Staying Flexible

For the past 16 years, I have worked 8-to-14-hour weekdays toward my solo-biennials, including breaks to eat (and when I’m not installing) taking walks, using my exercise machine, doing housework… Often, I wake (hear this sound in your head: “PING!”) and begin working at 3am. My work day ends at 5pm, the day’s length determined by how early my eyelids open.

My brain is at its peak creative-juices-flowing-in-my-noggin time, first thing. So, I start with tasks benefiting most from this level of cranium-ness. I conceptualize. I write. I visualize. I draw.

illustration of creative juice

After lunch, all my creative juice is in my belly. So, I do repetitive physical labor (“pre-production”) wherever I can in my studio, and administrative tasks (budgeting, researching materials, querying businesses about material donation, completing drawing sales, querying mills, recruiting volunteers, reserving u-hauls, addressing postcards, updating my website…).

As explained in a previous post, to avoid body fatigue and brain sludge I typically work on multiple projects, progressing each task for a short time before switching to another.

All this said, I have always made a point of staying flexible. If I need a nap, I take a nap. If I am sick, I take time to get better. If I am sad, I take time to be sad. If I need to get out of my studio, I go visit friends. If I injure my back removing ~4,000 planks of wood with a crow bar and scraping paintball gunk off a 26,000 s.f. mill floor for 3 months, I stay flat on an air mattress in the middle of the mill for 1 month describing to 50 gracious volunteers how to install my installations…

picture of paint ball residue
Paintball gunk I scraped for LIGHT in 2008.

It used to be that while installing in the mills, working on multiple tasks a little at a time, would “fly out the window.” I would enter these meditative zones of repetition doing the same thing for hours (for example in 2000 installing 4,900 vials of water and ink for 26 straight hours with short-stretchy-water-drinking-food-eating-bathroom breaks so evaporation levels would be consistent). When I injured my back clearing the mill for LIGHT (2008), installing 1 installation at a time flew out the window.

Back in the studio, the only time I would focus on 1 thing (still taking breaks for eating, walking, and housework), was when something pressing presented itself (like a new grant with a fast-approaching deadline or an exhibit in 2 years for which the curator needed an idea now). However, working toward my 9th and final solo biennial, I am recently focused more on singular things. The larger part of my work day is spent on 1 thing, and this is working better for me right now.

I do yoga now too, which is helping stave off body fatigue (probably brain sludge too). But is the excitement and surreal-ness of working toward my final biennial over-taking any other sludge, eliminating the once familiar “Ok. It’s been about an hour. That’s enough of that. Move on to the next thing”? I have been writing out installation ideas, grants, proposals, budgets, and memories, each for hours and days at a time. And, I am going with it.