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On the importance of being idle: Writer Anna Della Subin on the unsung values of doing nothing, procrastination as its own form of productivity, and the mythological power of sleep. [The Creative Independent]
"The real epiphanies of figuring out what I’m trying to say don’t happen when I chain myself to my desk. I let myself into the labyrinth, to get lost in the footnotes of arcane books from the 19th century, or just out on a walk. I need a sense of timelessness to do my best work."
annadellsubin  howwewrite  writing  thinking  howwethink  idleness  procrastination  2019  derive  meandering  walking  solviturambulando  laziness  insomnia  sleep  time  timelessness  howwework  immortality 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Creative Independent: Jonas Mekas on documenting your life
"Were you ever interested in writing a straightforward memoir about your life?

I don’t have time for that. There are fragments of that in this book, but I think my films are my biography. There are bits and fragments of my personal life in all of my films, so maybe someday I’ll put them together and that will be my autobiography."

"People talk a lot about your films, but you have a poetry practice as well.

Occasionally I still write poems. It comes from a different part of me. When you write, of course it comes from your mind, into your fingers, and finally reaches the paper. With a camera, of course there is also the mind but it’s in front of the lens, what the lens can catch. It’s got nothing to do with the past, but only the image itself. It’s there right now. When you write, you could write about what you thought 30 years ago, where you went yesterday, or what you want for the future. Not so with the film. Film is now.

Are most of your decisions intuitive? Is it a question of just feeling when something is right or when it isn’t?

I don’t feel it necessarily, but it’s like I am forced—like I have to take my camera and film, though I don’t know why. It’s not me who decides. I feel that I have to take the camera and film. That is what’s happening. It’s not a calculated kind of thing. The same when I write. It’s not calculated. Not planned at all. It just happens. My filmmaking doesn’t cost money and doesn’t take time. Because one can always afford to film 10 seconds in one day or shoot one roll of film in a month. It’s not that complicated. I always had a job of one kind of other to support myself because I had to live, I had to eat, and I had to film.

How do you feel about art schools? Is being an artist something that can be taught?

I never wanted to make art. I would not listen to anybody telling me how to do it. No, nobody can teach you to do it your way. You have to discover by doing it. That’s the only way. It’s only by doing that you discover what you still need, what you don’t know, and what you still have to learn. Maybe some technical things you have to learn for what you really want to do, but you don’t know when you begin. You don’t know what you want to do. Only when you begin doing do you discover which direction you’re going and what you may need on the journey that you’re traveling. But you don’t know at the beginning.

That’s why I omitted film schools. Why learn everything? You may not need any of it. Or while you begin the travel of the filmmaker’s journey, maybe you discover that you need to know more about lighting, for instance. Maybe what you are doing needs lighting. You want to do something more artificial, kind of made up, so then you study lights, you study lenses, you study whatever you feel you don’t know and you need. When you make a narrative film, a big movie with actors and scripts, you need all that, but when you just try to sing, you don’t need anything. You just sing by yourself with your camera or with your voice or you dance. On one side it is being a part of the Balanchine, on the other side it is someone dancing in the street for money. I’m the one who dances in the street for money and nobody throws me pennies. Actually, I get a few pennies… but that’s about it.

You’ve made lots of different kinds of films over many years. Did you always feel like you were still learning, still figuring it out as your went along?

Not necessarily. I would act stupid sometimes when people used to see me with my Bolex recording some random moment. They’d say, “What is this?” I’d say, “Oh nothing, it’s not serious.” I would hide from Maya Deren. I never wanted her to see me filming because she would say, “But this is not serious. You need a script!” Then I’d say, “Oh, I’m just fooling. I’m just starting to learn,” but it was just an excuse that I was giving, that I’m trying to learn. I always knew that this was more or less the materials I’d always be using. I was actually filming. There is not much to learn in this kind of cinema, other than how to turn on a camera. What you learn, you discover as you go. What you are really learning is how to open yourself to all the possibilities. How to be very, very, very open to the moment and permitting the muse to come in and dictate. In other words, the real work you are doing is on yourself."

"You are a kind of master archivist. I’m looking around this space—which is packed with stuff, but it all appears to be pretty meticulously organized. How important is it to not only document your work, but to also be a steward of your own archives.

