This past week, I have been reading and thinking about “the everyday” in art. Up until now I really hadn’t thought much about the everydayness of what I myself photograph or of “the everyday” as a context for my images. But I would say I am definitely engaged in photographing what I see and experience within the everyday. So with that in mind the essays and discussions about art and the ideas of “the everyday” become an interesting way for me to think further about what my photographs are about.
The anthology “The Everyday (Documents of Contemporary Art)” has a great introduction to what “the everyday” is and the history of ideas surrounding it. It briefly presents Henri Lefebvre and his “The Critique of Everyday Life.” In reading this introduction and a few of the essays, what got me thinking was this idea (that I think comes from Lefebvre and maybe is linked to the Situationists) that within “the everyday” are the makings of transformation, or change or even revolution. Or, that perhaps even in just examining the everyday you transform it. This is appealing to me possibly because I have always had a sort of mild fear of the mundane, everyday, monotony or sense of sameness in life and I find it interesting that there could be some sort of amazingness buried within.
In the introduction to the book, Stephen Johnstone quotes Lefebvre who wrote that the everyday is the place “where repetition and creativity confront each other”(15) … and in “Clearing the Ground,” Lefebvre writes, “Simultaneously it is also the time and the place where the human either fulfils itself or fails…” (27) I love that here in this sort of invisible place of mundane sameness is the makings of “life,” of content, of creativity. It makes sense in an obvious sort of way but also seems like kind of a great contradiction that is interesting to think about.
Further on in the essay, Lefebvre writes, “… it is in everyday life and starting from everyday life that genuine creations are achieved, those creations which produce the human and which men produce as part of the process of becoming human: works of creativity.” (31) As part of becoming human we create and that creating creates us. This “becoming human” I associate with childhood and the idea of development, which has recently expanded beyond childhood to the idea that we are always developing, always “becoming”. For me this gets at the idea that the state of “becoming,” this childlike exploration/development/growth, is inherently creative and to engage with it is to make art… or that life becomes art…or something like that….
I am also interested in Lefebvre’s idea that “the work of art acts as a kind of ‘play-generating-yeast’ in the everyday”. (p14) I like that he links art with play, and that they have creativity in common. It makes me think yet again of ways that Christy-the-artist and Christy-the-nanny are engaged in a similar pursuit. Playfulness/playing in the everyday leads to art making or better yet, it IS art making, it is an act of creation. This is certainly true in all the ways the imagination and the visual and the senses are engaged while playing.
I have talked in the past about the link between art/creativity and childhood/“child-like” and how this plays out in what I do with my photography. I think the added piece that this “everyday” discourse brings to my thoughts is this idea that in the everyday, within the repetitive sameness, there are these opportunities to become aware and to therefore create and transform the everyday into art – to have human fulfillment rather than fail?
Ha! I think I may be throwing together a lot of different ideas and maybe misinterpreting things here and there but it is a start to my thinking about these things, :).
(for example I would think that as soon as the everday has “amazingness” to it, it would no longer be the everyday… and is that the transformation/change Lefebrve talks about?)
Johnstone, Stephen, ed., The Everyday (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2008).