Annotations on Pleasure in Work Processes (I)
Artists and researchers share reflections about their creative and intellectual processes.
Testimonies by: Aquiles Hadjis, Bárbara Muñoz Porqué, Betina Barrios Ayala, Costanza De Rogatis, Elizabeth Cemborain, Elvira Blanco, Jeanne Jiménez, Jordi Santiago Flores, Luis Theis, María Elena Morán, Marianela Díaz Cardozo, Martín Castillo Morales, Max Provenzano, Valenthina Fuentes, and Vanessa Vargas.
The notion of “pleasure” is of great interest to the reflections that guide Mollusca’s searches. It is a concept that attracts us in its broad, complex, varied, multiform and, in short, personal sense. Therefore, to swim deeper into these waters, we thought it would be of great value to invite artists and researchers to share with us their position regarding the question: “What place does pleasure have in the course of your creative and intellectual work processes?” These records account for the reflections and complex relationships that these creators have with the concept, and how it acts in the dynamics and bodies that toil in creative tasks. The picture offered by the gathering of these testimonies is doubtlessly a gratitude.
AQUILES HADJIS (Artist and researcher | Tokyo, JP)
The kind of hedonism or enjoyment that characterizes my working methods is quite far from what I associate with the word “pleasure.” Most times, every project concludes in exaggerations that take a deep toll on me.
What is achieved in the end I usually appreciate much later, when I am amid other torments and I see how the previous ones laid the foundations for some strategies that allow me to survive the current ones. Every crisis is something I get myself into with the purpose of testing my ideas, but the process of materializing them into the physical space is always traumatic for me.
I think I can only talk about a very clear enjoyment when I perform in things that are not projects — disciplines with an instant dimension like drawing and music — where the trail of a few gestures accumulates, showing me the path that the next should follow.
In short, I cannot associate pushing the limits of my ideas with what I usually associate with well-being or pleasure. There is certainly an incredibly satisfying dimension to embarking on risky construction processes, but I would rather associate it much more with the violent pact that a gambler has with the ups and downs of his vice.
This is a series of notes that tracked a process of 2012. I believe the selection exemplifies (or documents) well the process of panic and overflow that characterizes many of my projects within its private facet.
In this particular case, it was an overly ambitious project. The completion of the process was delayed and my supervisor, faced with the organizer’s complaints, told me to fill the space with my sketches. It was an invitation to outface my process and I think it took away a lot of unnecessary drama from that moment.
VALENTHINA FUENTES (Poet | Caracas, VE)
In the creative process, pleasure is something taken for granted; it seems that the artist only hopes to surrender to it. For those watching from the outside, creating is synonymous with playing and having fun, self-entertainment, but those who create know that if this implies pleasure, it is at least a difficult pleasure. Each “game” has its order which demands rigour to discover. Pleasure can then be left completely out of the game, if it were not for the signs that we begin to perceive as we work: hints of an encounter, signals that point a direction, that infuse meaning. Something entirely other begins to emerge in language, in the image, in sound.
Then I begin to feel its presence. After each sign there is enthusiasm. It is about walking the path towards an encounter with something unknown and discovering it to be one’s own but also entirely alien. Sometimes, signs appear in errors, in straying, by a stroke of chance that cannot be abolished — as Mallarmé suggests. Sometimes, they arise from insisting over and over on a shape: something unfolds. The material requests a particular treatment; requests an inner movement, listening and opening. Something that seems arbitrary becomes decisive for the work to be complete. It is a matter of discovering its logic, its order, its freedom, until it reveals itself wholly, definite. Becoming a witness and an actor of this birth is something that leads from pleasure to rigour, from rigour to passion, from passion to devotion. In the process of creating, these boundaries get blurred.
ELIZABETH CEMBORAIN (Visual artist | Caracas, VE)
I find pleasure in transitions. As I walk, I sense the sounds, textures, and colours of the sunset. This rhythmic pace of sensations generates connections of ideas and new projects.
I like to cross the threshold between sleep and wake. It is a fragile moment, where the unconscious and the real merge. I enjoy sensing that lapse, it is an instant with a subtle yet huge creative potential.
I am amused by technological errors and glitch in their illogical aesthetic dimension between the existing and the casual.
