Monday, January 24, 2011

A slow hunch

For my post today I wanted to reflect upon a portion of a talk by Steven Johnson, not the whole talk but just one portion.  The whole talk is about where good ideas come from and where creativity and innovation exist.  I would highly recommend watching the video, like most ted talks is it about 18 minutes long. He talks a lot about the english the coffee house and how coffee played such a big role in the enlightenment. Good stuff.  But what I wanted to talk about for a few moments starts at 9 min 30 sec.  Johnson talks about what he calls the "slow hunch".  An idea that is not a eureka moment but it is something that exists underneath or behind other ideas for years.

Link to VIDEO

In the coming months we will have great discussions at Art for Lunch. One will be on tattoos one on higher education, but the one that I think I am getting most excited about is about unforeseen visions.  All of the art faculty and staff are going to be discussing ideas that never came to fruition.  So often I look back on my sketchbooks and come across ideas, or images of ideas that have never come to the workbench but have been peeking in and out of my work for some time.  The exhibition "Bookends or Lapjoint" that Darrell Kincer and myself had at the TUSKA center at UK has really set with me in terms of reflection.  It was so interesting to look back and see so many threads I had not seen before. My first performance works dealt with chairs and then no chairs for 5 years. In graduate school I start making performative chairs and some prints about chairs as containers.  Chairs leave for a few years and then I start making chairs as a form of portraiture and hiding things in chairs from Goodwill.  Chairs leave for a few years and my little girl Olive asked me to draw with her and I start drawing a chair, my wife comments "Why is it when anyone asks you to draw something you draw a chair?"

I think there is something I connect with in chairs that has been under and behind so many things.  But I would also like to look at the word DRAW in her comment. A large part of my work for some time (and to some degree still to this day) dealt with the concept of the drawer.  The word drawer has three basic definitions.
1) A sliding box that disappears and is used to "organize" objects for concealment
2) A person that pulls liquid for consumption (when a bartender pulls a beer on tap he acts as a drawer)
3) A person that drafts or illustrates

So when my wife say "Why is it when anyone asks you to draw something you draw a chair?" the first time the word draw was used I heard definition number three the second time she used the word I heard definition number two.  I immediately thought, because chairs have been under things for so long that when pressed for something to create chairs are always there, they may look different every time they surface but they are something that refreshes and reflect other ideas due to their existence, their agitation in my tank.  Looking back on the exhibition at UK it was also interesting to see how some of the influences to my work that had a longer incubation period had no better result, just a different one.  I also had some funny flashbacks to the first real exhibition I ever had.  The show had was myself and a ceramics student and at the last minute he said he was only putting in three works (the space was a bit bigger then the anne wright wilson gallery) I ended up having tons of work in the space to make it work (as it has been a struggle of mankind for some time to fill empty spaces). When I asked a professor of mine what they thought of the show she said with a biting tone "Look at me I am Daniel Graham I can do prints, I can do glass, I can ceramics, I can do sculpture" I found it funny to look back on the show at UK and the position I have here at Georgetown with her words rolling around in my head.  (This professor I speak of I have lots of stories about and she was a stable enemy of mine for a few years. As life has it we are now friends and she was actually in the imprint exhibition and is coming to Georgetown as an artist in our gallery in the coming years.)
I have started to think of this "slow hunch" not only as a method of idea formation but also as a formation of character.

There does exist a danger with things that exist in an undercurrent.  To often I see artists and students that create what is comfortable, they always go back to the same thing.  I see students miss opportunities for growth and I see them making the same things when they leave as when they came in.  Some would argue that being aware of your habits and tendencies is a good thing, some would say it taints.  I personally think it is a good thing.  What do you think?

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