Application Sunday, Part III: Why to not give up

Trace A, Improvisation XV_HOME

Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: I applied for the HORDALAND KUNSTSENTER artist residency.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part III: Why to not give up

Having a clearer view of myself (see part II) was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes and everything, my past works, the works of other artists, the skills I had acquired up until then, suddenly appeared in a new light.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact source of this brand new sense of clarity or the precise moment in time when it emerged. Perhaps the best way to describe it’s beginnings is by invoking a word from one of my favorite books, back from the beautiful age of eighteen, when one begins to delve into the wonders of knowledge, after the notoriety school has stained it with starts to wear off: Maturare. This is the word that Mr Test, the main character of A night with Mr Test by Paul Valery, used to describe the necessary process for a syllogism or intellectual problem to come to a resolution. Things have to mature, the stars have to align in a certain way, events have to play out, before something “suddenly” becomes clear.

But: This process and its fruition, as much as it lies outside of our control, linked as it is with the slow and painful process of maturation, also depends on our being there to see it through. Mr Test, an imaginary creature that had chosen the citadel of the mind, putting it in Markus Aurelius’ words, as his battlefield (or, had the battlefield chosen him?), was as much an object of his thought processes as he was their master, taking the steering wheel of the intellect when he had to and leaving the boat to its devices when the coordinates were right.

So I was aware of that logic. I believed in this law, one that is also rooted in our culture as Greeks: Things do come by the virtue of the gods, or, if one prefers, by the virtue of destiny, or chance, but they also come by virtue of our efforts. And so, as much as I despaired, feeling trapped in this vicious cycle, I never really believed that this cycle was all there was to it. Since the need was there, the question was there, there must have been a well grounded reason for it.

Eventually, another, more material law than the divine one described above made itself apparent. One often invoked by economists but having an extremely broad range of applications. That which refers to the transformation of quantity into quality. According to this dialectical law known from antiquity, small changes, that are incapable of bringing a qualitative change by themselves, reach a point where they do exactly that. They change quantity into quality.

At some point the quantity of our efforts (not disregarding the importance of their quality) is bound to turn into a qualitative change in our condition, whether it be our material condition or that of our consciousness. In other words, our efforts must amount to what in scientific terms is known as critical mass. They must reach the point that will allow for that qualitative leap to happen.

All we have to do is not give up, keep listening to our desire and be attentive to anything that sounds like good advice from our surroundings.

Is this process something you have experienced in your work? Has there been a turning point that seemingly came out of nowhere but in reality was the result of a consistent effort on your part? If the answer is yes, contribute with your version in the comments section below.

Featured image: Penelope Vlassopoulou, Metamorphosis/Athens, Trace A, Improvisation XV, detail, 28 x 34.5 cm, powdered pigment on handmade paper, 2014

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