Where once the realization that most things I’ve thought have been thought by others before me was disheartening; it is now comforting. And last night, while attending a conversation series focused around the theme of Influence, I was both enamored with the genuine engagement with which each artist approached the question of influence and surprised at the repeated thread of connection between art and life. The four artists that shared their interpretation and experience of influence in their work, Peter Ksander, Mizu Desierto, Michelle Fuji, & Linda Hutchins (learn more about the artists and the conversation series by clicking here!) are all involved on some level with performance, and I found their insights and experiences to have a further influence on my own thinking.
While my engagement with performance is more intellectual than embodied, the influence and power of performance when it comes to exploring what’s possible has had a lightning-like impact. In many ways, my willingness and excitement about writing and especially the revision process where I spend time honing and rediscovering and deepening my engagement with what I’m trying to say come from the interdisciplinary influences, both artistic and academic, that I've allowed into my life.
In writing, it is easy to think of the finished product (poem, essay, or story) that results from our bursts of inspiration and hours of work that go into crafting that finished piece as the art, but what if we also borrow some insight from performing artists? What is possible when begin to look at the process of writing as a type of performance? At revision as a type of rehearsal where we inhabit the form and learn more about what it is we are trying to do?
I was intrigued by Peter Ksander’s mention of his lists of influence as a form of taxonomy, by Linda Hutchins use of every experience as a chance to see what marks that experience might create as a drawing, by Michelle Fuji’s discussion of lineage as something she has both a deep respect and appreciation for and also a need to separate from, and by Mizu Desierto’s statement about continuing her influence by asking how she can live a more artful life.
This week, I know my thinking and writing will partly explore my own taxonomy, the marks of my own experiences, my own lineage, and how all of that might come from prior influence. How it all might influence today, my next project, my next conversation. That it will be less about a craving for something unique and more about engagement with all that I have taken in.
The conversation series, in process, is curated by Hand2Mouth, a local theater company whose productions (Uncanny Valley which I saw in 2010 and My Mind is Like an Open Meadow which I saw in 2013) I have greatly enjoyed. In the midst of all the artistic happenings in Portland, this company’s calendar is one that I like to keep my eye on!