Sunday, September 21, 2008

There... I've said it.

I must now impart to you my reasons for airing my thoughts through such a public forum as this.
It really began as a whim. Actually not so much a whim as a fit. A fit of impotent rage brought about by what has been, for me, a tough year. I needed to be heard. I needed to be honest and transparent. I needed to have an obligation to objectively and subjectively reflect. Reflect upon what I've witnessed, what I've heard and what I'm going through. 
It has, as I said, been a tough year. 
Masculine nonchalance tells me that it thickens my skin, toughens me up, engenders me to be more able to cope with a life in the arts. And I hope that this is true. It does not, however, stop me from being sad, exhausted, filled with self-doubt and loathing, bitter, angry and envious. And lets face it, who, in this line of work, hasn't honestly felt these things from time to time?This racket tends to require irrational degrees of self-belief which I simply don't possess - and nor will I pretend to. 
I've always been a spectacular failure at protecting myself. I always get my hopes up, I always tell everyone what I'm applying for and get excited. I always set myself up for a fall. And I can feel this changing. I've begun to get secretive about my hopes and desires. I've begun to withhold information from the people closest to me. I've begun to 'take it on the chin' without fully allowing myself to be openly disappointed. This is not good. This is out of character for me. This is typically masculine - and as I near my 30th, I fear the kind of man that I may be becoming. One that doesn't go to the Doctor, doesn't express his fears and vulnerabilities in order to not show weakness. One that doesn't confront his inherent lack of control. 
So here, in one of the most public ways possible, in the interest of transparency, and in the hope of expressing honestly, fully and eloquently the turbulence of a life in the arts I will divulge my fears and display my weaknesses.
Over the last twelve months I have applied for several grants. Three or four to develop a project that has been hanging around for a few years, one for a community arts organisation of which I am the artistic director. I have also applied for two awards.
I have been successful in none of these applications.
Now, I'm not complaining. The funding and the awards were granted to people, groups and projects that are very deserving. I don't desire to be comparative as it helps no one. But, Jesus, it's hard. And I don't know that this was ever communicated to me as a young artist. Actually, it probably was and I possibly ignored it believing (with the arrogance of youth) that it would not apply to my future stellar career. But let me tell you, it does apply. 
Now, I have had my good years. In 2006 I received a number of grants for a number of projects and I was on could nine. It was great. But now, after sitting on a project for three years, it's hard to keep believing in it. It's difficult to continue believing that it will be successful after so many knock-backs, and artistic success and worth is totally beside the point as it is so subjective
And this is the thing: these applications, these rejections begin to fertilize comparison, envy and jealousy. As you read who won the grants, the awards - it really is hard to not go: 'Who, [insert name here]? How are they more deserving than me?'. And this is poison. I don't want to have to build myself into a lonely tower of moral righteousness, against the vacuous hordes, just to save face. I don't want to have to believe that my project, my skills or myself are any more deserving than anybody else's. I don't want to have to push myself into artistic martyrdom just because I missed out on a  couple of awards and a bunch of goddamned grants. All this will do is leave me lonely, bitter, angry and irrelevant. 
I don't know what the answer is. I am not able to write an application without a modicum of hope. Whilst studying I never said that I wrote my essay the night before. I didn't. Whilst writing grant applications, I am never able to distance myself from it. In order to summon the energy to write the cursed thing I have to believe in it. I have to buy into it. I cannot write it without imagining myself in the job, imagining the opportunities that would arise from it. I am just that way inclined. 
And I shouldn't have to erect this armour of false self-confidence and nonchalance. It isn't me. 
So here I am. I'm disappointed. I'm a little bit broken. My self belief has taken a battering. I honestly believe that the aforementioned grants / awards went to the right projects / people. I'm just disappointed that the right project / person wasn't me. 
This is not a cry for platitudes to buoy my spirits. I'm okay. I have a great job doing something that I'm privileged to do. I collaborate with great people. I have great friends. 
I am responsible for my self-motivation, self-belief, inspiration. 
I'm just saying it's hard to cop sometimes. 
I have used the words impotent and erect in this post. What a man.


Chris Boyd said...

At the risk of sounding flippant... it takes balls to be (publicly) impotent! :-)

Enjoying your reviews BTW

Martin White said...

Ha. Thanks. I was hoping so.

Ben Ellis said...

I've sat on a couple of grant-giving meetings. They're lotteries with added documents. Massive disagreements can occur among the decision makers and while none of the discussions can be a reflection on the worth of the artists, what happens is that the artists who miss out feel effing miserable.

The turn-around on submission to grant-receiving/rejection is so slow that you end up mentally shelving projects that you were excited about, even when you do get the grant. And, of course, there isn't enough money to go around, but the small amounts, coupled with the way that the grant-application process feels so perpendicular to the artistic process, it's all pretty ludicrous. But it's difficult to integrate that insight back into the artistic process.