In my other life I’m a production supervisor for the Metropolitan Opera, a job I find thoroughly enjoy, crossing off lists to get things done is so incredibly satisfying to me. Productivity and having something tangible to show for your efforts at the end of day, always seemed to be a big part of my family growing up. My dad still asks me, ‘what did you do this week?’ as his primary question in our conversations.
Except being productive in this strange time has felt overwhelming, the pressure to make something new with all this ‘free time’, never greater.
I’m not working so shouldn’t I be producing something?
And yes, I have made some things, but I’ve also been stuck under a tidal wave of emotion, that seems to wash over me at the most inane times, where I’m stuck by a wall of futility, and hit over the head with a seemingly lack of purpose. I’ve showed up for all my collaborative projects, which still felt vital and vibrant, but in my own personal work, I feel lost at sea. Ironically, considering the subject of most of my paintings.
Granted whenever I start a huge new project, I’m slightly overwhelmed, and my list is my lifeline that I create to move myself forward. It’s something I use on a daily basis, I have a sketchbook (or 3) that is always with me: part sketches, new ideas, things to watch, things to read, things to listen to, art to-dos, research to-dos, every day life to-dos, and that mix is definitely not unique to me, as detailed extensively in Lisa Kerwin’s Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations. But what it also made me look at, is all the other kinds of lists artists have created, which range from journals with to-dos and artwork much like my own, to lists being their own form of art.
Biographical lists, name lists, to-do lists, inventories and word lists feature in Kerwin’s book- my favourite of which include M.L Menkens’ list to Charles Green Shaw of 29 things that describe himself, in 1927.
Charles Green Shaw’s, “The bohemian dinner”, is a list of objects, phrases and actions that cumulatively create the experience of a night out to dinner.
Joan Synder’s list of Female Sensibilities, as part of a Response to “What is feminist art?”,1976 or 1977, in marker on paper. She’s known as an artist and feminist, and her painting incorporate text, almost like audible experiences or thought bubbles, scattered lists.
One of my favourite theatre texts Tim Etchell’s On Performance Writing, part of the book Certain Fragments, is a list of texts to be created, and the end of which is a list of silences, used in Forced Entertainments Pleasure (1998), which can be read in full here
He has since created neon work of phrases on scrolling led frames, one of which is a list of nothing- nothing fatal, nothing broken, nothing to look at, nothing to cry about; listing the seemingly unlistable.
In Michael Landy’s Breakdown, he made a 300 page list of his 7227 belongings that were subsequently burned to ashes over a 3 week period, in an Oxford St department shop where customers/ consumers in the area could watch.
All of this has made me want to throw out my to-do list and instead create another kind of list, a documentation in a way of these times, to be added to as long as this goes on, and to inventory without judgement things I completed, or didn’t. Things that inspired me, or didn’t. Things that I created, or threw away.
A reminder I did do something: I continued: which is larger than I give myself credit for.
Images and more on artists and lists:
A ta-done quarantine list
Sweet potato curry (2- Ceylon, Korma)
Gluten free Naan
Hot Cross Buns 81% perfected
Gluten free bagels
Chorizo baked tofu
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Wolf- reread- 15%
Fierce Fairytales, Nigita Gill- reread- 20%
Sapiens, Yuval Noah, Harari 33%
The Quiet American, Graham Greene 55%
The Petals of the Sea, Isabel Allende 18%
If you take my meaning, As good as new, short stories, Charlie Jane Anders
Massive Pissed Love, Richard Hell 35%
Girl in a band, Kim Gordon
A Woman is no Man, Etf Rum
Pina Bausch- Palermo Palermo 20%
Metropolitan Opera- Aida 95%
Metropolitan Opera- Trovatore 25%
Metropolitan Opera- Cenerentola 12%
Industry Opera- Sweet Land 65%
National Theatre- Twelve Night
National Theatre- One man, 2 gov’nors
National Theatre- Anthony and Cleopatra
Never have I ever- all
A land imagined
Yo La Tengo
First Aid Kit
Alison Mossharts’ recommendations for Amoeba
Car Seat Headrest
1 short video of hands for collab.
6 bird collages for collab.
4 collage on breathing
1 digital collage on breathing
1 proposal for a gallery
1 sea creature mobile (gift) 55%
1 blk sea painting
1 undersea painting- collab
3 painting touch ups- collab
1 cave painting 50%
1 door painting- reworking 20%
1 tree painting 10%
Gesso’d one 30 x 50 canvas
painted 1 room
painted 1 door
20 masks for collab.
25 masks for hospital
30 masks for building
1 skirt for collab. (not used)
1 purse repair
2 sunglass’ cases