I was reading a big book a friend recommended my husband to buy for me for valentines day.  Quite hilarious because we don't really celebrate anything much but especially not valentines day, for some reason.  Anyway the book is Charles and Ray Eames story through details: Eames: Beautiful Details. My friend Peter later told me it was the love letters that he especially thought I'd relate to.  They are pictorial.

What caught my attention was this line: Charles said of his own work that is was not, 'self expression for its own sake, but rather trying to be a good host - which by definition puts someone else at the center.'  What do you think?

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Interesting Rebecca. I'm fuzzy on Eames. Isn't it the idea of the functional (even minimal?) over the overly ornate or aesthetic? Putting others ahead of yourself is hard to argue against unless you're Gordon Gecko in Wall Street giving the "Greed is good speech."

I think there's a question behind your question.

As Gertrude Stein said, "What was the question?"

For me it's the purposeful/purposeless question, I guess. Here the arts/education group I worked with defined art as 'purposeful making', among other things. I always had trouble with that because I inhabit the intuitive quite a bit of the time. It's also that issue of rationalizing spending time to make something that is art or not art (depending on your stance).  Is it all really self-expression or are we in dialogue? Does that make it alright for someone burdened with the Calvinist work ethic?  If making mail art is hosting something in your mind for the person you send it to, is that purposeful?

I see. Strikes me as being related to the "useless knowledge" issue. In these hard times, research is being cut unless the results are likely to immediately benefit society in a practical way, I might not be following you.

As for expression and dialogue: I read Kafka's "A Hunger Artist" lately, which identifies the situation of the artist. There is the need maybe compulsion for your own self-expression but always mediated in relationship to the "audience" that is out there. Is it important to share your vision with many people? Maybe only a few people? As with the Hunger Artist, finally no one but himself for the shear joy of a talent he had that no one understood or appreciated?

Seems like mail-art does compel us to engage in dialogue. Why can't you engage in dialogue and be self-expressive?

I say those tensions and resistances you are finding in yourself are not roadblocks but the precise areas where you can find the energy necessary for the art, if you can find ways to work with them which is likely not rationalizing more likely the intuitive you mention. The energy from the oppositions is what makes the art, integrating them into a unified whole is always the challenge.

Just my thoughts.

Yes, useless knowledge, or playful intelligence? Eames made functional art, so it does make sense that he would put 'the client' at the centre but I was trying to take his idea and apply it to me/us/mail art.  I've just re-read what I wrote before, DVS, and am not sure how you managed to make complete sense of it! I can be so convoluted and I think I had a few unrelated ideas all rolled into one.

Ray Eames studied with Hans Hoffman. I liked that Charles Eames early interest was in interpreting instructions.  I'm not sure if he learned to read all 40 languages or was just in love with the variation in characters... I suspect the later.

Then, I read The Hunger Artist online, so I could understand your point better.  Great story. I can see in myself  that sharing with mail art or in blogging is related to what Eames calls 'hosting' in that it suggests a certain awareness at best and self-consciousness at worst for audience and that awareness makes the intuitive in some way purposeful. Does that make sense? And my question is is that a positive influence on your art or a negative?  I guess I think for me it takes me beyond my usual approach.

Of course you can be self-expressive and in dialogue!  I think that's a way we move on in our thinking and ideas - in parallel.

I also agree that the tensions are good. 

OK, now you have me laughing. You are a real DaDaist. At the core you are comparing chairs to postcards. Kind of a stretch.

Nevermind. At least you've identified my people!

I wish we had some help here. I appreciate your ideas.

Rebecca, you'll appreciate this as you were the only fan of the M-L's "Making of Aja" screening. I learned about Eames from a Steely Dan song, "Things I Miss the Most." There's a reference to an Eames chair in the lyrics, so I looked it up because I didn't know what they were talking about and discovered the wonderful world of Eames. Glad I did.

(BTW this week we screened Howard Stern's "America's Smartest Strippers." No fans at all on that.

No wait, Marie liked "America's Smartest Strippers"

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