I'm not sure when it happened. It might have been one of the museums in New York City, which one isn't important as I packed in the Guggenheim, the Met, the MoMA, New Museum, PS 1, and a few others into the last two weeks of September. It hit me that I was not an artist, by any strict definition. What I actually care about is inspiration, improvisation, infinity, and innovation at the broadest levels. Levels that may not be confined in a particular artifact such as book or painting. Add ideas. I care about encouraging a diversity of inspirations in all manner of fields that may not fit the "art" category.
I also realized around the same time (someone else's epiphany which I just re-stumbled upon) that art is putting ideas in form. So I ended up coming full circle. As that is what I want to do... put ideas into this formscape we call reality.
I don't care if it fits in a museum, or on an iPad. Maybe it's a spaceship. Many it's a new way to exchange resources. Maybe it's a business. Maybe it's a new way of wellness (prefer that word to health). Maybe it's a new method of agriculture.
"Thomas Edison didn't tinker with building a better kerosene lamp; he abandoned the use of fire--the only human-generated source of light since prehistoric times--and broken through to a new source. That was a quantum leap in creativity. If you are the creator of your body, what is the quantum leap awaiting you?" - Deepak Chopra, Reinventing Your Body, Resurrecting Your Soul
In a nutshell, what I want to do is a lab for exploration and uncompromised inspiration.
"Lab" sounds dry, so sometimes I use the word atelier instead. Mostly it's a space for people to mingle at the hazy hunch stage of ideas. A place to discover and be bewildered by other hunches that may at first seem opposed to yours or plain odd or not particularly relevant. It's not necessarily a magnet for "like-minded" people (as often I find that limits my imagination to more of what I already know rather than exploring what I don't know that I don't know).
"There's nothing we really need to do that isn't dangerous." - John Cage
It's actually a real, geographical place too. Even with all my Internet experience (in the industry from 1995-2005), I cannot find the "form" or format that this would work online (yet?).* Although I am itching to do something right away.... so at least here on the blog, I will share wild nuances from a variety of sources, intriguing possibilities, and open-ended (not leading) questions that let you unfurl your own self-created outcomes.
"Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something." - Thomas Edison
"Messes can also be beneficial in presenting unexpected connections and juxtapositions. These often lead to new ideas, explorations, combinations, and solutions." - Keri Smith
Steven Johnson asks a most intriguing question: "What are the spaces that have historically led to unusual rates of creativity and innovation?" (Short 4-minute video with author of "Where Do Good Ideas Come From?" here.) I was really struck with the idea of richness of diversity as important factors to "good ideas". In fact, page one of Where Do Good Ideas Come From? starts with a narrative of Charles Darwin being mesmerized by the profuse bounty of species supported by the coral reefs around the Keeling Islands. Another story shares how if Johannes Gutenberg hadn't mingled outside his context with the vintners of Rhineland, Germany the trained metallurgist would "merely be a pioneering typesetter making an incremental improvement on Pi Sheng's moveable type," rather than the inventor of the printing press.
"The natural state of ideas is flow and spillover and connection. It is society that keeps them in chains." - Steven Johnson, Where Do Good Ideas Come From?
"Ideologies exclude openness, diversity, resiliency, and multiplicity, the very qualities that nourish life in any system, be it ecosystem, immune system, or social system... Ideas are living things; they can be changed, and adapted, and can grow." - Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest
I was looking for a gift for my 5-year-old cousin yesterday, and was surprised to see one of Keri Smith's journals in the children's book section (mind you, not even the independent reader part of the kiddies or YA section). I guess only one as a child would think to purposefully wreck their pristine journal, or explore the world. I plop down in an armchair with Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes. (And already cradling The Accidental Billionaires among a hefty pile in my arm. When I open The Accidental Millionaires, it falls to beginning of Chapter 21: Serendipity. Serendipity is also a chapter in Steven Johnson's book, Where Do Good Ideas Come From?)
"In the film ["Broken Fall"], there is an interview with an old Dutch sailor that sums up [Bas Jon] Ader's work perfectly. He speaks indirectly about the process of improvisation, but the connection made from it is that point of Ader's "falls" is not the falling but the moment (1/10th of a second) where he makes the decision to let go. That is the moment of transcendence when you leave everything behind and leap into the unknown.
As improvisers, artists, or experimenters, we are trying to re-create that moment--when you leave everything behind and leap into the unknown. Because we've done it before and it's addictive--that seductive release, a sense of giddyness mixed with fear [note: like a roller-coaster!]. For an instant you get a feeling that you are really doing something worthwhile, living out on the edge of something big, yet unnameable. A kind of opening (with all the vulnerability that comes with that).
We all know what it feels like to fall, but how many of us have experimented with gravity as a medium? Isn't falling or breaking things something we only do by accident? What does it feel like to throw yourself off balance on purpose?
Definition of "mistake" or "accident" (for the purposes of this book): Happenings or occurences by which the creator does not have complete control over the final outcome (end result) that result in conclusions the creator did not predict. We might also call them "experiments."" - Keri Smith, Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes
* Online, folks tend to share ideas that are already fully formulated, or something they already know pretty well (in an educational or consultative manner, a how-to). Rarely do we share wisps of half-baked visions, yet it's precisely hazy hunches colliding with one another that Johnson says is important to breakthrough creativity. Here's that short vid:
Bonus: Another video. In my opinion, this TED video doesn't do the book justice. But anyhow, at 7:23 there's a picture of a "messy" (and fruitful!) co-mingling of ideas where Johnson states: "The spaces that have historically led to innovation tend to look like this--This is Hogart's famous painting the kind of Political Dinner at a Tavern--but this is what the coffeeshops looked like back then. This is the kind of chaotic environment where ideas were likely to come together, where people were likely to have new, interesting, unpredictable collisions--people from different backgrounds... This is what your office should look like--that's part of my message here." And if anyone can tell me the name of the painter and the painting, I'd be grateful. I thought I heard Hogart, but a search yielded zip.