"I’m very aware of more successful people"
James, 20, Fine Art Student
By Orla Loughran Hayes
What’s your biggest struggle as a millennial?
I have that millennial thing where I want to make a big difference. So it’s a struggle in getting to the point where I can do that. It’s a pressure I’ve put on myself. I want to impact society and make a positive difference. I always feel like I could be doing more; like there are avenues I’ve missed, and I’m very aware of more successful people.
Do you think a degree is worth much in today’s job market?
It depends on the degree, and it depends on where you do the degree. In a way, it’s kind of sickening that you can just go somewhere and do a certain degree in a certain place, and people will perceive it as better – but I do understand why that’s happened. I think that degrees have become heavily vocationalised in the past decade. Economic worth and professional worth as ‘paths’ are becoming more and more streamlined and rigid. It's breeding dispassion. It breeds a generation of people where everything becomes a reaction to the 9-5 day job norm. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that norm, or that learning employable skills is an inherently bad thing, but we should create spaces and avenues outside of that channel, even if just experimentally; and I don’t think it has to be one or the other.
What would your perfect scenario be?
To do what I do now, but with more of a platform, and with more security. At this point in my life, it feels very precarious. I’m not sure what the future holds. As a student, it is hard to know if I’m going to have enough money to survive and to stay in this position or to enhance it. I don’t know if I’m going to have to move away, or go back home, or get washed away in this stream of people. Some security at some point might help.
What has been your best life experience so far?
It would be getting to experience things early. There are important milestones, like finding out what you want to do with yourself, and finding out what you don’t want. Finding out what you want generally from relationships, jobs or life – purpose stuff. So I feel like the best experience I’ve had is finding out those things early. I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve learnt a lot of things I don’t want, and been able to confront that early.
"Economic worth and professional worth as ‘paths’ are becoming more and more streamlined and rigid. It's breeding dispassion."
What keeps you awake at night?
Myself. I stay up very late and get up very early. Every now and then I will burn out. I try and work hard. I have this thing about being productive. I will literally stay up, very late doing things. Then I will get up really early doing things. If I could get out of sleeping, I would. It’s not that I have any trouble getting to sleep it’s that I will work until I literally collapse. It’s not great for my health, but I do it anyway. I want to use every ounce of time to study and be productive. I have had quite a lot of problems with stress and exhaustion this year because of this lifestyle.
What would your ideal job be?
To be invested in. At the moment, as a student and non-profit producer, I’m not really in a secure position. There is no sense of investment. I want people to have faith in my ideas and in me, my approach and perspective. From that comes a sense of less precarity. At the moment it’s incredibly up in the air. I find myself having to fight against vocalisation to an extent, which is entrenched in this rigid system of value. So, I’d like to be in a stable position, rather than in this current limbo.
What pushed you to want to become an artist?
I definitely have that artistic thing where I have a problem with the word artist, I’m not sure it best describes what I’d like to do, but I mean in terms of the cultural or creative field I was very driven at a very young age towards it. I felt very fortunate in that I was growing up in a good environment and came from a good home. I had those environmental resources to find out what I wanted to do very young. I feel like I should give back to society, or people, or whatever – make things better.
What do you love about art?
Well, I love the openness, the independence, the freedom of it. Some people would consider the freeness as a critical point; they might argue that art has become less concrete in what it actually is and therefore defunct as an area – but I think that’s what makes it so interesting! It’s volatile; it transcends discipline and those strict ideas of value I’ve been going on about. I like the way it lets me test ideas against dominant structures of value. You can play about with things, and you can make environments where you can test ideas. You can talk with people, and collaborate in all these different ways. There is a big open-ended framework, so you can explore loads of different things.