Manifesto

Note To Self

 

Note to self:

You will die.

It will happen sooner than you think.

You only have two questions to answer:

  1. How will I spend what little time I have left on this planet?
  2. What will I leave behind?

 

 

Idling

I wish to be idle. As idle as possible. Waking up late. Drinking tea. Walking in the park. Visiting art galleries. Reading poetry. I want to do as little as possible. Unfortunately, I am also an artist and artist’s are cursed with an unstoppable drive to make something. What a drag.

 

 

My Uncle

My uncle died. Suddenly.

He left behind an office full of papers, research, drafts, clippings, journals, records, books etc. There was no order to any of it, just random, dusty piles thrown all over the room.

My cousin, his son, was left to sort it out. Feeling overwhelmed, he called me for help. It took us three days to get through it all. It was hard for us to understand what most of it was, never mind if it had been important to my uncle or not. There was so much dust that we were sneezing and our skin was itchy.

My cousin decided to keep some of the obvious items: published work, a few drafts, anything that resembled a journal, and half of his father’s record collection. I kept one family photo. We took four boxes of research papers to my uncle’s university, but they refused to accept it.

Everything else went into the skip. We had no idea if we had tossed anything valuable.

A lifetime of work, gone, just like that.

 

 

Two Boxes

My own work is organised in a way that I can understand, but, like my uncle, I think it would be difficult for an outsider to figure out what was important to me.

I realise that I only need two categories:

  1. Pass this on when I am gone.
  2. Trash this when I am dead

The first category, pass this on, will be small, curated, and annotated. It will be presentable to the public. Anybody will be able to pick it up, access it and navigate it. If there is anything anybody wants to know about me, my life, my ideas this is where to look.

The second category, trash this, will be large, private, and does not need to be organised properly. It will consist of things I am keeping for now because I may want to look back on them when I am older. It will be of little value to anybody else. I am sure when I am dead, this will be the first box somebody opens, so I had better get into the habit of trashing things early along the way.

 

 

Going Forward

These two categories will act as a guide for everything I create from this point onwards.

The time I have left on this planet is limited. I want to plan a few projects I can work on with the specific intention of “passing them on when I am gone”. There will of course be drafts, experiments, false starts etc, but they will not be strays. They will be connected to one of a few larger projects that have been carefully thought out in advance. It will be easier to see what I can file immediately or what can be trashed without guilt.

 

 

The Collected Sky Sandison

What do I want to spend my days working on? What do I want to leave behind when I am gone?

1. A novel. I want to create a world, create characters for that world, then tell stories about the characters living in that world. At first glance it will be accessible, whimsical, but for those willing to scratch the surface, there will be a lot more going on underneath.

2. A short guide on how to live, split into two parts: philosophical and practical. It won’t be perfect. It will forever be getting updated. It will probably never be complete.

3. A collection of short essays and thoughts on topics not directly addressing how to live, but perhaps worth passing on. I will ask friends and family for questions and try to answer the ones that I can.

4. A memoir. Perhaps a short family history, and then something more abstract like a collection of memories or declarative sentences about myself similar to I Remember by Joe Brainard or Autoportrait by Édouard Levé.

5. A journal. I have kept a journal at various stages of my life, but, like many people, I wish I had been keeping one more regularly. I want to keep a daily record to make sure I am not wasting my life. It will be a mix of writing, photos and sketches. At some point in the future I would like to try writing poems, but I suspect they will end up in the “trash this” box before they even have a chance to breathe.

6. A list of recommendations. I would like to make a simple list of things that inspired me at different stages in my life. Then, going forward, I would like to keep short notes on anything I read, watch, or experience, no matter how naive my thoughts might be.

 

These projects will exist as private, handwritten drafts ready to be trashed at a moments notice. From the drafts I will take extracts to polish up into something that might be worth passing on.

At some point in the future, I would like to license these works to a publisher to make a physical copy that can outlast my own short life. Until then, it makes sense to distribute the curated work on a website that I can control myself.

 

 

Website

I miss the old web. I miss the days of eccentric, personal websites that were like caves or labyrinths, with endless, offbeat pages to explore, and you never knew what each click was going to bring you next. These sites were often ugly, broken and difficult to navigate. Yet somehow you felt like the choice of every colour, font and animated gif revealed a little something about the person behind it.

When social media spread and we started to design for mobile rather than desktop, we began losing the idea of a website as a personal work of art. Too many of the personal websites I see now are simply portals to other sites, endless sales pitches or work that is created with the sole idea of trying to hustle something out of the visitor. I want to avoid this.

I want my website to be a primary work of art in itself. I imagine it like a library that I am building, with different rooms for each category filled with a bookshelf for each project. I want to build the underlying structure and then launch the website empty. Then, little by little, as I complete each item of work, I will upload it onto the relevant shelf. The site will grow slowly, gently, organically, with no plan, no forced release schedule and no hustle.

I want the website to be the endpoint for finding out about me or my work. No social media, no newsletters, no links to guest posts on external websites. If you are curious about me, all you have to do is type “skysandison.com” into the address bar and with one click, you will get everything you need. For new visitors, there will be endless pages to explore. For people returning, there will always be something new to hunt down.

It will always contain work that I have designed to be passed on when I am dead.

 

 

 

PR

Of course, a website that nobody knows about is only one small step from a website that doesn’t exist.

I want to promote my work and my website in the ways we used to do when I was a teenager: flyers, posters, exhibitions, book fairs, zines and prints.

1. Flyers. Every year I will make a simple flyer that contains my name, a drawing and the address of my website. I will always keep some with me, and I will give them out to anyone who shows an interest in my work. I will distribute them to local shops in my area, and leave them on the table at exhibitions and book fairs for anyone curious to pick up.

2. Posters. Every year I will make a simple poster that I can put up around the local area. It will basically be a larger version of the flyer: my name, a drawing and the address of my website.

3. Exhibitions. I will hold an annual or bi-annual exhibition to display current work in progress and raise awareness of my work.

4. Book fairs. I will attend local book, zine and craft fairs to display current work in progress and raise awareness of my work.

5. Zines. For no other reason than it is cool, I want to start a private press to print off-the-cuff zines whenever I feel like it. These will contain copies of my handwritten drafts, rough sketches and other work from the “trash this when I am dead” pile. They will be throwaway items. I will give them to friends, family, zine libraries and zine review sites. I may sell a few at exhibitions and book fairs to help cover printing costs.

6. Prints. Every year I will make a few prints to raise awareness of my work and to cover the costs of printing flyers, zines, and attending book fairs and exhibitions. I will make an unlimited inkjet version for print-on-demand, and a limited edition, hand-numbered risograph version for giving to friends and selling at exhibitions and book fairs. I will add a link to the print-on-demand version on my website for people to discover, but I refuse to enter the dark world of sales and hustling.

I am an artist, not a salesman.

 

Juvenilia

The few items that I produced prior to writing this manifesto are to be considered juvenilia and trashed. The exceptions being: the self portrait I drew in 2019, and the 2023 Winter Exhibition.

 

 

Closing

I will die. I will die sooner than I think. I wish to spend my days being idle. When I am not idle, I wish to spend my time making the projects listed above, with the idea of making something to pass on when I die.

Sky Sandison,
Summer 2024