March 8: Latham Zearfoss Masterclass
I loved his/their honesty. Latham seemed so comfortable revealing his vulnerabilities to us and while I acknowledge that being vulnerable is an integral part of being an artist, I know there are definitely a few things that I hold back. But Latham seemed to be an open book; sharing intimate financial concerns, being really candid about working other jobs to sustain his art...I very much appreciated this part of his korero. Another focal observation from both Latham and Prof Frances' masterclasses was this outward projection, embedding into community projects. 'Disarming Privilege' and 'Whiteness; A blinding view' - two very bold, confronting campaigns drawing attention to the ubiquity of white supremacy and the action by white America with a U-turn response - very, very progressive and cool without even trying to be cool.
While I had googled Latham a little and absorbed some of his work, it was interesting sitting there listening to him talk - not so much about his output, but more so about life and surviving as an artist. I feel very lucky that I have been able to buy a house and care for my whanau via my musical endeavours, however I did mention during the masterclass that I believe this was due to a majority of my work being relatively 'accessible'. I wouldn't say my work is 'popular' in a 'Breeze FM' kind of way ( cue Ian...:-) but I don't believe it's ground breaking or avant-garde either ...not yet anyways. On the survival spectrum I feel like I have had to strategise about 'where' I sit. I haven't been bold enough to delve deep into experimental end of the spectrum (huge respect to those who have!) but conversely I am way too grossed out with the shallow, arse-kissing, pop end of the spectrum, fearing that that side of the tracks as being more about fiscal success and the 'likes' subscription rather than artistic innovation. That weird dichotomy of hating money but needing it to survive. I think this is part of 'an artists quandary' - hoping that the universe will provide.
In his brilliant and insightful book 'The New Zealand Project', Max Harris informs us of his three 'C's - Care, Community and Creativity (pg 17). Latham made mention of 'care' quite a lot. I was thinking about this as we went around the room and introduced ourselves and our survivalist concerns as artists. My inner voice was thinking the whole time "You/we are all so courageous...and I am optimistic that we will be valued a lot more in the future". Easy to have these thoughts in my privileged, waged position as an employee of Massey (of which I am very thankful). But is it privileged if I have worked my ass off to get there? I remember vividly having to find glimmering coinage under couch cushions for Brooklyn fish n chips as a struggling student. As Holly made reference to 'Where's my next meal coming from'...definitely been there! Maybe this is part of the evolution or transformation of the role or value of artists in our communities; from insular, patronised, commissioned starving geniuses ... to outward facing, communally determined, embedded problem solvers and rich, civic contributors. The individual kudos and likes might not be so global, but the subtle, lateral contributions could be perpetual. I dunno. I think my first coffee is kicking in and the verbal diarrhoea has surfaced. Time for brekkie...and another coffeeeeeee.....x