A: I do! It is this photograph of a family matriarch filling a water jar. I don’t remember the name of the village, but it was somewhere in South India at a clay-tile-making workshop.
Walking in, I immediately stopped in my tracks. Had I just traveled back in time to some 18th century workshop? I found her appearance and demeanor extraordinary! (Regretfully, I did not ask her name). She was tiny, yet she was the boss whose authority and judgement were beyond question. After observing her move around the studio for a few minutes, I asked if I might have a photograph. She immediately struck this arresting and classic pose. I smiled to myself, “Obviously, she has done this a few times!”
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Art is mysterious because its purpose is unknown and its effect always exceeds the ends we put it to. If it is true, for instance, that nearly all human societies see the possession of artistic objects as a sign of prestige and power, it may simply be because art’s primary quality makes it a suitable sign for those who want to legitimize their authority. And while it may be the case that art ennobles us by bringing beauty into our lives, or that it conveys complex cultural ideas simply and effectively, or that it preserves the beliefs of one age for the next – again, these functions could very well follow from art’s original, mysterious, irreducible shining. Just as it is the gleam of gold that makes it precious in our eye and not its preciousness that makes it gleam, so the primary quality of art could precede all of its uses and appropriations. In other words art may be something before it becomes all the things we claim it to be.
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
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* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Most significant growth in my life has been the direct result of errors, mistakes, accidents, faulty assumptions and wrong moves. I have generally learned more from my mistakes and my so-called failures than any successes or instances of “being right.” I would venture to propose that this equation is also true in the world at large. Error is a powerful animating ingredient in political, scientific and historical evolution as well as in art and mythology. Error is a necessity. The question I had to ask myself was: how can I cultivate a tolerance and an appetite for being wrong, for error?
In the face of an exceedingly complicated world, there are too many people who are invested in “being right.” These people are dangerous. Their authority is based on their sense of certainty. But innovation and invention do not only happen with smart people who have all of the answers. Innovation results from trial and error. The task is to make good mistakes, good errors, in the right direction.
There are many reasons that we get things as wrong as often as we do. Failures of perception, the cause of most error, are far more common in our daily lives than we like to think. We make errors because of inattention, because of poor preparation and because of haste. We err as a result of hardened prejudices about how things are. We err because we neglect to think things through. Our senses betray us constantly. But the chaos caused by being wrong also awakens energy and consciousness in us. In the moments that we realize our faults of perception, we are jerked into an awareness of our humanity. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek wrote, “Consciousness originates with something going terribly wrong.”
Anne Bogart in “What’s the Story: Essays about art, theater, and storytelling
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