You have to. For me there is constantly somebody who wants to see something in the archives, so I have to deal with it. I cannot neglect them. These are my babies. I have to take care of them. I learned very early that it’s very important to keep careful indexes of everything so that it helps you to find things easily when it’s needed. For example, I have thousands of audio cassettes, in addition to all the visual materials. I have a very careful index of every cassette. I know what’s on it. You tell me the name of the person or the period and I will immediately, within two or three minutes, be able to retrieve it. People come here and look around and say, “Oh, how can you find anything in this place?” No, I find it very easily.

I always carry a camera with me in order to capture or record a couple images and sometimes conversations. Evenings, parties, dinners, meetings, friends. Now, it’s all on video, but back when I was using the Bolex camera, I always had a Sony tape recorder in my pocket—a tiny Sony and that picked up sounds. I have a lot of those from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. Hundreds and hundreds. I have books which are numbered, each page has written down what’s on each numbered cassette. I don’t index everything, that would be impossible, but approximation is enough. I advise everyone to do this. Record things. Keep an index. It’s very important."

"Aside from all of those projects, do you still have a sort of day-to-day creative practice?

I never needed a creative practice. I don’t believe in creativity. I just do things. I grew up on a farm where we made things, grew things. They just grow and you plant the seeds and then they grow. I just keep making things, doing things. Has nothing to do with creativity. I don’t need creativity."

"And the last remaining company that still made VCRs recently went out of business.

So, all of this new technology, it’s okay for now… but it’s very temporary. You could almost look at it from a spiritual angle. All technology is temporary. Everything falls to dust anyway. And yet, you keep making things."
jonasmekas  2017  film  filmmaking  poetry  documentation  archives  collage  books  writing  creativity  howwewrite  biography  autobiography  art  work  labor  technology  video  vcrs  temporary  ephemeral  ephemerality  making  howwework  howwemake  journals  email  everyday 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
26 | Black Mountain College — Do Not Touch
"We're going back to school and learning about an arts college in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. For 24 years the college attracted famous teachers and produced students who would go on to achieve their own fame. I have two guests speaking to me about Black Mountain - Kate Averett from the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and Professor Eva Diaz from Pratt Institute."
bmc  2018  blackmountaincollege  bauhaus  annialbers  johndewey  art  arts  education  highered  highereducation  alternative  experimental  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  horizontality  evadiaz  kateaverett  history  arthistory  pedagogy  lcproject  openstudioproject  form  exploration  liberalarts  roberrauschenberg  willemdekooning  abstractexpressionism  howwework  discipline  self  identity  johncage  mercecunningham  self-directedlearning  self-directed  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  vision  cognition  expressionism  expression  music  dance  buckminsterfuller  technique  chance  happenings  anarchism  ego  spontaneity  unknown  improvisation  radicalism  transilience  northcarolina  transience  hippies  communes  integration  jacoblawrence  almastonewilliams  outsiders  refugees  inclusion  inclusivity  openness  gender  rayjohnson  elainedekooining  karenkarnes  dorothearockburn  hazellarsenarcher  blackmountaincollegemuseum  susanweil  maryparkswashington  josefalbers  charlesolson  poetry  johnandrewrice 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Ideas in cars, honking
[To these examples, I’d add what Earl Sweatshirt says about moments and his process in this interview: ]

"There was one great spot in the Dave Chappelle episode, though, that I felt was worth transcribing and sharing. Seinfeld asks Chappelle whether he feels like, knowing he can do a great TV show, he shouldn’t try to do another one.
CHAPPELLE: Sometimes the offering drives. If I [have] an idea, it should drive. It’s like the idea says, “Get in the car.” And I’m like, “Where am I going?” And the idea says, “Don’t worry, I’m driving.” And then you just get there.

SEINFELD: The idea’s driving.

CHAPPELLE: Sometime’s I’m shotgun. Sometimes I’m in the f—ing trunk. The idea takes you where it wants to go.

SEINFELD: That’s great.

CHAPPELLE: And then other times, there’s me, and it’s my ego, like, “I should do something!”

SEINFELD: “I should be driving!”


SEINFELD: That’s not good.

CHAPPELLE: No, ‘cause there’s no idea in the car. It’s just me. That formula doesn’t work.

SEINFELD: If the idea is in the car honking, going, “Let’s go…” It pulls up in front of your house.

CHAPPELLE: That’s exactly right.

SEINFELD: “You’re in your pajamas. Get dressed!”

CHAPPELLE: “I’m not ready!” “You can go like this.” “Where are we going? What are we doing?” “Don’t worry about it. You’ll see.”

