Our greatest prize and burden

Dear Reader,

Centuries of literature, poetry, theater, and visual art have rehearsed and rephrased the question of awareness – what is the purpose of our greatest prize and burden? The weight of these attempts has grown dense in time, and novel ideas are all the more scarce. It is hard to say with certainty that the interviews and sources highlighted this week offer new observations, but there is a clear beauty in their gentle navigation of our preserved history, an immense grace in delineating the thoughts of thousands of dreaming minds.

The elegant projections of Polish artist Dominik Lejman strike up conversation with the ghostly forms and networks that envelop our collective, virtual lives. Standing on the threshold between the apparent and the dimmed, the communal and the personal, Lejman’s work pulls back the curtain of habit just enough to make out a movement, or a gesture, that brings attention to the long-invisible familiar. An undeniable sobriety, tactfully articulated, permeates the artist’s mesmerizing imagery, in light projections that whisper and dance upon opaque canvas and empty walls. Embodied by his practice and taught to his students, being aware of the adjacent gears set in motion by a singular turn differentiates an independent creator from a cultural designer, a crank from another cog in the mechanism.

With renewed vigor, Illinois-based Conrad Bakker has been grappling the division between theory and praxis. The versatile sculptor and painter renders visible aesthetic and economic systems usually confined to the realm of speech via 1:1 artistic recreations of books, houses, and domestic objects. Illusory and surprising, while sometimes frustrating, Bakker’s inert incarnations of familiar and useful objects unveil the unspoken networks of nostalgia, fetishization, and idiosyncrasy that cling to our artificial surroundings like spiderwebs. Bakker reassesses the perceived value of even the most benign objects, without entering into the idealism of exaggerated personification. How different are the lives of an unopened book and a sculpture with the same facade, sitting quietly on a dusty shelf?

Additional interviews include: Ania Soliman, Robert Lyons, and Jan Hietala.

Tell us what you’ve been reading! Leslie Fry is perusing British philosopher Alan Watts’ seminal The Wisdom of Insecurity, a stoic and assuring series of musings on how to stay afloat in a global ocean of anxiety. Ed Taylor, another one of our users, is exploring the Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s autobiographical The Seven Storey Mountain, a bestselling text that introduced the spiritual merits of living a rigorous, ascetic, and willfully vulnerable lifestyle into the public eye.

Hunting for that elusive studio space? Smack Mellon is offering year-long access to a small number of private Brooklyn studios, reserved for the diligent and worthy few. The residency sees multiple visits from esteemed representatives of renown art institutions as well as the occasional school group, granting invaluable exposure and career opportunities. Apply by November 3rd to get out of your head and into the studio!

Where do you fit into the annals of history? Do you wield the pen, or are you a name in the endless tome?

As always, here are the links to the interview archive and free resources page.

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