(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops)
It comes as a surprise at first that visual artist, Claire Zakiewicz, does not make art. She prefers to label her creative work as a practice in listening, learning and observing.
Claire and her art reside in a world called spatialised time – a wonderful place where shapes of sound, dance and drawing are related back to the material world we live in. This world exists in the crossroad between two chief species of time. Intellectual time is a purposeful sequencing of parts or events and is, therefore, affiliated with ideas composition and product. Real time, familial to ideas of improvisation and process, is the experience of these sequenced parts.
So in the land of spatialised time, Claire’s artistic house is located in a town called ‘perspectives in motion’ where the artistic system adopts a temporal focus attributable to Claire’s interest in the philosophy of the two species of time mentioned above.
In the course of one prickly affair, Claire found that the paintbrushes she was using were far to bristly and produced scanty lines – this effect was far from what she had envisaged. What does a relationship with failure look like? There are different shades of failure. Technical failure, like the brushes malfunctioning, and feeling of failure – a sense of dissatisfaction. Nonetheless, like all relationships, this one is creative. One create’s a space wherein to exist with the failure which, according to Murphy’s law, will inevitably happen.
What is worth mentioning is that failure has an important role in the element of duration. Claire resolved to refer to the whiskery brushstrokes – the technical failure – as a symbol of her emotions to the corporate shells of skyscrapers that characterised her first few weeks in New York.
Overthinking is dangerous. Claire’s approach to colour is spontaneous and usually involves picking quickly, or even asking friends to pick. Improvisation is a means of surrender, and energy is reserved for the act of becoming a character – becoming a paintbrush, for example.
Performing brush strokes is a humanistic act – it is rooted in the body.
“Follow a set of patterns, rather than have expectations”, says Claire. She finds pleasure in the surprise outcome and this is reinforced by experiments such as painting in the dark with a cellist playing in the room, or painting blindfolded among dancers and improvising poets, or painting her bear feet and dancing on paper.
Perhaps the wall between life and art crumbles when you don’t think too much. This involves a level of trust in the idea that the body knows more than the brain.
Maybe this is the big question of process : where is the end?
Then follows, when is it? What is it? Is there an end? Or must we accept the perpetual motion in life and art? Surely, we must all take note from Leonardo Di Vinci’s view that a work of art is never finished, it is abandoned.
Claire values the creative process rather than product; however, product – which connotes “finished” – is an essential part of the process. I think it is about realising the symbiosis between process and product – that the product is not the be all and end all, the process is not a smooth ride altogether.
Failure must become a friend if the artist wishes to make beauty alive and tangible in the moment.