From an article by W.A. Pannapacker, who suggests that procrastination is preferable to “productive mediocrity”:
“But Leonardo rarely completed any of the great projects that he sketched in his notebooks. His groundbreaking research in human anatomy resulted in no publications — at least not in his lifetime. Not only did Leonardo fail to realize his potential as an engineer and a scientist, but he also spent his career hounded by creditors to whom he owed paintings and sculptures for which he had accepted payment but — for some reason — could not deliver, even when his deadline was extended by years. His surviving paintings amount to no more than 20, and five or six, including the “Mona Lisa,” were still in his possession when he died. Apparently, he was still tinkering with them.”
If there’s one profession that’s given license to indulge in control-freakery, it’s design. Why, then, did the Japanese industrial designer Tokujin Yoshioka leave it up to nature to decide how one of his new products, a chair, would turn out?
“Yet, then, as now, the myth prevailed that there was only ever one mainstream. We were only too happy to know that our audience existed and to hoe the row in peace. Nobody here paid that much attention to us, that’s true: no one ever thought we might make them any money, I suppose.
What grace that constituted. Not to be identified as national product: the intergalactic BFI; ZDF in Germany; MIKADO in Italy; Uplink in Japan.
This was our nation state: this was continuity. We snuck under the fence, looked for – and found – our fellow travellers elsewhere.
Here’s the thought: slice the world longways, along its lines of sensibility, and not straight up and down, through its geographical markers, and company will be yours, young filmmaker.
The Hungarian government featured drawings by Eva Zeisel as part of America’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1926.
This video was recorded in 2001, when she was 95 years old:
A few choice quotes:
“…I’m doing my work like I always did…”
“…I call myself a maker of things…”
“…novelty is a concept of commerce not an aesthetic concept…”
“…we are actually concerned with a playful search for beauty…”
“…I made the things — particularly — because I wanted to use them to see the world…”
In the past few years, I’ve migrated from being a hardcore book and research reader to avidly surfing a rather random collection of online articles, mailing lists, blogs, Facebook updates, and tweets. My writing has followed almost the same trajectory. While there is certainly something compelling about the immediacy of an online conversation and the ability to flit about like at a cocktail party, I often leave reading the web with only a vague idea of what I’ve read. It’s less like I’m reading broadly and more like I’m nibbling on a delicious collection of non-sequiturs.
For 2009, I am resolving to explore what might be considered slow food for thought, including:
Bringing synthesis and reflection to my miscellaneous web snacking activities or curtailing them.
Endeavoring to read excellent books and articles that people spent months and years thinking through and crafting into being.
Committing to writing texts that are longer than 140 characters and address more than what I’m doing right now.
Reading this got me thinking about how the dimension of time relates to size in the thoughts I explored in my post on brevity last month. The profound can arrive in tiny packages. And the mundane can be enormous.
What makes a book or a film or a symphony or even a small form like a haiku or a minuet profound is the synthesis and reflection that Paula mentions, the depth of gathered experiences that we and the artist each bring to it, and the attention to absorb every nuance of the moment in which we encounter the idea.
In other words, it’s not that Twitter or Facebook or text messages are so frequently banal because they are ‘small’ forms: it’s that they so often lack reflection, contemplation, synthesis, history — and our full attention. But there’s nothing inherent in small forms that prevents us from intensifying them through such means.
One of those is the Stroud Knitting Group, who are doing a piece called ‘Darwin’s Rejects’. Basically, it’s knitted artwork which they’re getting into various places to show. I think it’s a fantastic idea. One of the things I feel is really nice about the project is that it’s reinforcing Darwin’s ideas, but not through the usual suspects.
Another group, who make quilts, are doing a Bayeux Tapestry-style piece about the Beagle voyage. I really think those projects are gems – they’re done on very low resources, but are really creative, and I hope they capture people’s imagination.
When I was taken into hospital in 2005 and told I’d had a stroke, it felt like yet another wretched episode in the disaster that was my life. I was bedridden once more, paralysed down one side, with only a pad and pen to communicate. But on my first day, after writing a note to the nurse, I found my right hand wandering across the page. I’ve never been a doodler. The closest I’d come was copying a cartoon as a child, and I hadn’t drawn since. That’s why it was so strange. The act was unconscious; only when a nurse asked me what I was doing did I look down to see patterns all over the paper.
From then on I was waking every night at 2am and drawing until dawn. I asked the doctor what was going on and told him that it didn’t feel normal – that I’d never drawn before in my life but suddenly couldn’t stop. He explained that very occasionally, following a stroke, a person’s brain rewires itself to avoid the damaged area. Sometimes this can expose a new ability in a patient: in my case, drawing.