Melbourne-based choreographer-director Bagryana Popova and I joke that we only ever make one work (for the record, mine is about death and memory, hers is about power and solitude). The joke does bite a bit though, and reminds me of just how difficult it is to: 1) confront difference, and 2) actually change. Here’s W.H. Auden in The Age of Anxiety as a reminder that this is not a new problem:
It’s about change, and a confrontation with change.
We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.
How can artists create the conditions by which difference and change are even vaguely possible? We tend to use the word influence as part of a process of shaping that goes on in our development as artists. Influence has a softness about it – as if we are occasionally caressed by another – rather than the crack of change.
Why might I want change?
In part I think it’s about boredom with recycling the same ideas (be they mine or an other’s). The confrontation with difference that might elicit change is stirring and difficult, and it forces me to recognise things about myself and others that I don’t like, or that don’t register within the safety of personal identity.
These things sound like ideal situations for making something a little less recognisable (even if only to one’s self).
Addition 10 April 2013:
“Everyone was trying to give up European aesthetics,” he recalled, meaning Picasso, the Surrealists and Matisse. “That was the struggle, and it was reflected in the fear of collectors and critics. John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.”
— Robert Rauschenberg from his NY Times obituary
- Auden, W. H. 2011. The Age of Anxiety. Princeton University Press. ↩