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  • Writer's pictureDouglas McCausland

"Black Amnesia"; a self-portrait

About five years ago now I started dedicating some of my creative efforts to making visual accompaniments for each of my pieces. While these have taken various forms over the years, they generally trend towards dense, textured, and glitchy kinds of still images (with some video stuff in the works). However, what started as a simple motivation to have cover art for my music online has slowly evolved over the years into an increasingly meaningful part of my creative practice. Unlike those years ago, it's often the case now that making the graphic accompaniment to a piece is kind of a cathartic experience, or a way to mentally disentangle myself from a project when it's finished.

There have been a couple of times however when I was simply never satisfied with the image that I came up with for one reason or another. In a couple cases this is because of "who I am" kinds of details, like my sometimes turbulent relationship with the creative process. But sometimes it was because I simply failed to visually capture the element of the piece I was hoping to, or was not experienced or patient enough to follow-through like I should have at that particular time. In one of those such cases, due to time and a compulsion to share documentation to meet some submission deadlines, I just told myself "it doesn't matter if you don't like it, it needs to be done and you need to walk away."

Of course, every time I saw that image since then I found myself increasingly frustrated by it; by how "phoned-in" it felt, and by how unbefitting it was for the piece it was connected to. Part of the creative process is knowing when to walk away from a project, when to call it "done"; but I just never was satisfied in this case.

The image in question accompanied my piece "Black Amnesia", and served as its cover-art for the better part of a year now. It was a functional piece; it was glitchy and had the appropriate cover text on it, and on the surface bore the same kind of visual aesthetic I have been working in for some time now -but it just never seemed right. My work is most often a way for me to look inward; but for whatever reason, "Black Amnesia" was one of those composition projects that became particularly personal in a way that's difficult to describe. It was one of those projects that really dug its hooks in, and was difficult to disentangle myself from mentally and emotionally for many months after it had been premiered. Ultimately, this only added to the frustration I felt due to the visual accompaniment problem between it and its counterpart.

For almost a year, I couldn't figure out what could accompany that piece. I recently realized however that in every attempt to make a new image, I was spending all of my time trying to externalize something which was essentially internal in that hard to pin-down kind of way. Acknowledging this, over the weekend I tried to see what would come from making my first "self-portrait". Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I finished the piece it it suddenly "fit" - it felt right to me for the first time.

I always title each visual piece with the same name as the work it accompanies, so with that, I can finally share "Black Amnesia"; a self-portrait:


P.S. This post became more personal / indulgent than I originally had intended it to, but putting it down in text was a good experience for me, and I hope it was at least vaguely interesting to read. If you read this far, thanks for your time and attention; I truly appreciate it.

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