Although, there’s another great story about cars and ideas, told by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Tom [Waits], for most of his life, he was pretty much the embodiment of the tormented contemporary modern artist, trying to control and manage and dominate these sort of uncontrollable creative impulses that were totally internalized.

But then he got older, he got calmer, and one day he was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles, and this is when it all changed for him. And he’s speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, it’s gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn’t have a piece of paper, or a pencil, or a tape recorder.

So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, “I’m going to lose this thing, and I’ll be be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it.” And instead of panicking, he just stopped. He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving?”

“Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”

And his whole work process changed after that. Not the work, the work was still oftentimes as dark as ever. But the process, and the heavy anxiety around it was released when he took the genie, the genius out of him where it was causing nothing but trouble, and released it back where it came from, and realized that this didn’t have to be this internalized, tormented thing.

Gilbert interviewed Waits in 2002 and he elaborated on his attitude:
“Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don’t care if they lose it; they’ll just make another one.” This openness is what every artist needs. Be ready to receive the inspiration when it comes; be ready to let it go when it vanishes. He believes that if a song “really wants to be written down, it’ll stick in my head. If it wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember it, well, it can just move along and go get in someone else’s song.” “Some songs,” he has learned, “don’t want to be recorded.” You can’t wrestle with them or you’ll only scare them off more. Trying to capture them sometimes “is trying to trap birds.” Fortunately, he says, other songs come easy, like “digging potatoes out of the ground.” Others are sticky and weird, like “gum found under an old table.” Clumsy and uncooperative songs may only be useful “to cut up as bait and use ’em to catch other songs.” Of course, the best songs of all are those that enter you “like dreams taken through a straw.’ In those moments, all you can be, Waits says, is grateful.

Brian Eno puts it in terms of surrender and control:
On one side of Eno’s scale diagram, he writes “control”; on the other “surrender”. “We’ve tended to dignify the controlling end of the spectrum,” he says. “We have Nobel prizes for that end.” His idea is that control is what we generally believe the greats – Shakespeare, Picasso, Einstein, Wagner – were about. Such people, the argument goes, controlled their chosen fields, working in isolation, never needing any creative input from others. As for surrender, that idea has become debased: it’s come to mean what the rest of us do when confronted by a work of genius. “We’ve tended to think of the surrender end as a luxury, a nice thing you add to your life when you’ve done the serious work of getting a job, getting your pension sorted out. I’m saying that’s all wrong.”

He pauses, then asks: “I don’t know if you’ve ever read much about the history of shipbuilding?” Not a word. “Old wooden ships had to be constantly caulked up because they leaked. When technology improved, and they could make stiffer ships because of a different way of holding boards together, they broke up. So they went back to making ships that didn’t fit together properly, ships that had flexion. The best vessels surrendered: they allowed themselves to be moved by the circumstances.

“Control and surrender have to be kept in balance. That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control. In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part.” Eno considers all his recent art to be a rebuttal to this attitude. “I want to rethink surrender as an active verb,” he says. “It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice. I’m not saying we’ve got to stop being such controlling beings. I’m not saying we’ve got to be back-to-the-earth hippies. I’m saying something more complex.”
austinkleon  davechappelle  jerryseinfeld  elizabethgilbert  tomwaits  brianeno  control  flow  ideas  howwethink  creativity  neoteny  children  surrender  tension  howwework  howwelearn  productivity  earlsweatshirt  2018  rap  hiphop  thebenerudakgositsile 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Managing Daily Tasks | Jordan Moore
"The great thing about pen and paper is its inefficiency. It takes time to write the list, and that’s the beauty of it! Editing is clunky and it gets annoying when you have to rewrite tasks that you need to move from day to day. For that reason it encourages taking time to write better, more realistic goals. Software is too forgiving in that regard, pen and paper hold you more accountable and it promotes thinking through big tasks and breaking them down into achievable sub tasks that can be done today.

Using a good old fashioned notebook has the additional advantage of taking your eyes off the screen. That pause enforces a small step back and seeing the bigger picture . It’s therapeutic."
constraints  howwework  bulletjournal  jordan_moore  todos 
april 2018 by oddhack
The tools matter and the tools don’t matter
"What I love about Gardner and Barry is that they believe that the tools you use do matter, but the point, for them, is finding the proper tools that get you to a certain way of working in which you can get your conscious, mechanical mind out of the way so that your dreaming can go on, undeterred.

