A text work shown alongside "Guide To Life IV(A).11: My Personal Approach to Art"
as part of the exhibition series An/other, Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London, 2011

Dear Anthony,

Yesterday you sent me an email telling me about your plan to ask gallery artists to show video works alongside a work from an artist that they have invited and asking me if I’d like to show my lecture as a part of this. You asked me who I’d like to invite to show with me. After thinking about it, I realised wasn’t going to come up with anyone, and sent you an email to tell you this. Today you phoned up and asked me again if I’d thought of anyone. I hadn’t. You said you needed an answer from me soon. This is my answer.

For some reason I feel thrown by what you’ve asked me to do. I’ve been telling myself that I must be just paralysed by performance anxiety, but although I am of course anxious and scared of making a mistake, that’s so normal it shouldn’t really throw me. I think there must be something else going on.

You asked me if I wanted to show my work in the gallery and I said that of course I do. This question is a non-starter. Your question wasn’t entirely honest though, as what you were really asking me was do I want to show my work in the gallery under the condition that I have to suggest a work by another artist to be shown alongside. The answer to that is that I don’t want to. Or not that I don’t want to, but that I can’t. I’ve been sitting here thinking about videos that I like, but as soon as I try to imagine the artist who made the video being asked if their video can be shown alongside my work, it feels all wrong. I can’t get a picture of it happening in my head. I feel like if there were someone who was right, they would have occurred to me immediately. Now it just feels like a cramped attempt to make something happen that isn’t supposed to happen. I’m thinking about something because I’ve been told to think about it, not because I want to, and I really hate doing that.

I just can’t feel like there can be any real relevance to a work being shown just because it has been selected by Lucy Harvey. It doesn’t interest anyone. Why should it? This statement has nothing to do with any self-pitying feelings of being unappreciated and nothing to do with any lack of self-appreciation; it’s just a statement of fact. I know what my position in the art world is, and it’s not a position where I would expect anyone to be interested in my opinion. Choosing a work to be tagged as being “selected by Lucy Harvey” would feel like an act of embarrassing presumption. It would feel like I was saying that I care about my position in the art world, that I want to be noticed. It would feel like a desperate act of looking for love.

If I were to choose a work to be shown, I would also be forced to worry about whether the work that I had chosen was good. This is just performance anxiety again, but while performance anxiety is something that I would fight against if it was my own work, it feels like taking on this fight on behalf of a work that I haven’t produced, only chosen, would be putting myself through unnecessary pain. This is the point where I say that choosing works to be shown in your gallery is not my job. This is your pain, not mine.

The more that I think about this problem, the more strongly I feel that the lecture is a work that belongs on its own. I initially thought that this feeling came from my reluctance to inflict the lecture onto another work. I worried that this would be seen as disrespectful to the other artist because it would seem like I would only be choosing the other work because of its suitability to comment on the statements made by the lecture. This wasn’t a decision that I wanted to make, and not a decision that I wanted to be suspected of making. I soon realised, however, that I didn’t really care about the other work. I felt protective of the lecture. I didn’t want to put it into a position where it would have to defend itself. I feel like the lecture has the right to say what it wants to say without having to argue its position. I feel that there are works that talk to other works and there are works that just don’t and the lecture is one that doesn’t. It’s not entering into a conversation, it’s making a statement. I don’t feel that the work is suited for a context where the basic concept is a conversation between two positions. I do know these feelings are stupid. I know that every work makes a statement and this statement is inevitably open to disagreement and that this is the nature of making and showing art. I made the work and I know that I want to show it. I know that I don’t really object to the work being shown in company. I know that the work doesn’t really need to be shown alone and that it certainly doesn’t need my protection. But choosing the work to be shown with it is still not a decision that I want to make.

I wonder if my real problem is that I’m just feeling childish and contrary. I feel like my work isn’t enough on its own. I want you to say that the lecture is enough for you. I want you to say that of course it doesn’t matter if I can’t think of anyone else because my work is the only thing that you actually care about. I’m desperate for reassurance. But at the same time I refuse to care about what you think, and getting reassurance from you would be humiliating.

Just so you understand the context: working and staying motivated is an almost unbearable struggle at the moment. I feel very alone. Being very alone is of course part of being an artist, but sometimes I’m not so painfully aware of it. My survival strategy at times like this is to try and disarm these feelings by aggressively embracing them. I become determinedly and deliberately isolationist and wilfully uncaring about what anyone else might think. I can look after my work by myself. I am enough for my work and my work is enough for me. This show has somehow triggered this self-protective rebelliousness in me, and, however stupid it may seem, I’m not prepared to challenge it at the moment. It feels too dangerous.

So find someone to show with me if you want or decide not to include me in the series of shows. It’s your decision. It’s a decision that I can’t make.