Notes to a previous self that embarked on a CalArts master’s program in Aesthetics & Politics


To start, everything is foreground. Where is? When is? Who is? Who does? How does? Posturing. Little proclamations of self.


How will you account for yourself? What are you getting for what you are spending? (Having gotten and being spent our typical proof of life.) Will your investment in time and money — though, to be clear, time is not money — pay off?


After weeks, something happens. Among all those who attend, some appear. Something new moves the room.


When do strangers become a group? Adversity helps. Troubleshooting the way things aren’t working forces personality to the surface. Will you step in? Will you step aside? Will you work the channels? Will you go behind the back, divide to conquer, duck to defend, get up in the face or simply exit the scene? Will you help other people find their feet? Will you need others to help you find yours?


Weeks go by. In the drive and push, everyone hangs on by their fingernails to blinking ideas that get gobbled up and tossed aside through so many syllabi. The crush of thought will not be optimized. It is not a factory.


If you’re lucky, you’ll hit your limit at least once. (It won’t feel like luck at the time.) Call it what you like. Breakdown. Failure. Mental block. Mindfuck. Time to delaminate. Disarticulate. I am beside myself. Aside from my Self.


Converse. Reverse. Try again. Say again. Begin in the middle, everything already in progress, a past leaping ahead and future dragging behind. Or the other way around. Impossibly deep genealogies. Planned spontaneity meeting up in the hallways. Unthinkable futures that must be thought anyway. Any. Way. Go in circles. Be a line. Make a point. Be air.


Equating politics with elections is a convenient way to believe that politics is something that happens to other people and only in some years. Politics as the everyday exercise of power and influence is right here, overtly and covertly. Reality distortions and small bureaucratic dramas abound.


“Art” and its multiple meanings will hijack the aesthetic conversation if you let it. It’s only natural at an art school, but it’s a missed opportunity. Whether art as Art or as object or as market or as practice or as academic discipline, art is a privileged zone. But in the end, art can be avoided, and plenty of people do.

Words+Pictures. Belief+Knowledge.