You have to find the right tools to help your voice sing.

For Lynda, it was the paintbrush that allowed her to get to the point where she could basically take dictation—“to dream it out” without editing—but it could’ve been anything, really. (I should note that Lynda happily details the exact sumi-e brush and ink she used to make One! Hundred! Demons! in the back of the book.) While I don’t myself use a brush and legal paper to draft my work, I keep a page from the manuscript hanging in my bedroom to remind me of the importance of handwriting and slowing down."

"As for non-fiction writing, my friend Clive Thompson took the “pencil vs. typewriter” thing literally and researched when you should write with a pencil and when you should type on the keyboard.

What he discovered was that handwriting is great for coming up with ideas, for note-taking and big picture thinking. So, when you’re at lectures or in meetings or brainstorming ideas, it’s a good idea to scribble or doodle in your notebook. So always carry a pencil. (Clive got me into Palamino Blackwings.)

Typing, on the other hand, is great for producing writing for other people, say, writing an article. The faster you type, Clive said, the better your ideas will be. There’s a thing called “transcription fluency,” which boils down to: “when your fingers can’t move as fast as your thoughts, your ideas suffer.” If you help people increase their typing speed, their thoughts improve. (Learn to type faster!)

So, yes, the tools matter, but again, it’s all about what you are trying to achieve. So a question like, “What brand of pen do you use?” is not as good as “How do you get that thick line quality?” or “How do you dodge Writer’s Block?”"
austinkleon  tools  writing  howwework  2018  advice  art  lyndabarry  johngardner  clivethompson  typing  handwriting  ideas  notetaking 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Sara Hendren en Instagram: “Technologies for writing a book: triple-wall cardboard desk topper for standing-and-writing; AI-powered, human-tweaked transcription…”
"Technologies for writing a book: triple-wall cardboard desk topper for standing-and-writing; AI-powered, human-tweaked transcription services for interviews; fountain pens and notebooks; cloud-based backup software. The future is mixed and weirder, always weirder."
sarahendren  technology  writing  tools  howwework  2017  assistivetechnology 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Sprinting From Google — True North
"In 2016 a design partner from Google Ventures (GV), Jake Knapp, released a book called Sprint. The book introduced the idea of Design Sprints, a concept that had existed within Google for several years and was a mainstay in the toolset employed by GV with their portfolio of companies.

The beauty of Jake’s book is that it is very specific, there is even a 15-page checklist for when you are running your own Design Sprints. This however did not stop a swathe of folks from appropriating the name, but not the core ideas. What this in turn meant is that acts were being committed under the name of Design Sprint but were not even remotely close to what Jake describes in Sprint.

In this episode we dive into what Design Sprints really are, address their detractors and we visit the enterprise giant, Aus Post, where they ran 4 sprints in 5 weeks."
jakeknapp  2017  design  designsprints  2016  language  words  appropriation  dilution  howwework  simplification  trendiness  fads  jargon 
july 2017 by robertogreco
How America's 'Culture of Hustling' Is Dark and Empty - The Atlantic
"Q: You write about the "unnecessary," "wasteful," and "stupid" routines, obsessions, and goals that you once pursued and that most of American culture preaches as the means of accessing the good life—careers, professional ambition, the drive for prestige, etc. You have left that behind for a peaceful "retirement" in Mexico, but during your retirement, you've written five books. How do you differentiate between pointless hustling and meaningful work? You write that more people should "let the universe do its thing." How do we do that and strive for work that gives our lives a sense of purpose and source of meaning? 

A: The tipoff for me is somatic. Whenever a project comes to me, one that is right, that is genuine, I feel a kind of “shiver” in my body, and that tells me that it corresponds to something very deep in me, and that I need to pursue it. That has been my guide with literally every book I wrote. Trusting this kind of visceral reaction means that you are willing to let life “come and get you.” It means who you are is defined from the inside, not the outside. In terms of what’s really important, we don’t have much choice, and that’s as it should be. The decision is made by a larger energy or unconscious process, and when it’s right, you know it.

Most Americans have a dull sense that their lives are fundamentally “off”—because for the most part, they are. They hate their lives, but to get through the day, besides taking Prozac and consulting their cell phone every two minutes, they talk themselves into believing that they want to be doing what they are doing. This is probably the major source of illness in our culture, whether physical or mental.

