Category: Art

Our Abundant Creativity

In section 38 (“Hoarding is Toxic”) of his book The Practice, Seth Godin writes:

“Hoarding your voice is based on the false assumption that you need to conserve your insight and generosity or else you’ll run out of these qualities.”

Scarcity mindset at its finest. I recognise it in myself almost every time I post here. “Could I save this for a book instead?” “What if someone steals this?” Well, as Austin Kleon teaches us, theft goes on all the time in art and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But at the heart of these worries is the fear that if I give away these ideas nothing else will replace them. The well won’t fill back up again. And yet that’s never been the case. Sure, sometimes it’s not as full as I would like, but the well always fills back up. How can it not? I’m alive aren’t I?

Seth again:

“Abundance multiplies. Scarcity subtracts. A vibrant culture creates more than it takes.”

Amen to that.

Leonardo’s Hands

“[David] Hockney valued painting because of the medium’s relationship to time. According to him, an image contained the amount of time that went into making it, so that when someone looked at one of his paintings, they began to inhabit the physical, bodily time of its being painted.”

Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

The original Mona Lisa lies in The Louvre behind bulletproof glass. I imagine if I stand before it one day I would feel Leonardo’s presence because his hands touched that very canvas.

Compare that with a copy of the painting we might find on Google Images. For a start, in the digital realm of the internet nothing is physical so we automatically lose the “physical, bodily time” Odell spoke of. Also, in that disembodied realm, we can make infinite amounts of copies, which begs the question: do we, with each successive copy, depreciate the value of the original?

Fresh Astonishments

Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974
By Stephen Shore

Photography to me is like haiku. They both draw their power from what they evoke or imply because a photo can only show so much and three lines can only say so much. I don’t feel their forms are impoverished because they could say or show more. Photography doesn’t need to be film and haiku doesn’t need to be a novel. All forms have their merits.

In an article in The New Yorker (where this post gets its name) Peter Schjeldahl says Stephen Shore’s photography is subliminal, understated and, quoting Walt Whitman, artless. Whitman recommended poets adopt “a perfectly transparent, plate-glassy style, artless” and this reminded me of Cor van den Heuvel’s introduction to The Haiku Anthology when he said:

Haiku, for the reader, is wordless because those few words are invisible. We as readers look right through them. There is nothing between us and the moment.

Artless. Wordless.

I’ve been a fan of Shore’s photography since I discovered him years ago because his work reminded me of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. The father and son in that story journey through midwest America to reunite their family and the towns they stop off at along the way are just like those in Shore’s work. (They may be the very same places.) When I see those photos I feel the melancholy of Paris, Texas and like haiku those photos always stay fresh because they’re incomplete and I, who completes the poem by reading it or the photo by viewing it, am a different person each time.