Your art is a lie

“Writing unfolds like a game that invariably goes beyond its own rules and transgresses its limits. In writing, the point is not to manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor is it to pin a subject within language; it is, rather, a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears.” -Michel Foucault ‘What is an Author?


One of the mythologies we have is that our expressions, creative and otherwise, are simply the translations of some inner process, and that getting words down, or even getting a pot off the wheel is just like pulling some preformed idea from its imaginative storage place inside our minds. We think of it as like pulling a string of beads from the dark box of our minds.

Sometimes it does seem to work this way, we CAN have ideas that we then seek to bring out into the external physical world. But the truth is also that we often don’t know what we are going to say until we say it. We are not always RECORDING our thoughts as much as we are sometimes simply building them. We are discovering what we think by actually doing the thinking, and expressing is one of the basic ways we do our thinking. Thinking and saying are not always two different activities. That’s the myth. Sometimes saying actually IS thinking, and we do it with our mouths as thoroughly as we do it with our hands. Its not simply a ‘mental’ activity…..

So of course it matters whether we are more comfortable using a pen or a pencil, or whether typing is just as good. We can be trained to do it differently, but the process is not therefor agnostic. Having different tools that aid the expression actually helps determine what the expression will be. And if some tools are roughly interchangeable, not all tools are. If you can throw pots on a wheel turning counter clockwise, try making something on a wheel that spins the other way. If you are used to ribbing your pots, see what its like not using a rib at all. If you use water to make it easier to thin the walls and manipulate the clay, try throwing without water……

How we express things, WHAT we can express, even, is in part a reflection of the means we have of bringing the expression to life. The thing expressed is birthed by a particular mother and father, and different parents will end with different children….


Do we ever send things out into the world where they represent exactly what we think they should be? Entirely accurately? Sometimes, yes, but in my experience that is rare. For instance: My mouse just acted up on its own and posted this without my permission. If that’s not meta I’ll eat my hat……

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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