October 30, 2015

10/29/15 – He’s so Orenginal

Artist: Oren Goldenberg

Location: The Clique


OG – Coffee (milk, not 1/2 & 1/2), vegetarian omelet, grits, side of pancakes (did not have to look at menu)

SRS – Coffee (black), traditional hash, eggs over medium, side of pancakes (some of Oren’s grits–probably about 10%)

This BWTA was a fortuitous and spontaneous reschedule of an earlier attempt to breakfast together, delayed because we both were victims of the insanely bad seasonal flu this year. And also ironic, because something Oren and I established very quickly is that we are both typically people who do what we say we are going to do, and follow through pretty hard on our commitments. It’s a good thing that we were both sick, so neither of us had to grapple with diminished expectations.

Follow through is one of those things that seems so fundamental to success, it is surprising how little it is taught in a specific way. We are all busy people, doing our best to manage priorities in a hectic world. We all worry about the things we want when we want them, and then don’t worry quite as much as the things other people want from us. But we also all have to work collaboratively sometimes, which means things beyond our control (which for a certain type of person–I’m not saying who, but it is me–is already shaky ground). But it should be understood that there are people who talk about stuff and people who be about stuff, and when one of you talkers engages one of us doers…just by talking, you have triggered a series of actual things happening, in our mind, and we are going to be insanely frustrated with you when we do our part, and find that nothing has happened on your end. I know you think you were just imagineering possibilities, but actually what you did was create a verbal contract, and now you’ve defaulted on it. This isn’t to say one type of person is better than another, but it does point to a kind of basic communication difference, and it does underscore an element of professionalism that can be crucial to being taken seriously.

What it means, in terms of breakfast, is that Oren and I both came ready to rumble. He has discovered a collaborative partner who followed-through Oren’s piece for ArtX 2015, A Requiem for Douglass, to the tune of a 48-page thesis on the role of lament in society. Oren’s piece, which involved a ritualized and collective dealing with the dismantling of the Douglass-Brewster projects (which had loomed, vacant, above the freeway for my entire tenure in Detroit) as a symbol for changing spaces and our relationship with them, how we grieve them, how we accept that change. In Detroit–a place that has been frozen by certain issues for a long time, and is suddenly, meteorically, changing–this is a particularly necessary and relevant concept to be explored. As both an artist and a doer, I can really appreciate Oren’s excitement around this person’s response to his work.

We also talked KAF13-to-KAF15 about the dynamics and impact of the Kresge Fellowship. For me, it has been important to recognize that I have an opportunity to switch from survival mode to growth–easier said than done, when I’ve been hanging over the precipice for a long time. It is hard not to make fear-based decisions, designed to maximize a sense of security (that, not to be dark, but amounts to false security anyway), and instead use this as an opportunity to double down hard in the direction of my work and dreams. It sounds like the challenge for Oren is to remember to leave some creative space for himself–including room for fuck-ups, dead ends, and process. When you have a preponderance of professional opportunities, it can be the hardest thing in the world to realize you might be using them to run from the scariest thing of all: your own creative needs. Work is good, we like work, but it can be an affliction like any other, and when we use it to avoid looking at who we are and how our actions match our values, we are walking out over a different kind of precipice.

One of Oren’s values, though, is sharing the wealth, and to that end, he set aside 10% of his Kresge money to act as micro-grants for non-Kresge winners. If you’re interested in that, you should get in touch with him! Here’s a hint: be prepared to follow-through.

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