Skip to main content

The New Normal

The thing about a town that's called Normal? People who live here get the joke, too. There are t-shirts for sale in shops on the short main street that make puns on the name. Like the one I used for the title of this blog post.

So it's small town, attached to a place called Bloomington. And when you're at a conference in the ballroom of the local Marriott hotel, the event organisers are at pains to tell you the names of all the companies that are headquartered here, the well-known to fairly well-know people who come from here (artist Elizabeth Murray) or who passed through here (comedian Andy Dick, writer David Foster Wallace). You walk around the town and you see that it is indeed, very quiet, very normal. And it has some interesting buildings here and there, like the gorgeous art deco cinema pictured above. Surrounded, of course, by car parks and 1960s university buildings.

Anyway, the conference was very stimulating. 200 creative types from all over Illinois -- artists of all stripes, people from arts organizations, educators, all three in one person -- sat in a giant ballroom and listened to presentations by hotshot graphic designers Bruce Mau and James Goggin, theatre people, a woman who advocated for people with disabilities, the lootenant governor of Illinois Sheila Simon, who turned up to play the banjo and actually had a very nice singing voice. There were two 'breakout' sessions during the day, when you could gather in a smaller room with any of the main speakers to ask questions or start a conversation.

Lots of ideas about creativity were thrown up in the air, mixed in with lots of buzz words like 'innovation', 'change', 'collaboration', 'inclusion'. Sometimes buzz words can be vague and fuzzy -- I thought Bruce Mau really misjudged his audience, and spoke in a lot of generalizations. But sometimes they can be a starting point for a deeper conversation. The best, most inspiring talk was given by Frank Maugeri, who creates public art/theatre/spectacles for the Redmoon Theater group in Chicago. Patty and I also attended a group discussion with other people attending the conference, and had an interesting time talking about the possibilities for artistic collaborations between arts groups and organizations, and between individual artists.

I also handed out loads of my new business cards, which are so shiny and attractive that I'll probably post images from them on this blog soon. So altogether, this was a stimulating and productive way to spend a day. It wasn't really a 'how to' sort of day. But sometimes, it's just as valuable to be in an environment when you're just surrounded by lots of ideas, which you can mull over and apply to your own situation later.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


Popular posts from this blog

On my 300th blog post


It's my 300th blog post. And I seem to remember that in my 200th blog post I said that I would start quoting from John Ruskin's "Praeterita", after which this blog was named. Well, better late then never, so quotation number 2 is below.

First, though, some thoughts on this blog and blogging in general. I started Praeterita at the end of last year after reading a book by an art-marketing guru called Alyson Stansfield that recommended it as a means for artists to publicise their work better. But from the start I thought it would be more interesting to talk in a discursive way about my wider interest in art, and artists, and the history of art. After a desultory beginning where I only posted once a week, my blogging habit has now grown to the point where I am posting sometimes twice a day, and more than 45 times per month (helped enormously by the Blogger feature that lets you save blog posts with a post-dated timestamp, so that you can put posts in the bank to …

My worst open studio

Most open studios are notable for nothing really happening. You sit there waiting for people to come into your studio, eat all your nibbles and guzzle the free drink, and then leave after a cursory glance at your work. Usually, the worst thing that happens is that you get stuck in a boring conversation with a dull person,

But there was one time a few years ago when I got into one of these conversations, and quite quickly the person I was talking to started to make homophobic remarks about another artist in the building. After a few minutes, I decided I'd had enough and asked him to leave. He seemed genuinely surprised that I had any objection to what he was saying, which in retrospect makes me even angrier if he thought he had a sympathetic ear.

He asked me why, and I told him I didn't like people talking that way, and I said: "This conversation ended 30 seconds ago." So he left.

So, nothing dramatic like Jackson Pollock getting drunk in a fancy New York apartment a…

Van Gogh on Degas

From a letter dated July 31, 1888:
“Why do you say Degas can’t get it up properly? Degas lives like some petty lawyer and doesn’t like women, knowing very well that if he did like them and bedded them frequently, he’d go to seed and be in no position to paint any longer. The very reason why Degas’s painting is virile and impersonal is that he has resigned himself to being nothing more than a petty lawyer with a horror of kicking over the traces. He observes human animals who are stronger than him screwing and f—ing away and he paints them so well for the very reason that he isn’t all that keen on it himself.”
Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader