Is there anything lamer than quoting a David Foster Wallace commencement address to help make a point about artistic awareness?
Which I guess means I’m going to do one super lame thing today. And right after, do something else that’s super not-lame to counterbalance.
Ready for that quote?
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’
And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,
‘What the hell is water?!’
The point of the fish story is that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about…
– David Foster Wallace
As artists, working in different genres, sometimes in sub-sets of genres, sub-sets of sub-sets of genres and so on, there are lots of givens about how we work that we take for granted. There are times when the way our work is made seems so self evident that it is almost as natural as breathing the air around us.
Sometimes our working methods can be like the water.
One of the greatest gifts that came from my time a few years back as a Live Arts LAB fellow was to have the chance to talk to my fellow fellows who were dancers. There were more than a couple sessions as a group where it actually blew my mind a little to learn that some of the assumptions I make about creating were totally different than theirs. Things that I take for granted were sometimes just not part of the conversation these other amazing artists were engaging with. Sometimes things were the same but employed in different ways. Sometimes the focus and priority were radically different.
There were times these conversations reinforced my assumptions about art, made me that much more sure in why I did things the way I did. Other times it inspired me to shift my own process and just try what it would mean to create without certain conventions about narrative or structure or audience responsibility. In all cases, these conversations made me more aware of the water around me. Gave me choice about what kind of givens I was swimming in.
I finished that LAB period thinking:
“Wow. If the creative process for two mediums that are almost identical in most aspects can be so different and thought provoking, what would it mean to have this conversation with creators who are even less alike?”
“Can a visual artist teach a singer something about music? Can a chef give a dancer a chance to unseat their idea of what it means to move? Can a light designer change the way a writer thinks about their words?”
And then finally:
“I really want to find out the answer.”
And luckily, thanks to the Knight Arts Challenge, I found a means to do just that. The result is something I’m calling Cross Pollination. It’s a project that actively seeks a way to dump water all over the floor. It’s a chance to explore without the pressure of a full performance or product. It’s a chance to get paid (and reasonably well, I might add) to open up one’s horizons and cross breed with another artist. It’s a chance to find some crazy mutt hybrid mash up that the world has never seen before. It’s a chance to find out more about the water you’re swimming in.
And I’m so so so excited to begin.
Want more details? Click below. It’s all in there…
Cross Pollination Artist Application
And if you ever need to quickly get to that application without searching the blog just CLICK HERE!
And of course a HUGE thank you to the John S. and James L Knight Foundation for making this amazing project happen.