Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Creating from Unconscious Thought

In Author: Jim Hart on September 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

Entrepreneurial Arts Training must have equal parts artistic and entrepreneurial techniques. We must invest deeply in each or one will suffer.

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

I want to discuss a phenomenon, which is one of the keys to artistic freedom and greatness. Though I give examples from theatre, it is a phenomenon that can be experienced in dance, in painting, writing or any other art form.

  • The Japanese call it Mushin.
  • Joseph Campbell refers to our brains being a secondary organ.
  • The Balinese Topeng dancer transcends present consciousness, becoming a conduit for the Gods.
  • Actors refer to this as “going up”.

This all points towards this phenomenon.

This state of mind, what the Japanese call “Mushin”, is where the gems of the creative process occur. What happens in this state is that our conscious mind ceases to attempt to control the creative process and “something else” takes over. We commit to risk. We free-fall, trusting that we will be safe, that there is a net, trusting that the words will come, that our bodies will kick in and that all of the rehearsing we have done, what the French call répétition (repeat) will enable us to let go and release.

We must learn our varied techniques to the degree that they become second nature. We must develop these skills to the point that we do not have to think about the mechanics of our technique. Ex. A master woodcarver does not think about how they are holding the chisel and hammer. They do so naturally, as a result of much practice. It is ingrained within them and no longer needs to be at the conscious level. If one is thinking about their technique, they will not be free and ultimately, their performance or creation will have a stifled quality and not be as dynamic as it can be.

Each of us understands what an impulse is and what it feels like. I like to refer to impulses as being the lighting-quick voice in our heads that says, “Do this. Do this”. In the words of my college theatre professor at SMU, Dale Moffitt, typically, there is a second voice that arises, which he calls, “The watcher at the gates of the mind”. This voice tells us, “Don’t do that. You aren’t doing that right. Everyone is judging you. You aren’t good enough”, etc. It is our job to push this voice down and listen to the constant stream of creative impulses—and here is the trick—to do so without first judging them or being fearful of them.

Often, when creating, we are “mind-full” of external and internal matters, which restricts our ability to create in a fluid, dynamic fashion. To arrive at this state of creating from a place of unconscious thought, we must focus deeply, in an outward fashion and allow ourselves to turn our “minds” off. Using theatre as an example, we cease to be mindful of the audience, of our lines, what action we are sending, the agent or casting director in the audience, etc. Instead, we focus so completely, that all of that fades out of consciousness and we begin to create from “another place”.

Typically, an actor who has “gone up”, only realizes that they have entered this state of consciousness, once they fall out of it. Typically too, one is not entirely aware of the minute choices they made within the moment of this state, as they are no longer observing and controlling, but have released and become a conduit.

It has been my personal experience that when a performer enters this state, the audience cannot help but be sucked in. People, after the show, will often talk about “that moment”, as being amazing. It is during this state, that one expresses “truth”–or so much as can be expressed in the creation of illusion.

The great irony is that if one tries to get to this state of consciousness, they are guaranteed to not get there. Why? Because they are controlling the process. This place is achieved when we free-fall, when we get out of the way of ourselves. We get there by trusting that all of our technique is there, that we are going to be safe, by accepting the inherent risks (which typically translate to mean potential embarrassment). The greatest way to get there is to invest completely in play. We must play as children do.

Surely each of us has engaged in some creation, where we are so engrossed in the process that we lose track of time and find that hours have flown. This is the land of Mushin.

Play is the reason we do what we do, as artists, yes? We can convince ourselves, and others, about all of the higher ideals and purposes we have, being the real reasons we create (social change, to enable others to have catharsis, etc), but the real reason, at its base level, is because it is fun. It gives us bliss. That is why we artists do what we do.

We have fun playing King Lear and tearing at the heavens. We have fun playing Hamlet and experiencing a range of emotion in a few hours that few people experience in a year.

