The dreaded “artist’s statement”: that infamous paragraph meant to provide insight into an artwork that strikes fear in many an artist’s heart. How many hours have we art school grads spent agonizing, staring at a blank screen while counting the number of times the cursor blinks without advancing? How many theoretical texts have we scrolled through looking for that catchy term that will undoubtedly make all the difference, completely summing up and accurately contextualizing our practice (is “transdisciplinary dialogical” even a term?) While I do agree that it is of value (writing, not staring at the screen or fishing for lexicon), this time when asked to provide a “statement”, I immediately thought, “what do I want to state?” In contrast to reflecting upon my previous work and throwing in the latest and greatest “art speak”, I have opted for another form of statement: a statement of intent. That’s right, let’s put onto paper/screen what I intend as I get up in the morning and continue to self-identify as a practitioner (sigh). Easier said than done. Being in a period of transition, I find myself questioning what I actually want from my practice. (Am I allowed to admit that? It’s true. Don’t judge me.) Just because I have been making work in a way that could neatly fit into a categorically labeled white cubical box (“participatory practice”, “socially engaged,” “performative,” “interdisciplinary”, select whichever label suits your discursive palette), does that mean today I want to or must continue down that path? During an evening graduate course, I was graced with words of wisdom that forever changed my views on artist statements and life. No, it didn’t come from a famous visiting artist offering sage advice. In fact, it came in the most unlikely of forms. A colleague responded to the question of dietary requirements for our class’s weekly potluck dinners with: “Today, I am a vegetarian, but we will see what I am tomorrow.” That has stuck with me as a profoundly deep way of pursuing life and art: rather than pursuing a methodology because that’s what I have done to-date (or because it is what I am recognized as, or it is what is hot in the eyes of a critic), giving myself the permission to wake up each day and reevaluate my ideas, process and positions.
In the spirit of being open to both veggie and meat lasagna, I offer my current 10-point statement of intent:
1. To utilize art as a lens through which to view and experience the world
2. To regularly question art’s role
3. To create meaningful links between people and between disciplines
4. To make work regardless of, and in reaction to, the circumstances in which I find myself
5. To develop ways of critically reflecting on and engaging with cultural practices
6. To keep humor and play central to my investigations
7. To ask “What if…?” as a starting point for new work
8. To remain curious
9. To allow myself the freedom to fail
10. To regularly revisit and revise this list
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Alexia Mellor has barely taken a breath since being named one of the Boston Globe’s “Artists to Watch” in 2009, with stints in New Mexico, Turkey, Sweden, Netherlands, and Wales for projects over the last few years. Finally taking a moment for herself (maybe), Alexia is currently a PhD candidate at Newcastle University in the UK. Be on the lookout for future projects under a variety of organizational names and guises.