Revisiting WORKSITE: Sam Dybeck

Continuing my rereading of last semester’s WORKSITE Q&A’s with some notes on the contribution by artist Sam Dybeck.

  • Sam describes his own work as including “going to the bakery to make invoices on quick books and quote cake orders [and] installing shows at the gallery and sending emails [and] making things in the studio.” This definition of work seems to encompass both “art work” and “non-art work”, seemingly eschewing the usual separation between art and the everyday.
  • Sam suggests that working a day job at the bakery might “enrich” his studio practice by providing “insights that other artists wouldn’t have because they are not in the position to have to work a 9 to 5 in order to make ends meet.”. This is interesting to me, as I feel that it links to the idea of “enabling constraints” discussed elsewhere on this blog. In this context the “constraint” is the day job, which of course keeps the artist away from the studio though at the same time “enables” innovation and invention by providing novel insights.
  • Sam notes that “time” is “a very important resource” for him, as he is not able to visit his studio “as much as [he] would like”. He describes his work sessions as “typically very busy”, using “small windows of time” and incorporating slow processes which “require a lot of waiting”. Given the small amounts of time available in which to work, the choice to use primarily “slow” processes is interesting in light of the “enabling constraints” discussed above – perhaps this approach encourages the artist to focus only on that which is essential?
  • Sam describes how he likes to “pick things up on the ground or from stores”, which then become elements in his work. This links back to an idea I have touched on elsewhere on this blog, wherein art practice consists of a kind of a collaboration between artist and environment – the site “exerting ‘influence’ through the presence of stimuli and (enabling?) constraints”. In this particular case, the artist harvests materials from the environment, so presumably the acts of walking, looking/searching, collecting and storage all form part of this “collaboration” with the site.
  • Further to this idea of “collaboration” with the site, Sam notes that “nostalgia” is “a big source of inspiration” in his work – particular the feelings of nostalgia evoked from visiting specific places. Again, this suggests that the artist benefits from some kind or reciprocal relationship – a collaboration, or dialogue – with each particular site.
  • Sam’s response to my final question is one that I find particularly interesting:

How do you benefit from your work?
It really helps me let go. About a year ago I kind of came to the conclusion that I will never be able to make a living solely on my studio practice. Most middle class people don’t see themselves as middle class, they see themselves as temporarily broke millionaires. I think that’s how I was considering my work up until this point. If I am not going to make it big then I might as well make the work for myself and others who want to entertain these ideas. It is not to say that I do not try, I work very diligently towards these things.
This ended up kind of becoming the thesis or mantra of my studio practice. The requirement to embrace the futility of working. The conditions that we live in make it very difficult to attain satisfaction, I think it is very important to address that. It makes the small victories that much sweeter.

  • Perhaps “the futility of working” is the ultimate “enabling constraint” – one that might empower the artist to “let go” and start making the work that they really want to make.

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