Keep yourself busy

“They toil not, neither do they spin”

The work in this series of photographs marries my obsessional record-keeping with found elements taken from my natural environment. In order to make sense of time as a freelancer and when working in the academy, I keep detailed records of what I want to do and have done in a day. Over time, these scraps of planning add up to a substantial weight—one that feels like a chastisement to be ever more busy and productive. I draw on Mierle Ukeles’s Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! (1969) in my thinking on art which relies on or is made out of the scraps of timekeeping, record-keeping, listing, planning, and in the margins of daily life.

Left: Keep yourself busy (rockweed, seashells), 2020

I am thinking here about the admonishment to “keep yourself busy” as a way to avoid grief or despair, alongside the Bible verse, which I learned as a child and have carried since then, reminding me that the flowers and animals who share the earth with people do not wear themselves out worrying about “productivity”.

By obscuring my to-do lists and notes toward future projects with specimens taken from the neighborhood where I live, I am refusing some of the pressure to be productive, obscuring the facts of my own productivity, and turning my sense of time from the workday to the passage of seasonal time.

Right: Keep yourself busy (black locust), 2020

Keep yourself busy (horse chestnuts), 2020
Keep yourself busy (goldenrod), 2020