Dec 19, 2022

art, not argument

I majored in painting and minored in philosophy in college, which is a pretty good index of how my interests have been ordered for the last quarter century (or maybe even longer?). When my parents came to visit and offered to buy me gifts, it was books of poetry I wanted.

I was also restless and curious about the grounds of conviction, about politics and persuasion and the foundations of any kind of certainty. Those questions led me to almost-a-PhD in intellectual history and back out again. And I suppose design — which, by definition, in historian John Heskett’s formulation, is an admixture of utility and significance — was a way of splitting the difference. A commitment to pragmatics and to poetics, to ideas made manifest in things, and to the power of things to shape ideas. I have thus far assembled a body of work that lists between the two poles of poetry and philosophy, and between significance and utility: some work that looks for pragmatic solutions to problems, and some work that raises and suspends questions, indefinitely. Some work that reframes the status quo in order to persuade. And some work that aims for expressive power above all — paradox and juxtaposition.

One thing I’ll say, though, about 2023 and beyond, as I head into my 50s: I mostly want to make art, not arguments.