Friday, August 23, 2013

#IAmAnArtist: Is it pretentious to declare who I am (or consider myself to be) without much evidence or appropriate nodding from others around me?

"My career path were much more exciting when I was five"
Sorry for the long (as*) title, but, does it bother you when people declare their identity without supporting evidence? Well, of course, there are some supporting evidence, but maybe they're just weak or inadequate?

First of all, no one should be forced to define themselves, especially when there are endless possibilities.

Second, definitions rely on the individual's personal perspective of themselves, instead of others. Having said that, I am aware that others may define me in another light and that shan't bother me.

Third, definitions are tricky, as they are arbitrary. There's never going to be ONE definition, instead there'll be a revolving list that continues to change in shape and size as time moves on until, well, I lie in a coffin or on the sidewalk or on an operating table. Even then, the definition of my identity will not diminish until those who remember me also lie somewhere with no pulse and all of my work on this earth has turned to dust, or whatever it is internet memories do. So, don't ever fear to be forgotten or erased (like that crazy murderer from Murder Ballad did) because your terrible neighbor or that boy whose heart you broke or that house that watched you grow will somehow remember you.

So, after that long umm... what should I call it? Caution sign? Warning? Prescription? Let's get on with the program.

A few days ago, I attended a national day reception, which housed several of Indonesia's business who's who. The day after, I was at a ceramic exhibition that managed to gather Indonesia's political and artistic crowd. The primary difference, though it may not seem apparent, is the magnetic pull of feeling at home, which I felt in one event and more so than in the other. As an individual who has consistently felt out of place for the past twenty years, I am almost always ecstatic to feel at home (perhaps, that's why I hate venturing far from my physical childhood house). And guess what? After a series of hesitation, which of course began with a cliche speech made by the guest of honor, I suddenly warmed up to the idea that this might be my crowd. The puppetry performance, as well as the kisses on the cheeks at the gallery only corroborated the initial nudge.

I hate this feeling of the unknown

On the way home, of course, like many Asian young adults do, I fretted for the worst. After years of thinking that it is alright to get involved in a small, totally meaningless, affair with art and somewhat betraying more "important" subjects, such as science, I finally came to a point where I could feel my body entering to fight or flight mode. Paranoia circled my head as vultures do around animal remains. What if they (older men and women before me, mostly relatives with high conviction) were right? What if I am a loser and a disappointment on top of being an artist, which in a way already struggles for money? What if... what if... what if... (by this point, you may realize a pattern in my speech or thought process).

Halfway through Tim Minchin's White Wine In The Sun, my new favorite song, I stopped myself and begged the question of dimension. Generally, people are perceived as unidimensional. Often we find ourselves pasting labels to the next person we meet, failing to further our understanding of said individual. For instance, when we think about our first grade teacher, they are just our first grade teacher. Mine was a petite woman, perhaps in her late thirties, with short black hair and a birthmark or a mole (I can't really recall). But she was and still is merely my first grade teacher. I don't know if she was/is a mother, or a wive. I failed to ask.
Of course, this was what it looked like in my teens
With age, I became much more interested in people, which soon prompted people to lend me labels such as kepo or bossy or nosy. Yet, perhaps, this is for another post. The point that I would like to make clear is that each person is, actually, multifaceted. On one level there's intersectionality, the study of intersections between a variety of, often, disenfranchised groups, which when applied explores different layers of discrimination and oppression. On another level, we can say that as human beings we can be both doctors and piano players and husbands and father and driver and so on and so forth. Multiple functions exist in most, if not all, human being. Therefore, there's no reason to fret the desire to be an artist or the recognition of this identity. I can be an artist and everything else.

Even after this epiphany, it still bugs me how wanting to be an artist and identifying to be an artist frightened me even after years of believing in equality in the value of different professions and passions. After years of believing that I could be successful solely from my work of art, I continue to shy away from that commitment by taking on other interests. Having multiple interests isn't a crime. Yet, a lack of certainty as to whether these other interests are actual interests or just hiding spots is worthy of, at least, to be interogated. Of course, I doubt that this issue will be resolved within the week or the evening, unless of course, a miracle happens. So maybe, at this point in time, I shall write an update soon (managed to write this without two fingers - fingers crossed, you know?).

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