MARTÍN CASTILLO MORALES (Photographer| Buenos Aires, AR)
Without pleasure, there is no work; it is vital, it is reason and engine of my process. The “epiphanic” pleasure of the appearance of an idea, the enthusiastic pleasure of imagining it realized, the emotional pleasure of its enactment, the pleasure of releasing when sharing it. The inspiring pleasure of the possibility of a virtual or personal meeting, the physical pleasure of the meeting, the pleasure of the result of that meeting materialized into art — or not; the pleasure of relating thanks to photography.
VANESSA VARGAS (Dancer, educator, and researcher | New York, US)
When dance is a space for the social experience
When that place is common
When I find myself dancing — in — the relationship between the collective and the individual
When creation and creativity are a collective space
When I find that space to look at myself without judging me
When I have time and space to develop my practice, my ideas, a text
When I meet with my affections in stage space
When I experience the sovereignty of my body.
MARIANELA DÍAZ CARDOZO (Artist, editor, and translator | San Antonio de los Altos, VE)
I need room for working. It is not so much a matter of proxemics (though also) but a bodily state. I have noticed that having mental space to unfold is directly linked to the mobility of my body. When my body goes numb, so does my brain. I take much pleasure in pushing my muscles and tendons to elongate, to soften them. I try to incorporate stretching movements and routines whenever I can in my daily life. Expanding the space that my body takes up affects the vigour and extensibility of my mind.
LUIS THEIS (Mixed media artist | Caracas, VE)
Pleasure has no prominence in my creative process. I do figurative painting, I do not consider myself an artist who gets excited while painting, or who does it when in particular moods. It is not something that I enjoy, I do it because I feel I must do it; it is an urge that can sometimes be a bit heavy. However, the work has an improvisational nature — literally emerging from chaos — and that can even lead to funny scenes, given that humour has a place in it. So, although I do not see the act of painting as something pleasant, it can go that way in its development. But it is at the moment of seeing the finished piece when I can actually feel pleasure.
However, in the current Venezuelan context, creation has a liberating character. This way, despite feeling distress in the making of the work, it can be considered to be pleasant distress. It is the pleasure of developing my work, of satisfying that need despite all the adversities that arise in the current context.
COSTANZA DE ROGATIS (Visual artist and researcher | Caracas, VE)
I tend to be very rigid in terms of expectations of what I hope to achieve as a result of what I do, for I demand coherence, articulation, clarity, and this “preconceived” and controlled structure in advance. This is on the opposite side of my need to express myself, to create, to research, which is a more instinctive and intuitive impulse, where the process occurs more naturally and confidently, and where I can feel the pleasure of discovering aspects or ideas that were not foreseen within that initial structure.
It takes me some time to identify that I am making obstacles for myself, that the mistrust in my own processes and in my handling of time — which tends to be scattered-–will ultimately lead to something; therefore, the beginning of each project can even come to suffering, because I “struggle” with myself to allow me the freedom to ramble, to not be neither precise, nor coherent, nor articulated, nor clear.
That is when I start to enjoy the time for reading or researching on how to materialize an idea, for tests and “experiments” that are always revealing as new, unexpected aspects. Then, there is the genuine emotion of discovering a possibility, an even childish gladness about what that which was originally an idea could come to be.
To give in to the process and trust it is a task that I must always remind myself to do.
MARÍA ELENA MORÁN (Writer and scriptwriter | São Paulo, BR)
Writing is activating strange magnets, a masochistic drive that makes me turn furies into pains or persevering or silly joys, enough to implant tediums or rage new fires and, in each of those mutations, I am taken by the savoury vertigo of life, for pleasure is the transition between worlds; it is the airbag and the life jacket and it is also the accident; it is the faithful, silky enthusiasm that makes room for itself amidst so many don’ts.
ELVIRA BLANCO (Researcher and media creator | New York, US)
The question about pleasure is complicated. It is difficult to think of it when working/creating has involved an effort that I could not qualify as pleasant. This is a photo of a recent moment I would call pleasant: a break I took from writing. It is a community garden near my home in Morningside Heights. I try to find openings in my routine, but it is almost always about getting some air or sun.
