Talking to Strangers
Artistic process can be as private as anything done in the bedroom, or more so, but there is a range from intense privacy to intense inclusion that I am beginning to explore. I’ve done the private side long enough, so much so that I didn’t even want to show or sell finished work. Having moved past that and into participatory work, I feel that participation from the very beginning has become a natural part of the creation process.
Talking to strangers as early as the brainstorming stage has proven essential. I do this with the understanding that while input from people I know and respect is often valuable, that talking to people I do not know at all will give me new perspectives on things and ideas that would never occur to me otherwise and can therefore prove even more valuable. Furthermore if something I am working on excites and reaches a wide range of people- people I might not normally know or talk with as well a those I would then I must be doing something right. If I want to get at a core humanity, if I want accessibly and to really draw people in from the beginning- then I must include people from the beginning.
I have just come from an animated and intense discussion at a local cafe- one of the few not taken over by laptops- a place where people do talk to strangers. The man I spoke with was from the south, perhaps 50, black, wearing a wedding ring (I assume to he was married to a man, but didn’t ask). He came from a very religious poor family in the South that worked it’s way up, and he is now a computer engineer in San Francisco who has stood back from religion (and atheism) to take a bit of perspective. I found kinship in his intelligence, intellectual openness and general intensity. We could hardly come from more different backgrounds and still be in the US and yet we met each other in a shared space.
I think we may have talked for a good two hours, during the course of which his responses helped me to flesh out ideas for my new installation piece. I’ve talked through it with my husband, with friends and with the event coordinators, but this helped even more. I know an idea is working when it works on everyone, and when I see people outside of my usual beat making associations I was hoping for.
This whole process and interest in participatory work is part of a general shift and growth in my work. It’s about a raw underlying or perhaps overarching humanness. But that is another post.