In the film Definitely, Maybe, Ryan Reynolds works for an ad agency and says to himself at one point that he never imagined he’d be spending his days trying to convince people to buy Cap’n Crunch for their kids instead of Fruit Loops. As far as striving goes, Goethe wrote: “Man errs as long as he strives.” Sit still, meditate, just let the answer arise from the body. (It may take a while.)

Q: So much of American culture is results obsessed. You write in your book about appreciating pleasures as they come, whether they are sexual, intellectual, or emotional. Do you think much of happiness is about learning to appreciate pleasure in the moment and not attaching it some tangibly measurable result?

A: It took me a long time to understand that I, or, my ego, had no idea what was best for me. Some part of happiness undoubtedly derives from a Zen enjoyment of whatever is in front of you, but a big part of it is knowing who you are and being that person. This is ontological knowing, and it’s very different from intellectual knowing.

Q: Your message of detachment from materially measurable pursuits and your encouragement of leisure, creativity, and relaxed living is un-American (I mean this as a compliment). Why is American culture so addicted to speed, movement, action, and "progress"?

A: This is, in some ways, the subject of my book Why America Failed. America is essentially about hustling, and that goes back more than 400 years. It’s practically genetic, in the U.S., by now; the programming is so deep, and so much out of conscious awareness, that very few Americans can break free of it. They’re really sleepwalking through life, living out a narrative that is not of their own making, while thinking they are in the driver’s seat.

It’s also especially hard to break free of that mesmerization when everyone else is similarly hypnotized. Groupthink is enormously powerful. Even if it occurs to you to stop following the herd, it seems crazy or terrifying to attempt it. This is Sartre’s “bad faith,” the phenomenon whereby a human being adopts false values because of social pressure, and is thus living a charade, an inauthentic life. It’s also what happens to Ivan Illych in the Tolstoy story, where Ivan is dying, and reviews his life during his last three days, and concludes that it was all a waste, because he lived only for social approval."

[See also: ]
culture  hustling  via:austinkleon  morrisberman  work  hustle  society  productivity  ambition  careers  prestige  motivation  us  howwework  slow  retirement  2013  davidmasciotra  results  stress  pleasure  leisurearts  artleisure  knowing  creativity  life  living  consumption  materialism  authenticity  socialpressure  meaning  meaningmaking 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Paris Review - Chris Marker’s Studio, Adam Bartos and Ben Lerner
"Chris Marker, whose name was not “Chris Marker,” was a play of masks and avatars, an artist who leapt, like one of his beloved cats, from medium to medium. If, as Walter Benjamin said, a great work either dissolves a genre or invents one, if each great work is a special case, Marker produced a series of special cases. He invented the genre of the essay film; he composed what is widely considered the greatest short film ever made, La Jetée, in 1962; in the late nineties, he issued one of the first major artworks of the digital age, the CD-ROM Immemory. Even Marker’s relation to his own celebrity was an evasive masterpiece: until his death in 2012, at ninety-one, he was everywhere and nowhere, refusing both the haughty fantasy of nonparticipation and the seductions of spectacle. How do you ­memorialize an artist who refused to remain identical to himself? How do you remember one of the great philosopher-artists of memory?

Adam Bartos’s photographs of Marker’s Paris studio offer a powerful answer; they are beautiful portraits from which the subject has gone missing.

In Bartos’s photographs, people are everywhere and nowhere. The first of his books I encountered was International Territory (1994), a series of ­images of the UN building in New York. Emptied of people, the architecture is left to dream its modernist dream of a future that never arrives. In many of the images, a distinctly postapocalyptic feeling obtains: without a speaker atop it, the General Assembly podium appears like a giant tomb; the subtle signs of aging infrastructure—cracks in the walls, peeling paint—make the building look less momentarily vacated than abandoned. I can’t quite decide, for instance, whether the coat hanging in the photograph of the Russian Translation Service indicates that someone is working just beyond the frame or whether the garment has been hanging there for years. The healthy-­looking office plants that appear in several images look less like ­reassuring signs of habitation than ominous indications that nature is starting to reclaim the buildings of a depopulated city. And the single rose in a vase at the center of the image of the Delegates Dining Room—is that freshly cut or plastic? Bartos’s photographs are full of such ambiguities, undecidable temporalities. Across his projects, I experience the contradictory sense that the human figure is just about to reenter the picture and that the architecture and furniture will never again be occupied. Of course, this shifting sense of presence and absence isn’t an effect merely of what’s depicted, but of how: Bartos’s images feel both perfectly composed and simply found, patterned and yet unmanipulated, which means that my awareness of someone “­behind” the camera dims and intensifies and dims again as I look.