BÁRBARA MUÑOZ PORQUÉ (Researcher and educator | Bogota, CO)
Writing is both a pleasant and arduous task. Whatever the register of the text, I like to sit at my desk, sort my objects beforehand and have a hot drink. In the middle of the session, I go out to the balcony and, depending on the day, I get some sun without doing anything for a while. Whatever the task — reading/grading/researching about something, taking notes or designing a class — it is not a linear activity without detours, on the contrary, I let myself be interrupted by some discontinuities that come up such as replying to an email, sending a message, reading a chronicle or article. When I write something more extensive, sometimes I listen to music and look for a piece of chocolate to melt away to the rhythm of the tongue: I think about the sonic combination of words, about other possible synonyms, about the structure of the writing. I think about how to fixate, through the composition of ideas, the dis/appearance of an image in memory.
MAX PROVENZANO (Multidisciplinary artist | Lisbon, PT)
Carvings of Automatic Writing
— — — — — — — — —diary 011- 29–30052020 — — — — — — — —
I have certain difficulties in writing and reflecting on pleasure; in most cases, I consider pleasure to be delocalized over time. There are moments of pleasure. I consider pleasure to be within a temporal state, given that under the bodily conditions and in the context we live in, it is impossible to achieve a full state of pleasure. Pleasure, seen from this perspective, is ephemeral in nature — in my case, on several occasions, it is overlapped by the different intervals of time/space/work.
Pleasure Interpreted as an Ephemeral Experience that I Perceive with Some Instability in Order to Be Fully Assumed. Ramblings About Pleasure.
Pleasure and breathing — at times, pleasure may go unnoticed, I would then speak of the invisibility of pleasure. It may be a defence mechanism in my case, because giving myself to pleasure or its enactment would lead to excessive drunkenness or overdose, full-blown madness or, at best, death as an absolute end. How enough is enough pleasure? I believe that it is impossible to know full pleasure through the body as a tangible experience. Breathing can be a pleasure in itself but I cannot grasp it; it is vital but keeps locating in regions that go unnoticed. I believe pleasure works the same way in my life and for this reason, I find it so hard to write/talk about the subject; this is still ramblings about pleasure.
Excesses of Pleasure — (In)stability and Death.
In any case, I think everything leads to a state of death: without pleasure, I would be definitely dead and with an excess of pleasure I would attain an indescribable state that I would directly associate with death. I am constantly adapting and looking to generate pleasure in every task I perform. I have done tasks that do not give me pleasure but lead me to another space where I can experience it. I would speak of the instability of pleasure and the continuous negotiations we carry out to get it. This arises questions: What do we use the body for? Is it perhaps a material that allows us to mask our true intentions? We seek pleasure with the body, but can we show it explicitly enough? What are our limitations regarding the pleasure we want to experience?
Failed Attempts at Description — Pleasure of Collapse, Void, and Crisis.
All attempt at describing pleasure is an approximation or an attempt to describe the approximation to pleasure — it remains in permanent indetermination given its instability and imperceptibility. We live in a society that tends to be dissatisfied and where each individual devises mechanisms to individually seek an interpretation of what pleasure is. It is possible to use the body to obtain — immediate — pleasure by embracing the power play and setting up roles that enable the transActions; thus, pleasure can also be interpreted as a currency of exchange within an economic system that is in constant crisis. I can experience pleasure but I cannot make it stable, so I gradually learn to let go. When I do not understand the emptiness I am experiencing, I get in crisis; but I also constantly take the risk of observing this. I feel void without pleasure, then the Actions are performed as preparations for the emptiness that comes after experiencing pleasure.
Lisbon is still not Venice.
JEANNE JIMÉNEZ (Artist, painter, and designer | Caracas, VE)
Being surrounded by visually appealing and stimulating things is a basic need for painters and designers. I take comfort in creating in a neat and clean space — never minimalist — but I experience pleasure in the colour of objects and work materials. It is a habit to own tools of saturated, full, solid colours.
In my creative process, studying and trying out colours gives me pleasure and excitement. It is one of the parts that I enjoy most about my work: meditating the colours, giving them proper names for the brands and also for me: Lemonade Pink, Egyptian Sand, Swamp Green, Earthy Black…
JORDI SANTIAGO FLORES (Researcher and educator | San Antonio de los Altos, VE)
For some time now, I have become aware that I experience pleasure in reading aloud what I write during the writing process. Rather than reading, it is repeating many times what I am writing to find the rhythmic formula that I like. For instance, there are formulations whose music moves me to the point of tears. I understand this repetition as a kind of singing. It is a very organic relationship, because ‘it’ goes through my throat.