Play, bliss, joy is the way. Controlling, intellectualizing, playing technique, being too mindful is the problem.

Let yourself free-fall. Believe me—there is a net. Once you experience Mushin, if you have not already, you might, as I have, make this state of consciousness, freedom of expression and release the goal and the measure to which you strive in all creative processes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. — Carl Jung.

This is such a wonderful quote and is one of the keys towards finding ones voice as an artist.

Many artists fall into the trap of either imitating their favorite artists (attempting to serve as a cheap imitation of greatness) or by sticking too fast to their technique training they received in school. Remember that programs (meaning institutions educational offerings) do what they are called. They “program” students. It is very easy for artists to take the technique their teachers offer and become dogmatic about it, as though they have “found the answer”. Artists need to be careful that they do not fall into the trap of being “cookie cutter”.

When I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I could easily tell which actors graduated from Yale, which from Juilliard and which from NYU. This is because the actors were products of their learning…of their programming and often behaved in relatively typical fashions. To the trained eye, it was easy to see.

Prior to going to graduate school, I was told by a friend and respected actor to be careful. He said, “Do not let them iron out what makes you unique”. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but view that advice now as sage.

Finding ones voice means finding ones own technique and aesthetic. An artist’s job is to experience technique as one would a buffet. Try everything. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it is not right for you, spit it out. What is ultimately your technique should be what works for you, personally. If you are like most artists of innovation, this technique will be a patchwork of many influences–not just one approach of one or two institutions.

Technique is just a means to and end. Technique is simply a series of tools that generate a result. Certainly, technique liberates art and the more talent one has, the more technique one needs. But, technique is meant to be learned and then forgotten. The function of technique is to give an artist a starting point and then a sense of freedom. It can also serve as a fallback measure when all efforts seem to be failing in the creative process.

I have no regrets about my educational choices and would likely repeat them, if the opportunity arose in another lifetime. But, it has taken me years to get away from my “programming” and to find my unique voice.

Encouraging artists to find their voice and making such practice a key element of training needs to become standard offering in arts education. Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts will do this.

How does one find their unique voice? Well, one won’t find it in most educational environments. It requires experimentation, personal meditation and assessment and can only be discovered by the artist themselves.

Here are some tips I have found useful in discovering my own voice, which I would like to share.

  1. What do YOU love? As Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. Don’t approach answering this question, based on what you think you SHOULD love. What do you, personally, love? Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, would call this your “bliss” and he would encourage you to “Follow your bliss”. What do you most like to think about? What gives you joy? What ideas do you like to play with? What thoughts cause you to lose track of time?

  2. Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?

  3. Make Choices. The blank canvas and the sheer number of choices available overwhelm many artists. Just make choices. You can always change them later. Make a choice and then make another and then another, etc.

  4. Know your history. Unless you know what has been done in the past, you are likely ignorantly imitating forms of past and present. If you know what has been done, you know if you are doing something new.

  5. Surrender a need to be “right” and “good”. Ibsen was not “Ibsen”, prior to years and years of personal development. Greatness comes with time. Give yourself time. Remember:  There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only what you create. What you create today will likely be different from what you create tomorrow. So, forgive yourself if you appear to be an ugly duckling at first. Most first efforts are not products of genius.

  6. Steal from greatness. Nobody creates on an island. We are each products of experience and external influence. There is nothing truly original and all ideas are a mixture of other people’s ideas, whether we consciously realize it or not. So, if you see your heroes doing something stunningly effective and you would like to play with that idea, choice or medium, do it. Who are your heroes? What about them inspires you? If you are into a particular artist, what about that artist makes your heart race? Be specific. Make note.

  7. Have courage. Most peoples social programming (what they have been taught is right and wrong, their social values and what they are told to do and think they “should” be doing) gets in the way of freedom of expression. We need to access our stream of creative impulses (as crazy, dark, weird or foreign as they may be) and to follow those without fear or judgment. Don’t judge your choices, as this is a form of self-censorship and does not lead to artistic freedom.

