In my life I have been an artist. I have been a musician. I have been a company man.
In long stretches I have been a mix - splitting my time between a corporate workplace during the day and a rehearsal space at night and on weekends.
About 7 years ago, I chose to focus on my professional career. The decision was made from a mix of fatigue, curiosity and conservatism. I was tired of falling short of what I really wanted from music (fame, if I am honest). I was curious how far “up" my talent might take me in the workplace if I devoted my energies to it. It was also the safe choice - promising a well-traveled route to income and security.
Today, I have a job with responsibility and respect. I earn a lot of money. And recently I quit. My last day comes at the end of this month. I ran out of curiosity and curiously, I found that the older I become the less willing I am to let caution and security run the show.
above: The wide world of consulting - (from top left) Boston, on-wing over the US, approaching Calgary, the frozen sea in Helsinki, Heathrow in snow, the pattern-lobby of Marriotts anywhere (this one in New Jersey), London's City Airport (a second home), Singapore... The endless carousel of airports, taxis and hotel lobbies often make travel a generic proposition.
This has led to some interesting dilemmas related to my identity.
Over the past few weeks we have been filming video segments for The Suitable World - my current art project. As I write the script outline I have been struggling to figure out how I introduce myself. I started with “I am Joshua-Michéle Ross, an American artist living in London”….
But beyond my name everything in that sentence is problematic. After years of work and an ascending set of business titles, telling people I am an artist doesn’t quite seem to fit. After living in Europe for five years - does it matter that I am an American? We are leaving London in May and will be living in France for six months before returning to California… so where do I “live”?
Whenever we refer to people we try to anchor them in the familiar. We give their nationality, their profession, where they live, perhaps some physical reference that places them in a recognizable category. Right now most of these are up in the air for me; I have quit my job, I am returning to a more artistic life, I will be nomadic for the remainder of 2015; all of this while wearing an Edwardian suit - not how I normally appear to the world.
For the video I am going with, “I am Joshua-Michéle Ross, an artist working in London” — it is a provisional solution that seems to negotiate the current tensions in my identity.
Beyond all of this I am aware of the great and very modern luxury we have to remake ourselves, to retell the story of who we are, what we do, where we live and how we appear in the world. It seems a shame not to rethink each chapter, each act and make the most of it.