The more I give away, throw in the trash, repurpose, the more stuff there seems to be. No matter what I do it just keeps piling up.
When I started making art and writing out of old letters and ephemera during lockdown, I thought it would keep serving as jumping-off points and inspiration for years to come. Then I wake up one morning and look over at the cabinet I’ve been keeping all this old crap in and see it as an overflowing pile of garbage. I sit in a chair and start sorting through it, hoping to maybe cull repeats or impose some kind of classification system.
My strategy before was not to sort the material much. My thinking was that I did not want too much predetermined narrative or idea when choosing this or that fragment to insert into a picture. I wanted there to be chance and surprise in the process. I knew already that this was not a random operation. The pile consisted of things from my own past one way or another. But where once I saw endless variation and possibility, I now see garbage. And not garden variety garbage but garbage specially selected from my own history.
Instead of thinning it out or organizing it, I just want to toss it.
I don’t have much room for storage here. I think carefully what I drag in from the outside world and routinely get rid of objects which have worn out their usefulness or welcome. This chiefly applies to records and books. I go through the shelves every few months and haul stacks to Pinwheel or Tangible. This is not garbage but at that moment it has lost whatever connective magic made me bring it inside in the first place. The good thing is I know each book or record is likely to still hold that charge for someone else. Just not me anymore.
The personal ephemera archive is different. No one but me or my biographer (insert laugh track here) will ever have any use for any of it. When I’m gone I don’t want anyone else to dig through my effects and happen upon anything I don’t want found. This is why, in the end, rather than putting any of the pile back in the drawers or bins, I fill two large trashbags to overflowing and drag them to the alley.
There’s still plenty of personal detritus left around here. Many of us are like snails that way, still leaving a paper trail with every move. More than enough to spark or accentuate new work. But the pile is gone and there’s room in the drawers to gather new material. I don’t know what it will be made of. There’s not too much past evidence left to mine so it will have to come from elsewhere.
Maybe I’ll build a time machine.