Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomePraxis Center for AestheticsHow Do You Handle Uncertainty?

How Do You Handle Uncertainty?

“The right ending is an open door you can’t see too far out of. It can mean exactly the opposite of what you are thinking.” -Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter

In Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje attempts to fill in unknown details about the life of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden, who, for reasons that are to this day debated, was admitted to an asylum at age 30, where he spent the rest of his life. Ondaatje speaks to our inability to know what life will deliver next – the simple, perhaps stark truth that uncertainty is the only thing we can count on. What may begin as a celebrated path holds no obligation to remain so. Although we may control some small details about our lives, ultimately, we must learn to accept that things happen the way they happen. The vast majority of life lies outside our grip.

William Pope.L joined me for a truly unique conversation almost exactly a decade ago. Pope.L, who died on December 23, just last week, was best known for his work in performance art and interventionist public art. He also produced art in painting, photography and theater. He was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and is a Guggenheim Fellow. What’s more, he was an educator, working as a professor at both Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and the University of Chicago. Pope.L leaves an indelible mark on the art world and on a generation of students whose lives were changed by their time with him. When I interviewed him he asked me if he could speak in his own invented language and I agreed – I encourage you to listen to the complete interview.

“From him, I learned that it’s difficult, but not impossible, to prime a wall once it’s been painted with peanut butter. That linoleum is a challenging material to drape, especially when covered with chewing gum. And that simply being present and open to providing a forum for others self-expression is more important than any amount of time spent in the spotlight.

-Chris Mathien, former student and mentee of William Pope.L

Helia Chitsazan spoke with us about her recent group exhibition, All Our Puny Sorrows. This show featuring five emerging young artists explores the collective anxiety of a generation facing a future filled with new and ever growing uncertainties. To learn more about the exhibition and Chitsazan’s work, listen to the complete interview.


Join me at Massey Klein Gallery 124 Forsyth Street New York, NY.

A few words to keep in your pocket

What are some ways life has surprised you, for better or worse? Tell me in the comments.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android, please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews is here.

More books to read

Ours is a community of readers. Tell us what books you’re into these days by adding your titles to our reading list here. You can begin exploring the work of William Pope.L by clicking here.


The Eskenazi School of Art Architecture + Design seeks non-US resident artists/designers for a 4–6-week McKinney International Residency (Feb 1–May 1, 2026). Emphasis on contemporary practice, exhibition history. Offers include $8,000 fellowship, studio, lodging, and more. For more information, visit the website. Deadline for applications is February 16.


Brainard Carey is an author, artist and educator. He is the director of Praxis Center for Aesthetics and is currently faculty at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. He has written six books for artists, most recently Making it in the Art World. He also has a new book coming out in the Spring of 2024, The Problems in the Art World: An Artist’s A-Z Action Guide, which is available for preorder.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here