Giving Up

peanuts never give up
(thanks to Charles Schultz for this drawing, and to this page for some motivational thoughts: “What separates the losers in life from the winners is that the winners press on.” Yikes. )

Liz Pulie, erstwhile publisher of Lives of the Artists Magazine mentioned to me recently that she was interested in giving up.

How can I explain? It’s been a while since she put out an edition of her mag. Has she given up production? Not really…it’s just that…like my Bilateral Blog, enthusiasm and energy to write comes in irregular bursts, and it can seem like things are getting stagnant, or that the whole project is set to collapse during the quiet times.

But no! Liz is ready to go back into production, and she wants to do a themed issue all about “giving up”. I was excited about this – my immediate thoughts were to write some notes about artists like Allan Kaprow and Lee Lozano and Techieng Hsieh, all of whom in some way or another gave up doing things. Kaprow pretty much disappeared from the artworld from the 1970s, and concentrated on teaching workshops for young artists (is that true or did I just imagine it?); Lozano gave up talking to women (!); and Hsieh, in one of the last of his mammoth “year long” projects, gave up doing any art activity for a year.

This is not to mention the countless artists who have at some stage “given up” an aspect of their work (especially painting) to pursue a more radical form of practice…

Then there were some folks I met at a party on Saturday night who described the struggles they had had giving up smoking, going to support groups and having laser acupuncture in the ear to reduce the desire for nicotine…

– – –

[18 October 2007: Oh, I know what I wanted to add – stuff about “withdrawal”. Giving up (eg smoking) results in withdrawal symptoms, right? Well, in 20th century art, there was this fascination with “aesthetic withdrawal” – Duchamp did it, Robert Morris did it (see here and here and here) the NE Thing Company (see “act” and “art” in this glossary) was into it – most of the time, this aesthetic withdrawal was achieved through a sort of legalistic certification – a notarised statement or a certificate of aesthetic value or lack thereof. Here’s the question: why would you want to do that?]

4 thoughts on “Giving Up

  1. lkell

    hey this exact same motto was up at the hawker stall on jalan besar where i ate a last meal with mr tan. I’m all for doing less…not quite giving up, but close.
    Nice new theme lucas, with pictures!

  2. Skanky Jane

    I am so glad you posted this as it’s so right on for me right now (I have a feeling I’ve said this before on Bilateral – oh well!) Thanks heaps for the links! I’m kinda fascinated with the concept of failure, and of quitting,canceling, dropping out. I’m also so glad you said “yikes” after the bit about winners/losers and “pressing on” as it made me “yike” too – an utterance that resounds with what I’ve read of Paul Virilio (on speed).

    SJ xx


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