Thoughts on Minimalism and Art
Minimalism is really popular right now and I can see why. The basic premise is to streamline your life by owning less things for financial, environmental, and ethical reasons. It makes a lot of sense, you spend less money buying stuff and can live in a smaller and cheaper apartment, you contribute to less waste by not ‘purging’ all your stuff you don’t need and throwing it out, and there is less stress trying to figure out what to do with all your stuff.
I try really hard to not buy things I don’t need, and when I do buy I try to buy well made, local, or used. I’m not a minimalist though, at least not in the way that people are when they live in 200sqft micro homes, or live out of a suitcase. I am too sentimental with objects that remind me of people from my past. Where most people clear out objects of people who are no longer in their life, I tend to hold onto them. They remind me of times from the past, and all of the different versions of myself that have existed up until now. They also make me sad when I see them. It feels disrespectful to throw things out that have imbued with so much meaning and most of the things I have you can’t really donate: photos, journals, notes, cards.
Minimalism isn’t easy if you’re an artist. Some people have practices that are easy to minimize, like people who do digital work, performance or ephemeral work. I am not one of these people. I create physical work that is sometimes bulky or large. I try my best to reduce the environmental impact of my practice has, but I’m still buying tons of supplies and need a stockpile of tools and machines to process them. I’m creating more things I need to store in my living space.
Trying to figure out where to put it all can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you’re continually bringing in new supplies.
A few months ago I started to think of ways I could repurpose some of my journals from an incredibly difficult and intense part of my life. I thought about making them into yarn, and developed a method for making continuous paper strips and spinning it into yarn. The work continued from there, and I’ve realised that the process of taking objects apart is incredibly cathartic. I’ve been creating pieces that honour the objects that were used to make them and all the meaning they have for me, while having a really practical application in trying to fit my practice into my apartment.
More Secrets, Journal Pages made into Yarn
Do true minimalists struggle with creativity? All messy creative types post articles all over social media about people with clean desks being less creative and the chaos of mess helps us make new connections. I’m not completely convinced that changing an environment would have a huge change in people’s creativity, but perhaps moreso that certain people are naturally inclined to behave in certain ways.
The other creative people I know are in their heads- they aren’t paying attention to where they put their keys or if they are recording this information in a streamlined way. They tend to write notes on whatever they can get their hands on, and will start working on a project with little thought about all of the materials they’re hauling into the house. I wonder if people inclined towards minimalist lifestyles just have tidier minds, they don’t buy multiples of things because they keep losing them. They don’t get an overwhelming urge to learn something new that requires a bunch of new equipment. They sure as hell don’t feel weird about throwing out a depressing journal from 2011. For now i’m just storing them on the walls instead of on the shelves.