Friday Nov 18 (Day 1,445)
There will be more words, from me and others, about the state of the world and what we should and shouldn’t be doing. This is not that. This is a small thing I need for myself. It’s not the only thing I’m doing, it’s not the most important thing, but it’s a thing and I want to share it, because that’s the only thing I can figure out to do right now.
Over the last 10 days or so I’ve been having and (mostly listening to) many variations of the following conversation among my artist friends: what is art for, and should I even be doing that right now? This is not a new conversation and, for those of you who are not practicing artists I feel I should clarify slightly: this is not a conversation about what art is good for - it’s not a discussion of how much a midcentury painting is worth as an alternate currency for billionaires and drug dealers, it’s not a practical question of how to translate work into market terms, and it’s decidedly not some sophomoric philosophy 101 conversation about the cultural impact of art on the human condition. This is a whole lot more personal.
This conversation goes something like: I get up, in the morning (or afternoon, or evening, or middle of the night). I am alive, but I am hurting, I am sick, I am hungover, anxious, under threat, distracted. I worry about the people I love, I worry about myself. I need to eat and pay the rent and I have only a certain number of hours in which I can do a thing. Is this the thing I do?
It seems in retrospect that all of the artists I admire the most, personally and from a distance, have an intimate relationship with failure, death and the ending of things. As upbeat as the work may be on the surface, it is a kind of spell crafted from stolen time. So this art thing that can pause the dread, this activity that can exempt you from the freight train of history for a day or an evening or a year. This seems insanely selfish right now. Selfish to curl inward and nurture and reflect on personal metaphors with your back warm from the fire that is the world burning.
I don’t know what art is for, and I certainly don’t know if you should be doing that right now. I can say it’s probably not the only thing you should be doing. I hope right now you’re battening down the hatches, building up some defenses and stockpiling some supplies for yourself and those you love. You’re going to need this.
I hope you’re making calls But are you exhausted? I’m already exhausted.
This week I discovered the Longplayer, a thousand-year music composition which exists in a building outside London that you can go and visit and which will, ideally, continue to exist for the next 980 something years.
“From its initial conception, a central part of the Longplayer project has been about considering strategies for the future. How does one keep a piece of music playing across generations? How does one prepare for its technological adaptability, knowing how few technologies have remained viable over the last millennium? How does one legislate for its upkeep? And how can one communicate that responsibility to those who might be looking after it some 950 years after its original custodians have perished?”
Daring to believe that there will be a future in which your tiny irrelevant machinations matter - this is an act of resistance. Staying alive, and engaged - this is an act of resistance. Witnessing - this is an act of resistance. And as difficult as this is to do when times are good, it means even more when times are bad.
As of this writing there are 1,445 days until the next scheduled US presidential election. 1,445 days is a long time. We truly need to make long term plans - much longer than that and simultaneously much more local and much broader and more robust than the scope of one country’s federal government, but 1,445 days is also not an impossible task.
I will select 1,445 tracks to listen to as a small act of daily resistance.
I’ve lived many more than 1,445 days and I’ve gotten through most of them listening to music. A small ritual: I will select 1,445 tracks to listen to as a small act of daily resistance. I will post the names of the tracks to Twitter and Facebook. One per day for the next 1,445 days.
If I can select 1,445 tracks, and if I can listen to them all and post links to them for you to hear, than I am still alive, and you are still alive, and music still exists and the internet still exists and, maybe there is still a world in which there is a country called the United States that is capable of holding an election, where there will be more than one candidate worth voting for, with a populous invested enough to make an attempt at actual governance.
As of this writing, none of that is obvious to me in the slightest.
It’s a small, stupid artwork, but it’s part of my plan for the immediate future, 24 hours at a time. This is my soundtrack for my resistance. I am sad, and I’m alive, and I am angry, and I do not think this is ok, and I am here and I am planning for the future, and I want you to be there with me. These are some of the sounds that help me feel less alone. I hope they help you too.
Track suggestion? Send me a link.
Want to resist in a more substantial way? Start here (not mine, just sharing).