  8. Synthesize your interests. Do you have numerous interests and talents? Do you find you struggle to dedicate your energies in just one area, which causes you to neglect your other interests or passions? Find ways to synthesize those varied interests. In doing so, you will feel more whole as an artist and person.

  9. Play with your ideas, as a child plays with a new toy. Experiment. Jump off the cliff and see what your ideas generate. But, if you are truly experimenting, know what the experiment is and use a scientific-type structure. Otherwise, you are just “playing experiment”.

  10. Allow your freak flag to fly. New ideas are typically, at least at first, rejected by the general populace. The more innovative and different the idea, the more rejection the creator will likely receive…until it is proven successful. Then the idea will be embraced by all as common sense.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. —  Arthur Schopenhauer

Finding your unique expression, form, medium or aesthetic as an artist will lead towards greater originality, potential innovation, potential happiness and artistic satisfaction. More importantly, you just might contribute towards your culture and cultural forms in profound ways.

Summary: Cast off the cookie cutter programming and embrace the Freaky Flag.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway.  www.harttechnique.com

To contact Hart, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 25, 2009 at 9:32 am

“Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is”.

This old German proverb hits the nail on the head.

Fear is the great “mind number”. This emotion, more often than not, is the greatest obstacle that prevents us from achieving our goals, dreams and potential. What this means is that our downfall or lack of success is largely of our own making and, thus, within our own control.

Overcoming of fear is what the Mythic Structure of the Journey of the Hero is about–or rather, Fear and Doubt. But really, just fear, as doubt is a derivative of fear.

The fear we often anticipate, when encountering new experience, is almost always greater than the peril the actual experience brings. In brief, we can work ourselves into a tizzy, fearing the unknown and “what might happen”. Our imaginations create monsters under the bed and in the closet. But as adults, we know that those monsters and wolves are not really there. They are self-generated.

Here is a question for you:  In beginning a process of change, when you feel fear, what is it that you are afraid of?

If you are like most, it is the UNKNOWN. But let’s think about this for a minute. Do you ever really know what is going to happen next? If you live a predictable life, you can predict what is to happen next (and sometimes even with some certainty), but you never really know. Life is a mystery. The other thing that most people fall into the trap of, is fearing failure, embarrassment, humiliation. These words translate to mean JUDGEMENT. People will always judge–for good or bad and such judgements we have no control over. Besides, is that a valid reason for surrendering dreams and potential? Fear of the unknown (which is life) and judgement (which is inevitable)?

Letting other peoples’ judgement affect our actions is a giving over of our own power and authority to others. Why should they have that sort of authority? We each have the potential to be the makers of our own destinies and are each far more powerful than most of us even realize.

How do we overcome our fear? Experience.

Experience brings perspective and knowledge.

How do we gain experience, even though our hearts race with fear and our fight or flight mechanism is saying, “Run”?      Here it is:    Just keep going.  Go through the experience.  Allow the fear to be present and just keep going.

When we enter a spook house during the Halloween season, we are confronted with all sorts of intense stimuli. People jump out at us, we see scary sites, our fight or flight mechanism is engaged, etc. But as any person who has been to such a horror house knows, if you just keep going forward, you inevitably exit out of the house and into the cool night air, away from the illusion of mayhem.

The trick is to not just stand in place in a state of shock or to retreat to supposed safety (away from our destination or goal), but to keep going forward, putting one foot in front of the other.

Entrepreneurial Arts Training teaches artists how to succeed, despite overwhelming obstacles and teaches, via experience, how to overcome our greatest obstacle of all–our self-imposed fears and the obstacles we create for ourselves.

www.harttechnique.com

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA). In the autumn of 2010, ACPA will open doors in Austin, TX. To learn more about the educational offerings, contact Hart at jim@harttechnique.com