Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘dance’

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

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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

Is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 4, 2009 at 6:30 am

A lot of people define their sense of self, based on what they do for a living. Artists are notorious for this. They think of themselves as, “I am an actor” “I am a dancer” “I am a writer”, etc.

Tricky thing about such a line of thinking is that if you are not working, what are you then?

Most Americans will have 6 careers in their life.

Many Americans have up to 6 careers in their lifetime.

Defining one’s identity via what one does can lead to identity crises over time.

Certainly, most of us ask what it is we want to do, numerous times in our lives. I have heard that many Americans will have up to 6 careers in their lifetime. This further illustrates that we are all in a constant state of change.

Of course, each of us “is” more than just what we do. Still, many artists feel so passionately about the work they create, that they identify themselves strongly with their art. In such cases,  I encourage the individuals to not just identify themselves by the type of medium they practice, but, as Artists–creative artists, at that. One may be a creative artist who acts or paints or does photography or…all of the above.

I believe that artists are artists are artists. Every artist creates from the same place
–we simply have different tools to express ourselves. Some of us use our bodies, some film equipment, some computers, etc.

Mastering technique in one form or discipline will enable one to pick up other mediums of artistry. When we hop mediums, we need only learn the new tools or “rules” of the medium.

Another tricky thing about identifying oneself as, say, “an actor”, is that it can cause the artist to mentally rule out other possibilities and potential–like writing or directing, teaching or producing.

Nearly everyone in the field of theatre, began in an acting class. Acting classes are the window into the medium. Many leave acting to pursue directing, design, producing, writing, technical theatre, stage management, etc. Once again, change is represented. One who begins in an acting class and discovers a passion for directing or design is not a “failed actor”. They are creative artists who direct or design.

Most artists today cannot afford to think in such a limited fashion. There are not enough professional opportunities to do so. The markets are over saturated. We need to be teaching our artists to have “a wider directional perspective”. Rather than thinking about what opportunities exist in a narrow sort of thinking, (ex. Do these few things, via these few paths to find work in your medium), we need to teach them to broaden their perspectives and ask the question, “What can I do with my skill sets”? What opportunities exist? Where are there needs to be filled? What gives me joy? What are ALL of my interests? How do I synthesize my many interests, into a single endeavor?

Such a line of thinking and practice will lead to more artists with unique voices. New aesthetics will emerge. Greater innovation will occur and these students and graduates will dramatically increase their potential to make a living via their creativity.

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