I've been touching on this topic for a long time in different movement classes, but recently it feels like i'm bringing it up everyday and the message is becoming more refined. Refined enough that I think it's ready for sharing publicly.
BEWARE THE THUMBS UP.
LEAVE THE BUILDING
IT NEVER MATTERS WHAT THEY SAY EXCEPT SOMETIMES
WHY CREATIVITY IS DYING
STOP MAKING THEIR ART
GET LAUGHED AT
HOW YOUR ART ISN'T YOUR ART
ARE YOU CREATING YOUR ART OR THEIR ART?
WHOSE ART ARE YOU CREATING?
I LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ALL I SEE IS WHAT THEY LIKED ABOUT ME
HOW THE LIKES ARE STEALING OUR SOULS
STOP GIVING A F***
HOW PROPS ARE STIFLING ART
As artists, we put out work for consumption. Feedback loop: put out work, get feedback, apply feedback, repeat. Often, this feedback is in the form of applause, positive or negative noises (or silences), likes, shares, comments, etc.
Until ~2015, I unwittingly built my dance style almost entirely from this feedback loop. I would do the movements that drew the most gasps, exclamations, thumbs-up, shares, etc. Not only did I chase the thumbs-up with my movement style, but also my clothing: buying the "fresh" shirts, pants, shoes, socks, jackets and hats, all to revel in the occasional props.
There is absolutely an element of fear that drives each of thee pursuits: nobody wants to walk away from a performance and have someone say "what the hell was that?", or wear a pair of shoes to a jam and be laughed at. Nobody wants to be laughed at.
But what was the result of chasing the props? I became the artwork of the masses, rather than of myself. If you are driving down the road, and every few minutes someone suggests a turn, eventually you are going to end up where that person wants you to go. Each time I allowed my style to be influenced by the props, I was making a turn. Sometimes, these turns coincided with where I wanted to go, and although I was the frog in the kettle, if you will, I can't imagine all of these turns were where I would have steered my art personally.
Also: the crowd does not know what it wants, and has no appreciation for "unfinished" works. This is one reason I enjoy practicing with movers who can see the "granite countertops" of a shabby new move before it is shiny. These people are easy to spot: they are generally giving lots of props to those artists who are "crashing" or failing a lot.
I'm absolutely not saying we should stop giving people props. Props, kind words, applause and the likes are such an awesome way to show Love and support, and I appreciate them so much as a simple human. I'm also not saying that we should completely break the feedback loop and "exit the building before the applause" after we put anything out to the world.
My hypotheses: if we can set longer term artistic paths primarily based on internal intentions and explicit artistic desires, we may be able to go further away from the "mean center". Putting this distance between us and what we think the crowds think they want can expand the size and breadth of our own artistic practices and our art form as a whole.
Except for people who are intentionally funny, and those people are the best.
The parable tells us that if you drop a frog in a kettle of boiling water it will jump out immediately in reaction to the pain. On the other hand, if you put the frog in water that is room temperature, slowly heating it, the frog will remain in the kettle and eventually cook to death.
Note: don't actually try this. That shit ain't vegan.
There are two types of observers:
Those who walk into an unfinished kitchen and think "this is ugly and unfinished" let me know when there's something to see.
And those who walk in and can see the finished product (granite countertops) even though the finished product itself may be a long way off.