Ironies of Art-making / by Jeannine Cook

Back on June 14th, Gloria Goodale wrote in the Christian Science Monitor about "Fleeting Architecture", saying that "we are becoming a temporary society". In a more recent article on July 20th, about museums and their future, she wrote, "It’s not about the collections anymore,”… “It’s about community.”

As an artist, I am left slightly nonplussed by these statements which I suspect are totally accurate about society in general today. For me, drawing in silverpoint has always implied a sense of heritage from the 12th century monks who started this medium rolling when they drew in lead (and later silver) in their wonderful manuscripts. There are still many illuminations and silverpoint drawings which have survived, despite the ravages of time. A respect for archival qualities of the materials and methods one uses in drawing and painting have always seemed to me to be necessary, given that collectors - individuals or institutions - normally don't want artworks they have acquired to self-destruct. Horror stories abound about disintegrating paintings, sharks not holding up in formaldehyde or drawings on acidic paper disappearing in yellowed slivers.

Nonetheless, as Ms. Goodale remarks, "We used to place a huge value on permanence and place, but that's gone... we want the novel, the next, and we're happy to throw away and move on in order to accommodate that." How to reconcile that trend and the need actually to have something in the museums, for the "community" to view, observe, learn from or celebrate...?
We artists still need to produce something. Granted, installation art, provisional structures, video art, performance art all abound. But at the end of the day, museums still have - usually - walls and something needs to go on those walls. Yes, the Christo events, like "The Gates" in New York's Central Park, are huge cultural events and money-makers and people are more willing to travel just to see temporary installations. Nonetheless, institutions like the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum... still attract huge numbers of people seeking out the more permanent manifestations of art that have endured down the ages.

So as an artist, I have to decide, eventually, what kind of art to try and create - permanent or impermanent .. and just follow my passion. As Marina Abramovic remarked to Isabel Lafont in an article in El Pais in June 2009, "Art is like breathing, you just don't question that fact. You make art because life would be unlivable without doing so." ("El arte es como respirar, no lo cuestiones. Lo haces porque no puedes vivir sin ello.") She is completely right.