Out of the Comfort Zone and Into the Fire

One of the advantages of moving is gaining new perspective in a new place. Whatever routines and stagnation you might have gotten used to or stuck in, say bye-bye, pal, they’re gone and you have to establish new ruts and habits.

One of the disadvantages is that it’s not completely safe. Case in point, I fell down a few stairs and am very, very sore. Luckily, it’s mostly bruises, both flesh and pride. Care has to be taken.

But the small risks of breakage—both flesh and dish—are worth it, since breaking the old routines and changing spaces are good food for creating things.

Holly Herndon’s Ethereal Thunder Dreams

Somebody linked Holly Herndon’s Godmother on Twitter months ago, and I was an instant convert, sorry that I hadn’t found her before. Herndon recently finished her music PhD, and her sound is a kind of amalgam of vaguely recognizable traditional cultural forms of uncertain origin. It sounds weirdly familiar, but I can’t place specific influences.

There’s an emphasis on rhythm and voice. Herndon and her collaborators pile vocal tracks atop one another in a dizzying stack, though production remains remarkably unmuddied.

There’s also something disturbing, unnerving about both songs and video. Herndon uses programmed manipulation to chop up lines, in some cases letting a trained AI feed impressions back into songs. It’s all heady and fresh, and I’m very on board.

Across the Metaphorical and Actual Rooftops

There’s one thing especially aesthetically appealing about the rooftop superheroes—Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Tick—to me: it’s a different perspective to see the world from.

This is valuable for your work, especially because it’s so easy to get stuck in routines and forget to keep trying to find new ways to look. It’s easy when you’re a kid: it’s all new and different. Once you’ve seen a bunch of the world, your internal imagery is mostly settled.

Getting on the rooftops, though, is weird and scary and strange, looking every direction. The sky seems close, the ground is all strange angles and squashed perspective, the other buildings are flattened. It’s new imagery, and that means a chance to see things in a while new way for a while. Maybe the rooftop superheroes aren’t just trying to look for criminals. Maybe they’re onto something.

Always Be Close to the Edge When Experimenting

In fact, push yourself straight over.

To clarify, this isn’t an exhortation to be “edgy,” rather that we should be looking for places and times times to be wild with the work. To boldly go, and all that jazz.

Experimenting means looking for the wild places. It’s a time to be more free. We look for moments of flow, being open to possibility. We try not to judge what appears.

Be a mad scientist of making. Fail in explosions of paper and pixels. Turn yourself into an art mutant. You know, once in a while. Who else is going to get you to the wild places but you?

We Forage for the Pieces of Our Work With Each Other

We don’t make art in a vacuum. And we don’t do it alone, either. Oh sure, we often create the specific work by ourselves, but the process involves others at some point.

And the process involves pecking out little bits of stuff important to us from a field of other things that aren’t. We find these things not in solitude, but through others sharing with us, and telling us where to look, and making things we want to look at.

These bits are the seeds and the fuel that let us grow and forge new things in the world.

Working on Noticing Things: Part One of More

One of the things about being an artist that separates you is the quality of noticing things others overlook. Seeing unusual things or ordinary things in unusual ways is a key principle in most creativity. So how do you start?

First attempts: slow and steady. Any regular route you take-to work, regular errands, family houses—tends to blur into sameness over time. We get used to the sights and sounds and stop looking, seeing what’s there.

So start with your regular route somewhere. Start expanding what you notice. Small things. Out-of-the-way things. Write them down, somewhere.

The Richness of Going Out

It’s really tempting to think we can get all the inspiration we need from books and internet. But just walking around outside provides a living window to the world impossible to experience any other way. So much more that’s unexpected is out there.

It’s partly why the experience of cinema is more than just a big screen. It’s some other place, and you don’t quite know what’s going to be around you. It’s also the difference between seeing images of sculpture or paintings and being in front of the real thing (say, Anselm Kiefer or Robert Motherwell or Louise Bourgeois). Those things fill our view. Even more so the world itself, just looking at changes on your block—or better, an entirely new block—jams a million impressions into your senses. It’s invaluable to artists.

The Littlest Adventures Come Back to Feed Your Imagination

Exploring and visiting new places is wonderful fuel for creative fires. Today, we spent some time in a completely new neighborhood, seeing what shops were around and what various apartment buildings looked like.

Coming back home, I was tired, but felt like I’d done some questing, and had new supplies and jewels of ideas to make stuff with.

Don’t discount a simple trip to a new neighborhood.

Joan Jonas’s Art Ecology Reflects the Ocean’s

Joan Jonas has an installation at Ocean Space, a new exhibition venue made to facilitate artists and scientists studying the oceans. It’s fascinating and eclectic. Jonas incorporates performance, sculpture, video, drawing, and painting into the work, which may not be fully finished till the end of its run in September.

She’s paralleling the natural ecology of the sea with a kind of ecology of artistic practice. Everything works together as a whole piece, no one element is meant to stand on its own. They feed and support each other.

Detecting From the Ending Backward

A popular trope about writing mysteries is that the author starts with the ending in mind and writing the plot back to the beginning. It’s probably not used universally, at least not any more, but there’s a bit of a corollary to other art practices.

If you have an end in mind, or a grand vision of some kind, it’s easier to start moving toward it. The hard part is when your execution doesn’t match the image in your head.

I find if I start with that kind of overall vision, I can’t stay too wedded to the original concept. It’s easy to become disappointed and discouraged by my abilities, or to realize the original ending wasn’t really that great to begin with.

The thing I’m making may be better off going on another direction, entirely. It’s mostly about creating the map as you simultaneously make the territory.