by Arlene Shechet. and. a large investment in concepts of time and space. and. and.


It Goes On and On

Persistence is commonly considered a virtue, especially when
one persists ‘in the face of’ an opposing force or the horrifying
indifference of the world at large. If the subject has persisted
successfully then they have ‘persevered,’ a word that suggests
heroism. Persisting for the appropriate amount of time suggests
that you are passionate, purposeful, and humbly know when to let
go. Then again, persistence is not an innately admirable trait. An
obsessive compulsive persister does not instinctively understand
the unwritten laws of appropriate repetitive action, loses their style,
and eventually risks becoming irritating to those around them.
The distinction between appropriate and inappropriate persistence
is not clear, though both require a sort of bravery, an unveiling
of your own vulnerability and a willingness to publicly admit
devotion to your chosen path.

The sculptor Louise Bourgeois has described her emotions as
being ‘inappropriate’ to her size. These emotions are her self-
confessed ‘demons:’ unmanageable forces that she uses as energy
and motivation to create. This ‘inappropriateness’ is an indigestible
lump in the throat, an element of oneself that cannot be nice-i-fied,
adequately understood or put to rest. Without a solution to pacify
her hurt and perceived trauma Bourgeois turns this inappropriate
excess of feeling into an ostensibly useful act: the creation
of ‘artwork.’

In the creation of all artwork there is the question of
inappropriateness and uselessness. In one view art can only
be classified as ‘Art’ if it is a gloriously useless object of
decoration, or if its reason to be is obtuse or esoteric. It’s inherent
impracticality is a vital ingredient of its being. Art is not science,
it is not math, it is not philosophy, yet it can draw form all these
fields and speak to us in a sideways language, becoming something
quite other than all these topics it imitates. Where it can becomes
alive is in the realm of absurdity, a place where comedy also

Mound activity—the uselessly persistent pursuance of mound-like
forms—is the self-conscious need by the artist Sarah crowEST
to ‘give more than what is presently requested’ to the art world
at large. CrowEST has created an artistic fate and given herself
over to it, this being the creation of animistic mound-like forms
that repeat themselves ad nauseam in a seemingly meaningless
process of evolution. Not one mound is exactly the same but
yet they are all alike. The endless manufacturing of mounds is
glorious in its impracticality. Why would an artist, with their full
faculties, huddle down to such a dribbling project? Why go on
and on muddling together the same non-forms for your individual

‘Why’ is a pertinent and often terrifying question. Every artist
has at some stage in their career asked with a sort of adolescent
existentialism, ‘why bother at all? It doesn’t mean anything. What
is the point of any human endeavour? I mean in the end we’re all

For me, CrowEST asks this question again and again with the
creation of each mound and perhaps the mounds answer this
question by cancelling the question out with insistent repetition.
The question becomes no longer ‘why?’ but rather ‘why not?’ If
mounds, then why not any other act of creation?

A well-read German friend of mine once attempted to explain
Camus to me, an author I had never read but of whom he was
particularly enamoured. He described the story of The Outsider to
me in his endearingly faulted English, summing up the moral of
the story as: ‘If you recognise the absurdity in life, yet continue
despite, this is heroic and cool.’

Lacan has said that ‘Love is giving what you do not have.’ It
is recognising your lack, the gaping hole in yourself and then
offering that up to another. In effect offering up your innate
uselessness as a form of devotion. Art can also be seen as an act in
love in its suspension of disbelief—the way it works through faith
in the artist’s vision.

CrowEST’s persistence could be seen as a form of devotion to an
absurdist God. I like to imagine that towards the end of her mound
making life CrowEST will be surrounded by a Borges-esque
museum of mounds whose corridors stretch out towards eternity, a
sea of endlessly glimmering and differentiating non-forms.

To fruitlessly endeavour to continue on an absurdist path without
a seeming glimmer of cynicism strikes me as a heroic move
that belies sophistication. As though the seemingly compulsive
persister has taken one step past existential dilemmas to forgive
themselves for their inborn futility and instead exalts joyously in
their void of meaninglessness—a place where everything becomes
simultaneously trivial yet vital.

-Alanna Lorenzon



Geoffrey Farmer & Jeremy Millar, "Whitstable Pebbles, French Soap," 2011.