For years these words were on my website about what I want for my clients and myself:
- Following our deepest purpose and direction in life
- Saying “Yes!” to our unique talents, potential, and creativity
- Breaking through obstacles that hold us back
- Living passionately and experiencing life as a work of art
Life as a work of art
This one’s got my attention today. Because as much as I love the idea of it, it comes across as a bit inflated to me now.
Maybe that’s because when I think of a work of art, I remember those grand moments standing in front of a Van Gogh or Picasso. An evening of theatre, mesmerized by John Malkovich or Brian Stokes Mitchell or Estelle Parsons. Finishing a book, perhaps by Willa Cather or Dickens, and wanting to read it again immediately.
Transcendent experiences. All of them. Extraordinary.
Yet our days, our lives, are more often ordinary than extraordinary.
Waking. Eating. Working. Shopping. Exercising. Feeding the dog. Reading. Doing the laundry. Sleeping.
In truth, the art of our lives is made up of many small, ordinary moments.
So how do we find the extraordinary in the ordinary?
Inspiration from an unlikely place
You may not have heard of him, but Jerzy Grotowski knew something about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
He was a Polish actor and director born in 1933. And he worked relentlessly to peel away the extraneous layers of theatrical construct that intruded between actors and audience. His quest was to get a performance down to its essence, just what was needed.
All the bells and whistles of other mediums like film and television weren’t for him. Instead, he set out to reduce rather than enlarge the theatrical experience, presenting it in its purest, simplest form:
Grotowski began to ask himself what theatre really was. What, he wondered, was essential to its production? His answer was simple: space, actors, and spectators. That was all. Theatre could be performed without props, without orchestras, without makeup, without lighting, even without a stage. But, “it cannot exist without the actor-spectator relationship.” This stripped down theatre he called the Poor Theatre (Richard Brestoff).
It’s been said that Grotowski’s work aroused people to access deep levels of feeling. The paradox here is that by focusing on what was most basic to his art form, he found elegance in simplicity. He reached for transcendence.
And that, I suspect, is how we truly live life as a work of art.
Toward a poor art form
What’s your art form? Writing? Painting? Performing? Maybe it’s parenting, or the work you do. Or perhaps it’s the whole deal – living life as a work of art.
Whatever it is, when it’s stripped down to its most ordinary, it becomes an act of extraordinary meaning making.
A few questions for the day
How would you describe your life’s art form?
What is essential to its production? (Remember, the answer is probably something very simple.)
What are the things your art form can do without?
This post was recycled with fresh art for Art Every Day Month 2012. Comments are closed since I’m on vacation.
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