There’s beauty in chaos — when the outcome is limitless, ripe with multiple interpretations. Thus is nature.
It is structure that intends to display meaning. The mind stops guessing at identification, shielded with the brain’s umbrella from the books of rain.
Certain things require definition
Stairs need to be intuitive enough to walk and up and down. However, silly putty asks to be flexed and misunderstood. Both are pieces of art, finished or unfinished.
Art requires mixing materials. The end product just needs to work, perfect or carefully disorganized.
The freedom to create is also the freedom to appear unfinished, spaces left vacant for the curious mind to fill in. “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star,” said Nietzsche.
One never overcomes the chaos — they merely live in it.
Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack:
“The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.”
But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Perhaps it was practical: as a lefty, he didn’t want to smudge the ink. As a contrarian, Da Vinci also strived to be different. As blogger Walker’s Chapters writes:
“Do you really think that a man as clever as Leonardo thought it was a good way to prevent people from reading his notes? This man, this genius, if he truly wanted to make his notes readable only to himself, he would’ve invented an entirely new language for this purpose. We’re talking about a dude who conceptualized parachutes even before helicopters were a thing.”
A lot of people never start because of the fear of imperfection. But when it comes to creating, something is better than nothing.
That something could be as little as a blog post — private or public — a diary entry, a podcast, a simple doodle, or if you prefer to speak through images, an Instagram post.
The habit of making and sharing your art builds confidence. Of course, there will always be others that want to put a dent in your endeavors but most people are encouraging.
Show up and do the work
Even more, two things happen when you show up to produce every day.
1. Your craft improves.
2. You establish an archive of work to pull from.
Once your daily practice of making art is set in the stone and you’ve kicked down the frustration barrier that prevents so many from being consistent, then you can go back and pull inspiration from your work.
“The unknown was my compass.”
New ideas will bloom from the stems of your first drafts, especially the shitty ones. You’ll start making connections and flag concepts that need further elaboration or clarification.
The best thinking emerges when you give your work time to breathe. Reflection increases the sophistication of one’s knowledge and experience.
Through this journey, it’ll start to become clear what types of trade you enjoy, what you want to be known for, and where you want to spend the most time improving.
Creativity is not rocket science. But it requires diligence, impatience with action, and patience with trial and error.
The professional shows up on both the good days and the bad days to hack away at their inner genie. There are zero shortcuts to building quality and long-lasting output.
The renowned artist, photographer, and teacher John Baldessari past away last Thursday.
Baldessari made stuff that deliberately rebelled against the principles of art.
When he read in a how-to photography guide that people should never pose in front of tree lest one appear to have an elongated head, he did just that and even more, wrote “WRONG” below the picture.
When in 1971 the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, invited Baldessari to exhibit his work but couldn’t afford to pay for his travel, he produced a handwritten note for students that encouraged them to write “I will not make any more boring art” on the gallery walls.
Baldessari enjoyed the freedom of playing with text and imagery, telling the New Yorker, “I’ve often thought of myself as a frustrated writer. I consider a word and an image of equal weight, and a lot of my work comes out of that kind of thinking.”
Baldessari never considered himself a trained artist which permitted him to stay light, sarcastic and explore everything. It was his way of saying that art can be whatever you want. “I could never figure out why photography and art had separate histories. So I decided to explore both,” he said.
I published a pop-up book of mechanical paper tech. Expanding out of This Book is a Planetarium’s pages, you’ll find: a stringed instrument, a perpetual calendar, a decoder ring, a spiralgraph drawing generator, a smartphone speaker, and—yes—a constellation-projecting planetarium. With a little tinkering, turning, and futzing: the resulting paper objects actually work! (despite of being made from “almost nothing.”)
The book was designed to showcase the potential of the material world—while making a case for the inherent educational value of lo-fi experiences.
In their clunky way of functioning, the past’s technology served this unacknowledged secondary function to humanity: These objects helped us glimpse—and therefore connect to —the magic of the physical world. By being glitchy and fussy (and by sometimes requiring manual tinkering or duct tape), lo-fi contraptions more transparently revealed the underlying laws of the world to us.
We don’t make art because we need to. We do it because we have to. It’s not just an addiction; it is therapy.
Without our work or side projects, we are an empty shell. Each project gives us meaning.
“Art is a line around your thoughts.”
Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter
Yet, the tendency to overthink our work’s value often misconstrues the act of performing it. Sometimes making stuff doesn’t need thought nor interpretation. Like laughter, it just is.
The power to take a picture, draw, run a science experiment, or just write clears the fog of perfection or the need to appease others. The end product is not always for Instagram but for us. Art constitutes our thought’s core.
The homogeneity of stuff begs our mind to make what’s unique to the person. Limits are self-inflicted. Artists are inspired individuals, especially when they are working.
What would the world look like if everyone was guaranteed a basic income?
For musician Brian Eno, that society would put a lot more emphasis on time well spent.
“Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”
Of course, not everyone can afford to remain jobless; the harsh reality is that work pays the bills and keeps us alive. But as more jobs get outsourced to robots and artificial intelligence, humans will need to renew their purpose.
What will we do when there’s no work to be done?
Work defines who we are. It forms the nucleus of our identity. However, a jobless world may encourage more innovative thinking about ourselves and our role in a secular, globalized world.
A jobless world may compel people to pursue more passionate work and adopt the vocations that choose them instead of the other way around.
In such a world, we’ll be makers instead of cogs, tinkerers instead of algorithmic lemmings. The future writes itself if we dig deep enough to see it out.
Writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote:“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life.”
The old world required that we struggle to live. When we work on something we enjoy, we smash through and settle in on what it means to live.
As David Byrne of the Eno-produced, Talking Heads sang in 1978, “If what you do ain’t what you love, then something isn’t right.”