Learning about instinct from Björk and Andy Warhol
Last night, I watched two documentaries about two fascinating art heroes of mine. Andy Warhol and Björk. They reflect both sides of my artist self— shy, clever, design and dramatic, emotional, performance. Björk is my hero because she is a brilliant artist in everything she does. She is courageous, she is deep, she is alive. She respects her own art intuitively, and she teaches us how this is necessary. She makes use of her own arresting image to talk about her human experience, she does what expressive arts therapy does—she uses the material of her self, her culture, her identity, her experience of humanness, her childlike nature, her masculine & feminine energy to create new territories of culture. She combines, she tears down boundaries, she brings the dream world and the world of reality into an altered third plane that is all her own. To me this what great music does. This is what all great art does—creates something that didn’t quite exist before. It is a feeling of visiting a newly discovered planet, that is also relatable—built out of something recognizable. A planet we have never been to before, except maybe in our dreams.
Andy Warhol did the same thing, in his way. He took a careful, critical, but most importantly, celebratory look at culture, at what culture was in the process of becoming, and created something brand new out of it. He got out ahead. He put up a gigantic mirror. He dared to show us our narcissism, and his own. He made use, too, of his own body, his own wounds, his own childlike nature, his femininity & masculinity, his belief in the beauty of humanity. These are also my goals as an artist, but it seems I am much slower to arrive. Perhaps this is because I am so multi-modal, my development in each form has to be slow. It’s also because I often get stuck in my own self-doubt as an artist. I, too, want to turn everything I do into art. I too, want to make use of my masculinity & femininity & childlike nature. I too, want to break down boundaries—I too want to celebrate humanity. I feel like I haven’t quite stepped fully into my artistic voice & body, but rather than waiting, I am starting to put my voice out there before I am fully ready. This blog is for that purpose—and it is what I believe may be revolutionary about it—to expose my process, the messy process of becoming myself. To highlight my process of transformation (which happens over and over again) in the hopes that I might help illuminate your path for yourself.
I don’t believe I have all the answers, I am just willing to share my questions and my quest. I have some answers, or rather, I am in development with some answers, and those I am also willing to share—particularly in my labs and in my counseling/coaching sessions. We already have so many voices on the internet who tell us that they have the answers, the secret to humanity. (Nearly everyday I listen to inspiring TED talks, or master storytellers.) My intention is to reveal the process of getting there. (As if the process ever ends. I don't believe it does.) My intention is to expose my failures as exciting lessons. To reveal my emotions, so that it makes it safer for you to feel yours. My goal is to keep myself inspired, and in turn, keep you inspired. I want to inspire you to never give up on your dreams, to never give up on you becoming your whole self.
The word that emerged in both documentaries, but particularly from the one about Björk, was instinct. This word is not a word I use often, but now it has come happily, fully to my attention. There are a few nuanced definitions of the word, but Bjork used it in this sense: “a natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking.” (Oxford) She said that her goal in her art is to return us to our instincts. She uses her own instincts, which are highly developed because since she has been an artist since she was a young child. She has never stopped being an artist. I think this is why her art is so magical, so unreal—she trusts that her instincts will take her where she needs to go. This is the expressive arts ethos as well—we move into a deeper well of our experience in order to express the non-linear, less conscious part of our human experience. Andy Warhol used his very-well developed instincts too—his art reflects the instinctual human response to mass culture, to advanced capitalist culture. What it turns us into.
Lately, I have a similar way of looking at the purpose of art, but the word I have been using is nature. My goal being: to help human culture be more connected to nature. The nature that is already within us. Both our humanity and our animality. I am now seeing that instincts are the function of our human experience that allows us to connect to our nature. What I am also seeing now, for myself, is that it’s not enough just to have instincts, its about trusting those instincts. It’s about not doubting ourselves. The only way we can do this is to stop being self-conscious, which is to stop wondering what other people will think. To not let our projections of others' perceptions be a factor in how we move our raw material into the art space. How we shape our personal response to our unique experience. This is, by far, the greatest thing that holds me back as an artist, and I know that I am not alone. But how do we do this? How do we let go of our fear of judgment by others? How do we stop worrying about how our art will be received?
There is no simple solution, or rather, there are many solutions, and this is the question that guides how I set up my classroom laboratories: how do I create a context that helps people be free to open up to their vast creativity? One thing comes to mind: it’s about where we put our attention. If we put our attention on our experience, we are self-aware. When we put our attention on others' experience of us, we are self-conscious. If we stay focused on what we are doing, and what we are trying to express, then we won’t be thinking as much about how it will be received. Getting deeply into the work is what evaporates self-consciousness. It isn’t easy to do. I struggle with it every day. But I also work on solutions. Quitting Facebook was one of my solutions. So is writing this blog everyday. Meditating is another.
What are some of your solutions?