BETINA BARRIOS AYALA (Researcher, educator, and bookseller | Buenos Aires, AR)
«Going beyond, creation, the creative exigency — we may become enchanted by these terms and open ourselves to their promise; but they tell, finally, of nothing but their wearing away inasmuch as they keep us still close to ourselves.»
The fortune of finding, like lightning, the source, the cornerstone to address an issue does not respond to deadlines as provided by calendars, clocks, agendas, alarms, schedules… The rigour of limits can hamper the fluidity of works related to thought and reflection. And this is not (necessarily) related to the contemporary idea of procrastination. It is more a matter related to the flow of ideas and their decantation in the framework of the individual life of the creative subject. Therefore, what does such an activity — the result of a passionate inclination, an essential dictation that emanates from an essentially primitive, primal curiosity, of which individual life in a responsible and conscious course is responsible for (re)creating the (physical, temporal and mental) space for being realized — respond to? What does the place of the light imply? How is this to be possible? What circumstances surround and drive the atmosphere required for the creative work, the living expression of thought?
At this point, it is relevant to introduce the notion of “pleasure.” The authentic presence of enjoyment in the place of the event of the aesthetic fact. Disturbance, which may have countless instances of representation, both physical and mental, is an enemy of ease. Unrest can be the result of temporal, spatial, sensitive, material, or otherwise, barriers that condition the making and subsequent appearance of the object — understood as text, speech, artwork, dissertation, score, or idea, which responds to a kind of expression of the subject’s creativity.
In the face of the precarization of contemporary life, or rather, this tendency towards precarization that seems intrinsic to the social and political life of our species and organization, which responds to the question and action related to the concepts of “freedom” and “independence”: How does an individual prepare? Perhaps by seeking an exchange, a transaction that results in satisfaction and that enables the place of the event, the product of his/her urgent need to beDoing. A need that is not (perhaps) met as the source of income. It is something else; it is an inalienable task, a calling. The complexity of the difference that nests in the concept of work within the framework of capitalism — in terms of survival, capital value, and exchange — and the work that provides satisfaction and meaning to human life. The most romantic dream would be their synthesis, but how true is this?
The routines, deadlines, schedules, clocks, dates, and calendars mentioned at the beginning are precisely the rigours of work related to capital. It is a transaction, its ordering mechanisms answer to the rites of the due dates of an invoice. Creative work, the pleasure of doing, thinking, art-making, in turn, are alien to the time of earth in this Cartesian sense.
Survival in sensible terms, the possibility of the object, of the place of the event, is intimately linked to pleasure, to freedom, to the sensible conditions of the creative subject. Within the framework of satisfaction, in a combination of reflexive solitude and exhibition space, it is possible to create a nourishing work. The truth is that the work, the object, the place of the event is not complete in itself without the presence of another. The place of capital escapes this coexistence. However, it is not about denying its resounding influence on the full life of the subject in this world order we live in.
The reach of all the corners grazed in this brief essay exceeds this meditation. The place of hedonism, of pleasure, is in the human being’s ability to beDoing. In the midst of hostilities, there will be catharsis — but this does not necessarily produce a work. The place of the event is linked to the conditions to generate it. Without peace, there is no result. Perhaps in turbulence lie necessary experiences for the maturity of the creative subject, but there is no oeuvre, unfailingly. The question of the object in this sense has more to do with a disposition, independent of other conditions; the subject and his/her creative possibilities are related to the satisfaction, to the possibility of flowing in the space of the world.
The idea of flow has a path in itself, one place to another; this bridge, the place of the duct, is the seat of the creative. The possibility of acting amidst invisible clarities; perhaps, between oneself and its appearance. Not that of the I but that of the work. There ought to be pleasure in this journey to which only the curious venture. How many concepts reside in this short text, but the joy of tossing in it a contribution to the well of reflection and the question about pleasure and work is filled with enjoyment.
Somehow it seems that the proposed meditation is nothing but the place that has summoned us: The pleasure of sharing is the true beDoing of creative work. Giving and receiving within an avid community. There is a space in solitude that fosters the impulse to search; conversation is the place of the event. The pleasure in working is to signify for the other, to propose a space for being for that which was produced for giving.
All images are courtesy of the creators featured in these testimonies.
Translated by Marianela Díaz Cardozo.