Tuesday is one of my Wolverhampton days. I often feel that I don’t do much actual ‘creating’ when I am there. I sit in my corner of the studio on the 7th floor of the art building and think. I think a lot. My brain is busy when I am there. My hands perhaps less so.
Today is Tuesday, and as I write this, I am sat in my corner thinking about questions. I’ve been wondering why there are so many questions around my head at the moment. When I started thinking about this topic (it’s been a busy day), one of my fellow students was wondering around thinking out loud and sounding out her ideas to anyone around (a lot of this goes on in an art school – it’s all part of the process). She is at that stage in her art when she has an idea, but no concrete plan yet. She was full of questions about what she could do next, what she should do next, how she could do what she should do next, where she should do it, what it might look like, where she might get the right equipment, how she might gain the right knowledge and on and on. She was full of questions. This is just a snippet of them.
Being of an arty disposition is exhausting. Not only are you being constantly bombarded with visual stimuli (in my case at the moment, from chance meetings with discarded balloons) but your head is full of questions all the time. This is the conclusion I have come to today. It is not the idea gathering that is exhausting, it is the questioning that follows.
The idea usually comes first. Getting the idea is the easy bit (and 95% of them get lost, forgotten or discarded). The exhausting part is listening to and dealing with the questions that follow the idea. These are the questions that lead to further questions and even more questions. It is like having an inner child who just won’t shut up.
Last week I decided to make a fragment of balloon out of velvet and this is how my thoughts went:
Idea: Make a velvet balloon fragment.
Questions: How can I make a velvet balloon fragment? What colour should it be? What type of velvet should I make it out of? I’d like to make it out of good-quality velvet but is that too expensive? Where can I get the velvet from? Where is my sewing machine? How much should I spend? What should I stuff it with? How big should it be? Will it look awful? Is this a good idea? What if it all goes terribly wrong? What if I end up wasting all the money I spend on it? Where can I get the right coloured cotton? Should I be doing this? What will this lead to?
These questions followed me around for the next few days biting at my ankles. They gradually got more detailed.
How big should it be? How do I calculate the radius of the middle? How do I know how long the cloth should be? How much cloth should I buy? How do I get it to Wolverhampton? What should I actually do with it? What if it looks like a giant condom? What if it just looks terrible?
This is just an example of a specific instance of an idea leading to my very noisy inner child pestering me all day. Questions aren’t just generated by specific ideas, they nag me all the time. The sort of more general questions that follow me include: what am I going to do next? How can I come up with an original idea? What if I don’t get any more ideas? What if my ideas are crap? What if it all goes horribly wrong? What if it all ends in complete disaster? What if, what if, what if?
But the advantage of questions, is that they often lead to the answers. Or at least, something resembling an answer. This questioning process is called the Socratic method. Socrates was an advocate of the value of questions (so much so the method was named after him). Questions, he argued, are useful tools for critical thinking and upending assumptions about what is. It is good to question rather than take the world for granted. We should observe the world like an alien who has just landed. As Socrates famously said ‘All I know is that I know nothing.’
That is certainly how I feel most of the time when I am trying to work out where to go from here, wherever here is at that particular moment in time. While in the middle of writing this blog I had a tutorial with my new tutor and I told him what I was writing about. His advice on the whole question thing: sometimes you need to just ignore the questions and do what you want to do. Perhaps he is right.
All I know, like Socrates, is that I know nothing, and all I can hope for, is that something will happen. It usually does. Something will result from all this doubt and query.
Ideas are not enough. Questions lead to results, of some sort of result that is.