The architecture dreams, the chairs expect—on a variety of scales, Bartos can reveal how collective fantasies about the future are sedimented in materials. A few people do appear in Boulevard (2005), for instance, a book that juxtaposes images of Los Angeles and Paris—two historical centers of image making—but the pathos belongs to objects. Parked cars in an empty lot in Los Angeles and an unoccupied table for two at a Parisian restaurant (shot through the window from the street, but at an angle from which the photographer is not reflected in the glass, adding to the sense the image was taken by a ghost) seem to “wait without hope”—to quote Eliot, whom Marker loved—for drivers and diners. The sense of waiting in Bartos’s work is key: What appears, appears to wait for the return of the human, but since nothing is as human as waiting, as the experience of duration that is boredom, I begin to invest things with feelings. And then the things look back at me.

Crucially, most of what appears in Bartos’s photos is dated; he depicts old futurisms, a special case of anachronism. Kosmos (2001)—I see a copy of this book on Marker’s shelf in one of the studio photographs—shows us the technologies and uniforms of Russian cosmonauts; Yard Sale Photographs (2009) explores that ritual suburban purging of barely resalable junk and memory. The shape of a fender, the linoleum of a counter, the outmoded ergonomics of an empty office chair, the now archaic instantaneity of the Polaroid, color schemes that register the collective affect of another age—we see in Bartos’s work period styles falling out of their periods. And Bartos is always depicting other media within his medium: books, cameras, keyboards, old audio technology, et cetera. The quietly managed motif of discarded ­media makes each image feel time sensitive—the older technologies are, among other things, memento mori for Bartos’s camera, which adds an element of fragility to each picture’s quiet confidence.

Bartos’s most recent book, Darkroom (2011), gathers many of these concerns. His sense of composition can make even a photograph taken in the open air seem like an interior carefully arranged by a ghostly presence; a darkroom, typically an interior within an interior, is the nude of rooms, a site of exposure exposed. It is also the most dated of spaces, as digital technology has eliminated the dialectic of light and darkness once constitutive of the photographic art. Darkroom is an elegy for process and for patience, although, like many elegies, Bartos reinscribes the values he mourns, as his own photographs evince a sensitivity that makes nostalgia for a previous moment in the medium beside the point. These images of the displaced origin of images are again subtle evocations of distinct temporalities: the time required for a photograph (of an instant) to develop in a chemical bath, technological developments that supplant that process in historical time. No photographer ever appears within the photographs, and Bartos’s touch is so light, it’s almost as if he’s given his camera a moment alone with the darkroom so that it can pay its last respects.

Marker’s studio is a kind of (light-flooded) darkroom located off a Parisian boulevard and is as full of formerly futuristic keepsakes as a cosmonaut’s yard sale—that is to say, Bartos has been preparing, without knowing it, to shoot Marker’s studio for decades. The studio is both remarkably cluttered and remarkably clean. There is no trash (although there is plenty of kitsch), no dust; the thousands of books, VHS tapes, and CDs, the multiple computers, monitors, keyboards, and other production technologies all seem in their place. A sense of highly personal order prevails; Marker, I feel, would have just the right texts and images and totems at hand, but anyone else would be at a loss regarding how to navigate his systems. And while Marker isn’t at home, from every corner something gazes at us: his cats and owls, Kim Novak in a signed photograph (Vertigo was Marker’s favorite film), the paused image of an actress on a monitor (in these images, Marker will forever almost be right back), masks of various sorts, stuffed animals, et cetera. Marker’s mind seems spatialized here, as though we were looking into his memory palace, an elaborate, idiosyncratic mnemonic become a memorial. But a joyous memorial: joyous first, because Marker’s signature mix of seriousness and playfulness is palpable—we see a thousand grins and winks—and second, because Marker, instead of becoming the fixed ­object of elegy, has again given us the slip, allowing us an intimate glimpse, but of privacy. "
chrismarker  studios  adambartos  howwework  2016  benlerner  photography  lajetée 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Want to Create Things That Matter? Be Lazy. - 99U
"The late Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, was one the most brilliant minds of twentieth century science. To his colleagues at Cornell, however, he seemed lazy. As Feynman admitted in a 1981 interview: “I’m actively irresponsible; I tell everybody I don’t do anything; if anyone asks me to be on a committee…’no’ I tell them.”

