“ [...] we inhabit multiple roles, positions, and labels strategically. We become a translator, a friend, an artist, a writer, a cook, a gardener, a teacher, a student, or, perhaps, an eternal amateur. For me, the word “amateur” harnesses the affective side of doing things for collective pleasure/joy while resisting the dull practice of professionalism and business as usual. Being an amateur allows me to learn through the process, instead of assuming that I always know what I am doing or that I know everything about the people I work with.”
Brigitta Isabella to Rieneke de Vries, Art for (and Within) a Citizen Scene1
Being an amateur means focusing on the process, experimentation, learning, figuring things out (together). It means playing with skills and roles as activities rather than essentializing labels, while being open to failing, again and again, and realising that there is no such thing as failure, as there are no set standards
to be met.
Even though today the word is mostly used in a derogatory fashion, it originally comes from French ‘aimer’- to love.2 An amateur is passionate, but doesn't claim expertise, doesn't reaffirm the categories created by specialisation and the alienation and separation that come along, steals from disciplines and the undisciplinary. This is probably what attracted me to art in the first place, the freedom of being able to play with knowledges from different contexts without having to adhere to academic or professional rules and confinements, to embody theory through practice and think practice through theory. This means recognizing that their separation is artificial, that the hierarchy implied between them is harmful and limiting. An amateur maintains joy and playfulness in learning and creating, which go hand in hand. This way, I find myself free to mix and merge the abstract and the concrete, the academic and the everyday, the fashionable and the outdated. The amateur refuses to settle with a fixed identity, to become graspable and marketable (as far as they can while feeding themselves), and embraces ambiguity. They describe themselves with what they do rather than define themselves with what they are.
1 Isabella, Brigitta and Rieneke de Vries. “We Sell Reality? Who are ‘we’ and what do we mean by ‘reality’?” Art for (and within) a Citizen Scene: A Look at Art Primarily Active in the Context of Daily Practices, edited by Iris Ferrer, Emily Shin-Jie Lee, reinaart vanhoe, and Julia Wilhelm, Onomatopee, 2022, pp. 125-145.
2 “Amateur.” Etymonline, https://www.etymonline.com/word/ amateur#etymonline_v_10949. Accessed 16 May 2022.