To Willing Conflators Of Jamaica Kincaid And Jeremy Todd (forty eighth letter)


Dear Folks,
One of the things that young people need to know if they start a project like this one is that they have to stop trying to please people – and it’s not about focus and self-determination either — those are words and descriptions to shy away from. I consider them, in fact, sort of false. I find an ambition to achieve unpleasant. The ambition I have is to continue this project well. I don’t have an ambition to be successful. I have an ambition to eat, which I find quite different from an ambition to be successful, although I think within Modernity the two are rather bonded together.
I don’t seem to care what people think. I keep making these not sent letters and from the time I started them I’ve kept doing it the same way. I think that people just think, “Why the hell won’t he stop it? We’ve told him we don’t like it, in one way or another, but he keeps doing it.” It’s never going to stop. And the more it makes people annoyed the more I will do it. And it’s actually a really good project — and I’m very good at it. The thing that I am branded with and the thing that I am denounced for, I now claim as my own. My project and I are charged with illegitimacy and ambiguity. In some way I actually claim the right to ambiguity, and the right to clarity. It does me no good to say, “Well, I reject this and I reject that.” I feel free to use everything, or not, as I choose.
The thing about this project now — and I just recently understood this — is that people want to understand it comparatively as art or perhaps an attempt at art, but the thing is people engage with art now as a career, expecting to be successful, and really it’s the wrong thing. It’s not a profession. A professional artist is a joke. You make art because you can’t do anything else, and then you have another job. I’m always telling others to go to law school, plant trees or become a social worker, do something, and then create. First of all you should have something to make things about, and you only have something to make things about if you do something. If you just sit there, and you’re an artist, you’re bound to make crap. A lot of contemporary art is crap. And a lot of contemporary artists are professionals. Art is not a profession. It’s a calling. It’s almost holy.
You know, eventually, all these questions about political arrangements come down to how much stuff you want. And I mean, that’s the thing, you just end up with shit! That’s what we guard. That’s all we do! We guard our shit (material and otherwise), and we kill a lot of people so we have a lot of stuff our kids can throw out when we die. It’s sad – but enough of all this for now. I hate taking life seriously, because there’s time enough for seriousness. What is death if not serious, and that seems to last forever.