when all the good feels scarce
Visual Essay contribution to SNAPLine 2021.1
My anthurium died in my last move. More truthfully - one of my three anthuriums died in my last move. When this first plant started showing signs of a losing fight against spider mites, I bought another to be safe. And when that second plant was still healthy, I bought a third. Just in case.
While scarcity is often defined in terms of economics, this sense that what we need or want is (and always will be) in limited supply punctuates more decisions than what feels comfortable to admit in my own life. Anthuriums are only in season for so long, there are only so many residencies to apply for, there is only so much good art in me to be made. But are there really, is there really?
What maybe is the most reassuring aspect of scarcity is that it is often preceded by the word artificial. We are conditioned to believe that the products of both our deepest desires and fundamental needs are not only in short supply, but also in high demand by others. A friend becomes a competitor. Accomplishments we would rather be celebrating together make the hairs on our arms stand up with the fear that their success means lesser opportunity for me. We treat abundance like mythology. At the same time, the term “artificial” erases the nuance caused by various intersecting identities and the social responses to them. Some are privileged over others, for whom resources and opportunities truly are made more scarce as late-capitalism succeeds in withholding equity by class, race, gender, and more.
During last spring’s lockdown, as with many others who were privileged to do so, circumstance demanded that I slow down. Immediately, an urgency set in telling me that this was the time I’ve always been waiting for, and as such, I must use it to the fullest. I quickly failed. It would be untrue to claim that I have it sorted now, over a year later. What has changed is mindset. What began as a forceful wrestling with the notions of productivity embedded within me is shifting - now instead a pruning, tender and cyclical, as we go from here.