Stay in Your Box

Artwork by Moebius. One of my favorite artists.

As an artist, being pigeonholed is an unfortunate reality that comes with the territory. There are times where a day doesn't go by that I don't feel categorically misunderstood. It can be frustrating to see people cast me into the same pools as things I might find distasteful, poorly executed, or weakly related ... But these associations are rarely malicious. They are judgments, often based on a small sample size ... a single point in space. I've worked on upwards of 50 different projects, but you might know me for one thing, therefore insert genre name here. People try to pin things down as static objects. It's a convenient shortcut that fails to illuminate the complexity of our world. We're all dynamic beings moving through space and time. I am a different person then I was an hour ago and so are you. This paragraph from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" sums up my feelings very nicely:

"With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

I think the frustration I feel comes from an inherent desire to feel connected to people. I use my work as a way to connect to the world. On occasion people do manage to see what I am trying to express in my work and that is a very gratifying feeling. But often people find their own meaning in the work and it's been an ongoing process to accept that, especially when there is a consensus of which you are not a part.

Once you make something and release it out into the world, it can be hard to let go. But to find a healthy sense of distance from the work at that point helps to accept that others will experience it in their own way. There will always be some new genre, or some new piece of pop that people are influenced by, and no one's work exists in a vacuum. What you make will get caught up in the greater school of culture whether you like it or not. I've found it helpful to try and detach myself from the minutiae of external perceptions, whether they are collective or individual. I just try to focus on myself and my work.

If I'm doing the right things, I think I'll always be a few steps ahead, people trying to pin me down by the tail as I move past. And I'll always be misunderstood. Mostly.

Interview: High Scores

From 'Babel' by Cildo Meireles, a Tower of Old Radios at the Tate Modern in London.

I recently spoke with Bandcamp about a wide array of topics. We speak about my transition from graphic design to music, the rise and convergence of chipmusic and independent games, and how my personal life effects my work.

Link: Bandcamp

A Year in the Real World

I flew to Portland in August for the XOXO Festival & Conference. The attendance is limited (by lottery), and it’s relatively easy to stumble into conversations with creative people from many different fields and backgrounds. There seemed to be a trend this year. Many of the talks had more to do with our relationships to each other than anything else. There were personal accounts of how loss and near-loss caused shifts in perception, the power of platforms like Twitter and how they’ve been used to rally support for causes both empathetic and misguided, tales of disrespect of both culture and gender…

My takeaways from that experience were emphasized even more by what’s been going on in my life. I’ve had a long and somewhat dormant relationship to my emotions and those of others, and I’ve been trying to work on that area of things. Over time I’ve built up a barrier, an invulnerability that in some ways suited my Jedi lifestyle, very much devoted to my work, but in many other ways, I feel had stunted my ability to experience the full spectrum of my emotions and the potential for depth in relationships. So I tried this year to work on that aspect of my life, setting aside more time to spend with family. I also started therapy, to try and stay on top of my emotions.

I’ve been on a perpetual quest to streamline my life in the ways that I can control and that are appropriate. About a year ago I started to feel overwhelmed by my social feeds - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so forth. I’ve had the people I follow on social media muted for most of this year. It’s reduced my level of ‘gotta check this out!’ and 'internet rabbit hole syndrome’. It’s encouraged me to be more deliberate about cultivating individual relationships, which is great. And now I wonder 'what is X up to?’ and I can intentionally reach out to that person. There are many whom I admire, respect & love who are far away that I don’t get to connect with as often as I’d like, and I do what I can to stay in touch. I think making that process intentional has been beneficial. But this also means I’m a bit of a recluse on the internet. I am out of the loop. But I’m starting to suspect that the tradeoff has been worth it. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ve created more space in my daily life that I could spend wisely.

Distraction has been such a huge problem for me, and I’ve tried my best to minimize it. It’s not enough to give one element up. Without a change in behavior, another distraction simply fills that role. The time I’ve spent not engaged with social media, I’ve sometimes spent reading the news and watching YouTube videos, which can be just as distracting. I catch myself acting in a way that supports the thought that I can’t live a balanced life until I meet my deadlines. I tend to become a shut-in when I am feeling the pressure of my work. And while I know that this creates emotional distress, it remains difficult for me to drag myself out of the house when I know I have piles of work to do. I often seek out distraction when I don’t feel like doing the work that so urgently needs doing. I too often avoid my initial resistance to working and find a distraction instead. And fast forward a few hours and the whole work day is gone. It’s easy to overdo it with the self-medication and to lose track of time. Time is what we got, and I want to treat it with more respect. There is a time to take a break, but certain types of distractions can bleed into time that would be better spent recuperating in nature, or with friends, or working.