heard, said and touched...it's difficult to find my way. it's difficult for me to grab this balloon...often i feel either the balloon is floating out of my reach, or i'm floating out of my reach. after speaking to many many many people, both well traveled and not, i find that for the most part, complacency is the way to go. ignoring the tremendous power of the things that surround us, ignoring the tremendous terror of things we want to change, things that are hurtful for the mere fact that they exist...i guess that's the way to go.
i said it before and i definitely meant it. my idea of what exactly i can do, how my services might be offered is much more grounded now than it ever was. and while i have come to accept some things...i will never like them, i will never truly accept them. i simply can't. i would be lying if i said i could and i'm no liar.
i had an interview before coming to bhutan where i was asked to talk about my art work. the majority of the talk focused on "change". change is what the work has always been essentially about...changes i've felt, changes i had no control over, changes i wanted, changes that would likely never come...changes i could never force from anyone...change. i said i was excited to see how the work would change in Bhutan as i changed. but more often than not, i cannot even begin to put my finger on precisely how it is i'm changing. i only know i have. and so, when the time comes to produce work, there is no concrete notion behind anything so there i sit...going through the motions. using processes i am familiar with...rigor, repetition, obsession...but no actual end product is there. every now and then i'll switch up the process and make myself very uncomfortable on purpose...using a different method i'm not familiar with. lots of people ask me what's wrong...and for a moment i feel very very unproductive and semi guilty...then i just i giggle. i could never explain that there is nothing wrong...that in fact, there is simply too much all at once underlined by this very overpowering sense of frustration, emptiness and insignificance.
hitting a wall doesn't quite explain what's happened. i've hit lots of walls before...one could say i'm a seasoned veteran. this is something different. i think i consciously make the choice sometimes to simply watch from the outside...to step back and say nothing. part of me feels i shouldn't touch things, shouldn't go near them...another part of me says it's not time yet...i haven't accepted certain things yet so how could i even complete any thought about them?! and then of course, a different part of me says get off your a$$, quit over analyzing and get moving. so...considering i'm feeling more of the third one these days, i figure it would be best to do just that. i haven't ever had to force any work to be completed...i've often bit off too much for myself to chew on...but i've never had such a problem conceptually completing something. but i'll force myself now. who knows...might be interesting and more than likely hilarious to see what comes of it.
so on the personal end of my time here...the journey continues...whether or not it lacks the binnacle for the compass. i will continue to fumble until i stumble upon the proper method. i hope i get somewhere personally before i return home...or at least have a starting point to work from...
on the interactive/teaching/collective end of my time here, things have been incredible with the children and they continue to be. but presently, things are at a bit of a stand still. i've had the fortune of sharing my art history and theory "stuff" with a few different people who have been interested in learning. the most interesting of those people would have to be Passang Tobgay. he's a painter who joined VAST in 2000. he was traditionally trained at the Zorig Chusom (traditional school of art and craft in Bhutan), he was a teacher at the Zorig Chusom after he graduated and now he prepares to get his Bachelor's degree in Amsterdam. we've talked about it on several occasions and he has his mind set. he will find a way to balance the years of traditional training he has had in Bhutan with the contemporary challenges and experience that are to come in Amsterdam. he wants to help Bhutan open itself up through his art work. we've spent some time in the last couple of weeks talking about modern art and its been incredible. his mind is blown and while i watch his mind go all over the place mine also blows on account of his blowing. the knowledge he has concerning modern art is minimal, so we've started from (pre)scratch. it has been one of my biggest challenges since arriving here...especially on days when internet is down...but i find i'm full of hope for a few different reasons.
-i've learned so much from the discussions we've had...not only about art.
-he is a young man who is excited to learn, who is not afraid or threatened when he doesn't know something...he has just what it takes to really let himself be opened and in return open other people.
-he has truly mastered traditional Bhutanese art...so that puts him in an incredible position to be "the first" many many things...and he can provide young people with an example and some hope for finding that balance that is so important in Bhutan.
it's funny to think of it...when he goes he'll be in a world that is so hugely different from his, a world that is full of the things Bhutan carefully has its eyes on. and he won't just be going to some tiny town in the western world. he's going to Amsterdam! and when i came here,i suppose it was the same situation just opposite style. someone referred to it as a "time warp" and that it most definitely has been. i didn't only slow down on account of the Bhutanese' laid back nature...i basically had to take about 49582 steps back just to get my grounding...these steps of course had to be taken because this place has stayed hidden from the world i come from for the majority of its existence. so when i came here i was overwhelmed in the strangest of ways...and i'm certain that when Passang goes to Amsterdam he will also be overwhelmed for similar reasons under opposite effects. before he goes we have some time to share what we can about our very very different backgrounds...and i'm excited to do that. he and i will both leave Bhutan to our faraway places in August.
earlier today, he and i sat outside of the Alaya Gallery, Bhutan's first art gallery that is currently exhibiting some of the work done by painters at VAST. he asked what my coming plans were and with excitement i let him in on the details of Bhutan's first sculpture exhibition to be held along the river side. he was exciting and said "xoch, this will be the first time anything like this will happen in Bhutan!" i smiled...and said i hope we can make it happen beautifully. i would let you all in on the nitty gritty of what is to come as well, but that would ruin the surprise! all i will say is that he and i along with Asha will do our best to lead this thing so that we are sure to "keep it real" as my younger brother has always requested.
i am happy to share these tiny pieces with you all though!
"river carries river"
reflections of our time and place.
august--just before i make my journey back across the world.
as always...there's more to come. i send my warmest greetings from the Kingdom of Bhutan.