27 Terms for Describing Myself Culled From the Observations of Others


WILLING
When I came to New York, I didn't see any of that. … There were no bad guys here, so I said ‘let me be a bad guy,’ or attempt to be a bad guy, or play with the bad areas and see what happens.
—David Hammons

DEMOCRATIC

CURIOUS

ANGRY

GENEROUS
I see science fiction as a way of disseminating the fact that we don't have only one kind of people, namely white males, in the world. They are not the only ones who are here; not the only ones who count. It's very easy for a person who lives in a segregated neighborhood, either black or white, who works at a job with only one kind of people, who goes to movies and watches TV (which is pretty white) to forget this fact. It's easy for a person, if it's a white person, to get the idea that they are really the only ones who matter. I think it is a writer's duty to write about human differences, all human differences, and help make them acceptable.
—Octavia Butler

SUBJECTIVE
The person that does it can exercise their judgment within these rules. I think of it more like a composer that writes notes and then a pianist plays the notes. But within that kind of situation there’s ample room for both to make a statement of their own.
—Sol LeWitt

REASONABLE

SKEPTICAL

EXASPERATING
When the wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at his finger.
—Thierry DeDuve

DESIRABLE
There is much to be said more generally for the noncoherence of our different theoretical practices, for the existence of theories that illuminate certain projects in ways that simply say 'So what?' to the fact that they contradict other theories that belong to other projects. Game theorists can legitimately make assumptions that differ from those of ethnographers; economists may need to idealize differently from psychologists. More grandly still: explanations in terms of reasons, and explanations in terms of causes, need not proceed in lockstep. Once motivated, this noncoherence can be seen as both necessary and desirable; what we ask of a theory is that it be adequate to its own constitutive project—that it earn its as ifs.
—Kwame Anthony Appiah

NAÏVE

MONSTROUS
You see, whites want black artists to mostly deliver something as if it were an official version of the black experience. But the vocabulary won’t hold it, simply. No true account really of black life can be held, can be contained in this American vocabulary. As it is, the only way that you can deal with it is by doing great violence to the assumptions on which the vocabulary is based. But they won’t let you do that. And when you go along you find yourself very quickly painted into a corner, you’ve written yourself into a corner.
—James Baldwin

SARDONIC

DELUSIONAL

GRATEFUL
Hi—not sure if you remember me—I was a senior in Princeton’s art program major the year you took over. I wanted to reach out—your name came up in a conversation the other day in regard to the Whitney. I have to say, I’ve only read a little bit about your process of creating the Donelle Woolford character, but it resonates on many levels with the process of developing intricate and complex shows and characters. I just wanted to thank you for pushing me back at Princeton to live with discomfort and abandon for the sake of expanding my perspective. You were one of the few people within the department to support my TV-writing efforts, and approaching the medium as an artist helped me tap into instincts that I didn’t know I had. I’ve been thinking about the senior thesis class more and more as I interact with showrunners and directors in my line of work, and how valuable it was to learn early on how to approach storytelling from both traditional and nontraditional vantages.
thank you for fostering creativity in whatever form it comes.
—Jessie Dicovitsky, Creative Executive, Showtime

ASSERTIVE


SATIRICAL

UNKNOWING
Men have always known that he who acts never quite knows what he is doing, that he always becomes "guilty" of consequences he never intended or even foresaw, that no matter how disastrous and unexpected the consequences of his deed he can never undo it, that the process he starts is never consummated unequivocally in one single deed or event, and that its very meaning never discloses itself to the actor but only to the backward glance of the historian, who himself does not act. All this is reason enough to turn away with despair from the realm of human affairs and to hold in contempt the human capacity for freedom.
—Hannah Arendt

LIVELY

REASSERTIVE

TROUBLING

DECEPTIVE
I do remember, still in San Francisco, a sign painting of a man painting a sign a huge sign painting and this did hold my attention. I used to go and look at it and stand and watch it and then it bothered me because It almost did look like a man painting a sign and one wants, one likes to be deceived but not for too long. That is a thing to remember about an oil painting.
—Gertrude Stein

CONTRADICTORY

INCHOATE

INSINCERE
Finally the idea of inventing something insincere came to me and I got to work immediately.
—Marcel Broodthaers

COMPLICATED

OPEN
Something I look for in an associate is a certain amount of misunderstanding of what I’m trying to do. Not a fundamental misunderstanding; just minor misunderstandings here and there. When someone doesn’t quite completely understand what you want from them, or when they didn’t hear what you told them to do, or when the tape is bad, or when their own fantasies start coming through, I often wind up liking what comes out of it all better than I liked my original idea.
—Andy Warhol

DELIBERATE

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