Part of what I want to create for The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre, beyond what Erika so delightfully expressed recently in her last post, is to not only create an “example” for future labs, but a creative culture. How we do something often is as important as why we do something or what we are doing. Why is the motivation, what is the end result, but how is the action. While, what happens in the lab will change from project to project and the reason why will evolve over time, I feel the biggest thing I can do to leave a mark for the future is to establish the how.
Words are so important and mysterious.One person can communicate an idea ten different ways and mean the same thing, but communicate a different thing each time. Two people can use the exact same word, but mean two completely different things by it.That’s what makes collaboration so difficult and exciting. Sixty percent of our energy is spent just trying to be understood. But in the process of trying to be understood we communicate new viewpoints and expose each other to different worlds. Part of what we are doing for the lab is to build a common vocabulary to use on Bombs, Babes, and Bingo. In the process of building this universal language, we get to choose our words carefully and specifically to encompass our different perspectives into one powerful word of shared meaning. In the same vain I hope to build a vocabulary for the future of our lab work that can be used project to project. Here are a few examples of that:
Good and Bad are bad.
Words like these symbolize subjective judgment and limit us. We all want to be “good” so we will do exactly enough to be “good”.But that limits us; it doesn’t leave room for growth or the chance at being “great”. When you hear good and bad, you don’t want to take risks. And risks are where the great stuff comes from.
Instead the better vocabulary to use is works and doesn’t work. There is no qualitative judgment there. If something doesn’t work, there is another opportunity to try again. When something is bad, well shit, might as well quit. A small change of vocabulary can end up being a strong positive force.
Failure is success! We live in a world with so much pressure and when you step on the stage with people looking on it only mounts more. From a young age we are trained to fear the all might F on the report card, and now that we are adults we are afraid of getting an F in the biggest class of all, life. Obviously we were too busy worrying to notice our lessons from history class. The greatest successes have been built on failure. Science is littered with this lesson. Plastic? Penicillin? Came from failure. Heck, in the scientific method failure is the expected outcome, you simply go back to your hypothesis and retest, learning from each failed attempt. Van Gogh was a failure, but succeeds in enticing people with is expression even today. Why would it be different for us? We must learn to embrace failure and see it not as the end point of effort, but the starting point of another attempt. The most wonderful discoveries come from the hardest struggles. Success becomes less rewarding the less you fail.
When making art, especially in collaborative art, we must take ownership, but own nothing. It is a bit of a paradox, own everything and nothing. It all depends on definition. In our European western tradition we think ownership implies the absolute right of control over an object, to posses it. But that is an illusion.The sun is still going to rise on that “land” of yours, and the ants are still going to live in your back yard. Yes, even if you get pest control and you put up an awning, they both will come back given enough time. You can no more posses an idea as a piece of land. Native Americans struggled with this concept of “ownership” when the Europeans came to this North America, because they understood a different definition. This other definition is the idea that ownership is an investment, a responsibility, and a commitment. When we “own up” to something we don’t force our will on it, we associate our selves with it. It’s a reflection of what we value and in turn gives us our identity. We can’t control the inevitable changes in the world, but we can control how we invest our ownership.
Conflicts occur in collaboration when you start owning ideas, concepts, and thoughts. They may of come from you and are your baby, but once uttered they are no longer yours alone.So why waist the energy trying to posses the uncontrollable? Instead focus that same energy into an investment of ownership. Own what you do and your actions. Don’t own things that were never yours to begin with. Own everything and nothing.