In artcore journal’s “Truth or Dare” series developed for the artcore journal (b)log participants choose between two groupings of statement questions. Contributors can answer Truth, which directly poses; Past? Present? and Future? or Dare, which bluntly asks; Regrets? Status? and Dreams? The interviews aspire to open up candid platforms for cultural thinkers to contemplate and respond to a broad range of complex, imaginative, personal, controversial, and/or analytical, etc. forces of time and space that correlate with their own “Truth or Dare” experiences in a myriad of contemporary art practices.
The inquiries on (past, present, and future) and the inquiries on (regrets, status, dreams) have provided me an excuse to reflect on the nature of the dare. I find these two lines of questioning to be essentially the same, each with a distinct tone. The first allows for a bit more freedom and the option of vagueness. The second is more pointed, specific, and I “dare” say, confrontational. The part of me that likes to be backed into a corner prefers the latter. As a child, I wasn’t particularly good at the game of truth or dare. In fact, I usually avoided situations, gatherings, parties where I thought it might be played. It was my multitude of insecurities that caused my evasive nature. Maybe this is why art felt so right for me. I could navigate around these embarrassments and conquer them on my own terms.
I think of my art practice as a series of truths and dares. I have incorporated the terms of this game into my studio, and I use them as a creative impetus. Based on the idea that there is a widely agreed upon series of taboos, the game truth or dare remained popular amongst my peers from elementary school all the way up into college. It was a way to test and provide excuses to do things you probably wanted to say or do in the first place, i.e. kiss Judy on the cheek. School children are very interested in physical challenges, whereas college aged kids (usually aided by some mind-altering substance) are more interested in mental games, questions that might cause some sort of psychological distress. But then again, it all depends on how much alcohol has been consumed as to how closely the game lines up with its 3rd grade counterpart. The aforementioned 24-year-old Judy just might end up taking the physical challenge to jump naked into the neighbor’s pool. How does this apply to art? I maintain that when I perform and paint, physical and psychological exertion both collapse into one gesture funneled towards an acute end. This effort would mean nothing if there wasn’t the smallest chance that it could go all wrong. A test isn’t a test if the option for failure is taken away. There is a risk. One risks integrity and comfort to gain status or to simply keep the game going.
I become interested in an art once I feel an edge has been approached, and have applied this concept of risk to my own art. I find that my art operates best when my own ideas of aesthetic safety and intellectual stability are challenged. The boundaries that I speak of are personal ones and hardly make sense when voiced publicly. Sometimes these edges are defined very clearly and other times they are like moving targets, and I don’t realize that I’ve crossed them until it is too late. Anything spanning from personal neurosis, to broad social dilemmas, to universal quandaries can dictate these edges. My art gains emotional traction when these taboos, however personal they may be, are dismantled or at the very least, confronted.
I have no art regrets. I have had artistic missteps both major and minuscule, but no regrets. I’ve never fully understood the concept of the “guilty pleasure”. If you are turned on by something, you should proclaim it loudly and with confidence. Perhaps I contradict myself, because the concept of the “open book” is equally as baffling. It’s important to be guarded on some fronts. I have plenty of things to keep under wraps, dirty little secrets if you will. These things filter into the art as needed. Also, just because something is withheld and not articulated, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is shameful. Some things, sacred ideals for instance, require a certain level of protection. My shame is in a holding tank waiting for the inevitable moment of its exposure. Embarrassment flavors the soup, and with its incremental revelation, I can chart my artistic growth. It all falls under the roof of the dare. I’ve been dared by art history to run with the torch of introspection and unabashed broadcast. The consequences of running with fire aren’t always that good though. When someone or something challenges those boundaries and issues the dare, what do you do? If you care about the rules of the game, then you expose yourself, risking public shame, a broken limb, or worse. Accepting the challenge carries with it a level of valor, but there are exceptions to the rule. One must remember that all rules are meant to be broken, especially when ethics and ideals are compromised.
I’ve dealt with the idea of “regret” and in a round a bout way, “status” has been discussed. This leaves “dreams” which seems to most closely line up with the theme of “future”. Recently I was asked about the future of contemporary art. First off, I LOVE the paradoxical nature of this question. If “contemporary” implies nowness, then we will never actually reach that future. So the only true answer to that question is that there is NO future in contemporary art. I like saying that. But seriously, I believe that an art landscape of the future should make every effort to reveal global connections. A future art will acknowledge that humanity’s concerns have not changed too dramatically throughout history. We are the same cave people scrawling on walls and flinging feces at animal pelts. That is the truth.
Trenton Doyle Hancock
Trenton Doyle Hancock, b. 1974 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma currently lives and works in Houston, Texas. He recently debuted a new series of works in the solo exhibition “…And Then It All Came Back To Me” in 2012 at James Cohan Gallery, New York. Hancock was recently awarded the prestigious Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Sarasota, Florida.