“Build Your Dream”, is one of my favorite pieces because it is such a self-contained piece for me. The entire idea is held in its place of installation, which is private, directly related to my house and my self-personhood and also related to the public place of my neighborhood, which is not an art space. It’s a work of art that exists like a real-estate sign in the front yard.
I bought a house when I moved to Dallas, which is part of the fantasy of America. It is the American dream, you get a job and then you buy a house. I bought a house in a neighborhood that is in transition so one of the characteristics of the neighborhood was that there were always for sale signs in the area and several of my neighbors were interested in the evolution in the neighborhood.
When I first moved here I was taking a lot of walks. Everyday I would go someplace different. So it could be that I would walk to someplace different or it could be as small as I would walk on the other side of the street. For over a year I did a lot of daily walks as a small personal way of thinking about space. It is a way to get out of your head and into the world that is direct, simple and accessible. You can be miserable or depressed and you can just walk out your door and you will have a different experience. It’s a practical tool.
On one of my walks I was struck by a commercial real-estate sign on an empty lot that said “build your dream.” I photographed it and thought about that a lot and ending up making my own sign that says, “build your dream now.” The image of the bed, on my sign, is there to reference sleeping. Maybe the best way to build your dream is to go to sleep, or to rest, or to go into relaxation. To build your dream from an internal state as opposed to building it from the outside by buying a house. The word now references the urgency of advertising, “Buy it now! Now!” Also, just the idea of presence, being present now, in this moment.
After I put the sign up people in the neighborhood passers-by starting interacting with me about it. The most common thing was, “Oh, are you selling your house?” Because they read the sign for what it is, not for what it actually says. They didn’t really look at what it said when they read it, which was part of my intention. It speaks that language through its form and structure. And then other people would say, “What does that mean? Is it an inspirational statement?”
It’s many different things. It is inspirational, in suggesting to go build your dream, to go for it, do something positive but is it also a darker thing like, what actually is a dream? It’s a fantasy, or it’s a state of being where you’re asleep. And what is it to be asleep? It is to be unconscious. It is a time when you’re almost not there. Your conscious mind is not there, your ego is not there. Or maybe they are there but you don’t have access to them. How do you build a relationship with your unconscious that is productive and fruitful? So it also connects to thinking psychoanalytically.
One of the imperatives of being alive is to figure out what you want, how to get it and what to contribute into the world. So it was exciting having people respond to it and engage me in a non-art place. Here the audience is neighbors and people that drive by.
Then there are the groundless-thread drawing signs that I have made to hang in the corridor adjacent to the library at Eastfield College. These particular text fragments come from a letter from my great-uncle in which he speaks about my decision to attend art school in the upcoming year. He didn’t necessarily say these phrases as they are on the walls, rather I recombined words that were in the letter, in a process of reading between the lines, or reading into what was actually written into the letter. There are three phrases of advice, or instruction: develop interest, knowing, and style, and phrase of desire: “I hope to see you in Paris soon, and again.” I think about these words/works in relation to my function at the school as a teacher, I am supposed to impart knowledge and the school is a site for questions like, what is advice? What is it to seek advice? What is desire? Versus to be self-contained. Both advice and desire are extensions out of being self-contained, places where you want something from the outside world. And that is why people go to school because they want something.
One of the things that I am interested in as a teacher is to help my students to get a deeper understanding of what it is that they are really interested in. School is now less about learning new bodies of information because we can get access to information through so many different ways. So I help them to understand what information is it that they want want to do with it? That is really important, knowing what you want to do. When teaching art, whatever kind of art it is, it is really exciting for me when my students can figure out what it is to take from art and bring it into life. They then begin to define a place in the world rather than to have the world tell them where to be.
Having the signs installed at Eastfield directly relates to how I see my role in this process as a teacher. Another important aspects of all the signs is that they have a place in the world outside of art, but still connected to art. It is really different than work produced for a gallery where the end purpose is to participate in the economical idea of what art is. This has a larger purpose.
From a conversation with Janeil Engelstad in May 2010