This book was mentioned in Cal Newport’s “Deep Work.” So far I’ve only read the first bits, but it does offer a fresh view of the power and privelege of making actual material things. Continue reading Shop craft, as soul craft…
So, “Deep Work” by Cal Newport is the most influential book for me this month. I was hiking along the beach, and the chapter I was listening to, was about a person who had a career in a tech industry, burned out, eventually honed the skill to be an artisanal blacksmith. He had delved into historical techniques for purifying & forming metal.
There was a vivid description of his forging a sword blade from a small ingot of metal and rendered, and it captured the intensity of working with metal, and having the risk that if you hammer just a bit too hard and your work is cast asunder.
That resonated with something I read once about craft: “Craft, is the predictable manipulation of material to create an object, and the deeper aspect, is when, regardless of your experience level, you’re on the edge of feeling that it is all about to blow apart. (I’m putting my own words to concepts I read in David Pye’s “The Nature and Art of Workmanship,” a book that clarified the essence of what it means to craft.
Newport draws a clear distinction between two types of work: deep work and shallow work.
Deep work is defined as:
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate (page 3).
Shallow work is:
Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate (page 6).
For the seventh year, students of Visual Thinking were asked to make a project called, “Organic Assemblage,” inspired by one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy. Continue reading Inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy
When doing nothing is doing Everything…
Showing a film called Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art to my Visual Thinking students last week, inspired me to start planning a trip to some of these remote large scale creations.
The list begins with a reservation for Walter de Maria’s LIGHTENING FIELD in New Mexico, on to the Great Salt Lake for Smithton’s SPIRAL JETTY, and then Heizer’s DOUBLE NEGATIVE in Nevada. It makes sense to mix in National Parks, roadside oddities, and whatever else turns up in my research.
Looking forward to further inspiration at the LACMA exhibition of the historic Dwan Gallery, which opens March 19th. Virginia Dwan was a key supporter of these projects, and many others.
I was chomping at the bit to get on the road, but had to wrap up some client things. I wanted as much freedom and impulse as possible, so I only had my reservation for The Lightening Field on May 9th. I booked that on February 1st at 5am. Waiting those 5 hours past the reservation opening meant I barely got in.
I was sure that whoever else got up to make a reservation for the cabin would be interesting; some sort of Art Fanatic, for sure.
It has been 5 years since my last vacation. I hope I never wait that long again. Thanks to Yelp and the Priceline App I was able to travel well, never booking a room or campsite more than a day or two in advance. My first two nights at the painfully hip Moxy Hotel in Phoenix were at a 72% discount. It was strategically located near a James Turrell Skyspace that I hadn’t seen before.
Turns out I had the Air Apparent (even geniuses making awful puns) all to myself, and it was a quarter mile from the Moxy. Arriving at dusk the stone/metal perimeter bench was surprisingly comfy. I liked the detailing of this site specific artwork, and I think much of that was due to the aesthetic of a brilliant Arizona architecture, Will Bruder.
With regard to creative energy, respect that it comes and goes. In a way, I think it is good to not try to be to disciplined. In times when we need peace, or have a lot going on in other parts of life, it is important to have faith the urges to make / write things will always return. (Once in my 20’s I got a Fortune Cookie that read, “Art is your Fate; don’t Debate.”)
It’s like these floating Kelp leaves, the sea washes them this way, and that way, but they remained anchored to the floor of the sea, with their poetically named “Holdfast.” The base keeps them stable, but the plant grows. In prime conditions they can grow an astonishing two feet per day.
We just finished a project in the Visual Thinking classes in which students first have a visceral experience of The Night, then make an artwork or presentation that might evoke the emotions of the experience in others. That got me thinking about Experimental Travel. The book and site propose some strategies give priority to chance discovery over comfort and predictability.
Here is a big list of options for travel experiments.
I think I’ve done this intuitively, and once, on the most luxurious tours I will ever take, or coach got lost in a Vineyard which nearly gave the driver a heart attack, but which made me laugh more than anything else on the swanky trip from Barcelona to Paris.
Famous for the treadmill choreography in one of their earlier videos, Ok Go take things to new heights in this music video filmed in zero gravity. I’ve only looked at his once, but it seems almost impossible this could have been created in one take.
Certainly it epitomizes a crazy sense of freedom. I love the interlocked flight attendants rotating down the aisle, the suitcases releases colorful balls though out the cabin, and then literal flow when they start smashing paint filled balloons in the cabin.
I have no idea what the source was, but somewhere I once read that despite the stereotype of Buddhism being about a peaceful acceptance of what is happening, this believer said at its core, the Buddha focused on Freedom + Surprise.
Hmm. I’ll have the to research that a bit, since it sounds a bit like something I might have invented.
If this was never said in the name of the Buddha, it certainly fits the life of an artist. No one wants a negative surprise, but since adventurous travel is to me a great parallel of what it feels like to make art, and both involve occasional disasters somehow mingled with feels of joy, surprise and invention.
I use the element of surprise in my course structure. Not to be in control (I hope), but because breaking routines (lecture, reading assignment, quiz, most of which seldom happen in my Visual Thinking classes) I can maintain a higher energy level for my students. They are uncertain about where we may be headed. Again, there are the nice boring trips which can be really relaxing, the luxury tour, with a night spent at something like a Ritz Carlton, and then there is the sort of travel that keeps us on our toes.
As travel writer, Paul Theroux said, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they are going.”