January 02, 2022
“There is no word for art or artist in Bali[,]” notes Aviva Gold, a therapist from Arizona. “[C]reating there is a form of devotional prayer in which every person daily participates, be it a solitary sculptor, gatherings for traditional music, theater or dance groups, or the daily fashioning of leaf and flower offerings in shop entryways. The word for ‘artist’ and ‘human being’ are the same.”¹
I am always looking to expand or clean my vision for living life as art. Certainly, during ayahuasca experiences, life has been presented to me in such a way.
Art and living are the same. Art is complete living.Aviva Gold
In order to exercise and manifest art as life, I propose the following principle or rule-of-thumb “The art of…” as a way to see with a new pair of eyes, eyes that treat anything as art in the making. Anything, even the most mundane of activity can be reframed as art in process by the use of “the art of….”
“The art of…” can be a useful virus that can penetrate into anything. Work turns into “the art of work,” and exercise turns into “the art of exercise.” Nothing is immune, not even bureaucracy or psychological strife.
Something even as codified as baseball can have instances of novel art within it. Let us take for instance a pitcher. There can be a form of curve ball that can be executed in such a way that both pitcher and audience cannot help but notice a grand work of art. Perhaps that curve ball is given a name and even a date of first execution.
Along the same lines, organizing one’s room can show artistic merit. Maybe there is a detailed eye for minimalism, enhancing the gratitude for the small number of items one possesses. Maybe there is an altar in the room that is re-decorated with performativity in mind so as to express high honor.
All the aspects of life we find to be limiting or uncreative can push us to create. No matter how stratified or codified something may get, we can always create within the structure or attempt to loop the structure onto itself to create a wormhole into novelty. Borders can be expanded, re-defined, or at least tested with the use of the “the art of…” lens, bringing opportunistic vision as well as a self-authorized permission to be as wise as serpents.
From our use of “the art of…,” we can consider foremost creating out of personal resonance, and not merely as a means to feed the audience or critic. Reception from the outside world can be a side effect, whether positive or negative, which can add character and history to the art process.
Moreover, if personal resonance is in line with feeding the audience, know that two reasons something may not resonate may be due to: (1) the lack of relatability or (2) too much relatability.
In the former case, one’s art may feel so alien that there is a lack of translatability, grounding, or entry point. In this case, we can use “the art of…” onto “communication” to make the art of communication.
In the latter case, the piece may be too relatable, and may become as camouflage like water to fish. Does a fish know it is in water?
In Derek Thompson’s book Hit Makers, the balance between familiarity (relatability) and novelty (unrelatability) is what creates the most interest in the marketplace.²
From our use of “the art of…,” more and more aspects of life can turn into canvases. These canvases can form a spectrum where at one end there are strongly templated canvases and at the other, strongly untemplated canvases. In other words, one end of the spectrum will have more pre-painted canvases while the other end will have emptier canvases. Important to note is that the canvases are also endlessly shifting in degrees of clean and unclean (untemplated and templated) based on context and perspective.
There are those who may prefer creating closer to the marked canvases side of the spectrum, perceiving them as safer or more familiar. Yet others may gravitate toward the unmarked side, perceiving them as more adventurous or novel. This may play out in life when somebody prefers to follow a recipe by the book while another may deviate from the recipe or outright create their own.
The recipe follower and recipe rebel can be similar to the DJ and the musician. Both DJ and musician are artists since they both turn information into a final production. However, critics may be tempted to call the musician more of an artist due to creating a song. The musician, however, is already playing by somebody else’s tune by succumbing to musical tropes such as the use a classical instrument and the harmonic scale, phenomena which were not originally created by the musician. Similarly, the recipe rebel can be conforming to cultural food preferences or modern kitchen utensils which were also not originally created by the recipe rebel.
We can see that the degree at which somebody creates via something templated is a matter of perspective. Being convinced of not being an artist solely on perceiving oneself as a serial appropriator does not make one not an artist. The reorganizing or materializing of information is also the scope of the artist.
Marcel Duchamp’s famous readymade known as Fountain in 1917³ corroborates the view that the way in which something is shown or organized, despite being perceived as appropriation or plagiarism, can also be art. The conceptual artists of the 70s expanded this perspective by incorporating method, documentation, and especially the idea alone (stripped of materialization) as art, explosively extending the definition of art.4
Regardless of appropriation, anything we do can be viewed as unoriginal or boring depending on which angle the view is coming from. It’s better to not let the world get in the way of being one’s own best artist.
Like the Balinese, one may be hesitant to adopt the term “art” or “artist” as its implication may have already been applied without any need for any identification. Will a squirrel still be a squirrel if somebody forgets to call it a squirrel?
Some people identify as an artist in general, and some identify as a type of artist. I identify as both artist in the broad sense but also as a butoh dancer and poet. I could easily label myself as a conceptual artist or performance artist, but as a matter of personal taste, I have chosen not to, making this instance an example of the artist at play.
Some are hesitant to self-identify, perceiving identifications as too limiting compared to our greater multidimensional nature. However, identifying as something can be like putting on a costume which can serve as a reminder to keep resonating with what one is already resonating with. Identifying is choosing a costume to go with a character. In this way the identification-costume can serve as not only a starting ground for creation but a way to attract others who share a similar resonance.
The following are the key points.
- Being an artist is an attitude and a way of seeing life from the perspective of creation.
- We can use the principle of “the art of” to remind us to keep our life alive with art vision.
- All aspects of life, no matter how dull, mundane, or constraining can be material for art.
- We must foremost be receptive to our own art before trying to have others be receptive to it.
- Just because something is appropriated does not mean we cannot make art out of it.
- Art can go beyond material to the idea itself.
- We can choose to identify as any form of artist. That is part of being an artist.
There is nothing new under the sun.Ecclesiastes 1:4-11
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.Heraclitus
We are all children playing in a playground. Art, art, art, art, art! [barking sounds].
¹ Gold, Aviva. There is no word for art in Bali. https://paintingfromthesource.com/there-is-no-word-for-art-in-bali. 2022.
² Thompson, Derek. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. Print.
³ Gammel, Irene. Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002, 224-225.
4Sol LeWitt “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”, Artforum, June 1967.