Having just read this post by Peter Peryer, I couldn't help but write something in response...
The idea of Artists Statements being a compulsory part of our Visual Arts course has baffled me. On one hand, it does make us think about where we believe our practices are situated, and since our practices are so new, it's helpful to start thinking about where our artistic interests lie. Having been made to write one for mid-year assessment, at the time, it seemed like a good idea. I was able to define my practice in something tangible (words) and make sense of it through that process.
But as time wore on, I found that the statement started to get the best of me. It trapped me in a box (and perhaps it was partly to do with myself as an individual and how I reacted to the statement in conjunction with other things going on in studio at that time) and left me creatively drained. Essentially, I had written a fence around my practice, and yes, it was a 'draft' fence, but a fence none the less. Such boundaries intimidated me and made me feel as though i should be making art responding to that statement, instead of the other way round!! How absurd, to be making art about some words you had written about art that you had made before...not the best creative process (at least not for me).
Feeling as though i should only be making work about what i said i intended to make work about a month beforehand ultimately left me android-like. The fun and play in the process of art-making was completely gone. And I, as an artist, ended up resting on my laurels and coasting instead, stuck as a bug on a highway truck. This combined with the pressures of delivering something in studio left me with artistic stage fright.
Eventually you realise that studio is all about exploration, and when I was most fruitful with art was when I really wasn't caring about what I was doing, but instead, just exploring through method and personal interest. It took me a couple of months to figure out that just because i wrote 500 words about my practice a while back, doesn't mean that the work i'm making now has to fit perfectly within those words.
But on the other hand, in the recent Year 2 pilot shows, we decided to give statements alongside our work and, surprisingly, they were very well received. Having spoken before about the battles i have with my family and friends about the concept of art, it was helpful for them to have something that they can read to gain some sort of preliminary knowledge on the background of not just me, but the practice of my friends in the show that they had never met or known before.
So perhaps the statement still has an important role in certain situations? And it is finding a way of adapting the idea of the statement so that it can service both the artist and the viewer when it is relevant. How about instead of a statement, we just have 'prompters', just a few words that lie within your practice? Light...Cow...Finance...Ephemeral...Instead of building a fence around your work, we use road cones instead. It then becomes something more transitory. That way, we won't be assuming too much of our own practices (and turning ourselves into one trick ponies), and at the same time letting the spectator come to their own conclusions. Art, after all, can only thrive when thinkings aren't fixed, but shifting...
Until then, I'll still have to be writing my statement for end of year...damn
p.s. for those of you who couldn't care less, here's a drawing from one of my favourite artists, David Shrigley, after all, life isn't always about such debates as these...