The acclaimed post-modern science fiction author Neal Stephenson also comes across as lazy. In an essay titled “Why I am a Bad Correspondent,” Stephenson explains that he’s not that interested in spending time interacting with readers. Stephenson has no public e-mail address and asks that you don’t invite him to attend conferences or attempt to engage him in social media conversation. If you insist on trying to book him for an appearance, he warns “I almost never accept these and when I do, I charge a lot of money, I demand expensive travel arrangements, and I perform no prep work—I just show up and wing it.”

I’ve spent the past decade researching and writing about elite performers in creative fields. In this time, I’ve noticed that examples like Feynman and Stephenson are common. That is, many people who excel in producing things that matter have work habits that seem downright lazy by the standards in their field.

At first, this may just seem to be just another quirk of the high-performing set, but I argue that it’s worth diving deeper into this paradox as the underlying explanation provides useful insight for anyone looking to spend less time spinning their wheels and more time producing results the world cares about.


The key to explaining this lazy producer paradox is to introduce a more refined understanding of “work.” For many ambitious people, work is defined to be any activity that can potentially benefit you professionally. For most fields, of course, there are an endless number of things that satisfy this definition—from professors joining endless committees to writers maintaining exhausting social media presences. It’s due in large part to this generic notion of work that we spawned the culture of busyness that afflicts us today, where the measure of your success becomes synonymous with the measure of your exhaustion. This understanding of “work,” however, is flawed. It’s more useful to divide this activity into two distinct types of effort, deep and shallow:

1. Deep Work: Cognitively demanding tasks that require you to focus without distraction and apply hard to replicate skills.

2. Shallow Work: Logistical style tasks that do not require intense focus or the application of hard to replicate skills.

For example: solving a hard theorem is deep work, while chiming in on the latest departmental e-mail chain is shallow; writing a chapter of your novel is deep work, while tweeting about a novel you like is shallow. The shallow activities are not intrinsically bad, but they’re not skilled labor, and therefore offer (at best) a small positive contribution to your efforts to produce value.

If we rethink the laziness shown in our above examples through this lens, we realize what Feynman and Stephenson are really doing is eliminating large amounts of shallow work from their schedule to maintain a priority on deep work. By doing so, they’re taking advantage of the following crucial but overlooked reality: deep work is what produces things that matter in the world.

Richard Feynman, for example, could be lazy about many of the standard obligations of academics because he used that time to instead focus deeply on the ground-breaking ideas that made him famous. As he clarified in the interview mentioned above, “to do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time…it needs lots of concentration.”

Neal Stephenson justifies his snubbing of his readers for similar reasons. As he explained in his Bad Correspondent essay:

“If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.”

Both Feynman and Stephenson are making a case for prioritizing depth over shallowness. They recognize that deep work is what produces things that “will be around for a long time.” Whereas shallow work is an activity that can impede more important deep efforts and therefore cause more net harm than good. It might slightly help your writing career in the moment to be retweeted, but the long term impact of a distracting Twitter habit could be the difference between a struggling novelist and an award-winning star like Stephenson.


What’s the lesson to take away here? If you’re driven to produce things that matter, then you need to put deep work at the center of your professional life. To do so will probably require that you become lazier in the Feynman and Stephenson sense of the term: that is, you must treat with sluggish wariness efforts that keep you away from depth, regardless of how many small benefits they promise. Few people, of course, can completely eliminate shallow work from their professional lives, nor would they want to if they could. But shifting your general mindset toward one that embraces depth and shuns shallowness can make a big difference in the amount of value you produce.

To put it another way: become hard to reach, avoid new tech tools, be slow to answer e-mails, become blissfully ignorant of memes, turn down coffee requests, refuse to “hop on” calls, and spend whole days outside working in a single idea—these are exactly the type of lazy behaviors that can change the world."
creativity  productivity  focus  depth  2016  calnewport  via:austinkleon  richardfeynman  nealstephenson  howwework  work 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Ruscha in his own words - San Francisco Chronicle
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"San Francisco is graced right now with two excellent shows surveying aspects of California cultural treasure Ed Ruscha’s long career. At 78, Ruscha (he pronounces it “roo-SHAY”) has reached the pinnacle of both the art market and the respect of fellow artists internationally with highly distilled, power-packed paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. I was introduced to his work in graduate school, and it has been a career-long conceptual linchpin for me, as for so many others.

I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time with the Los Angeles artist in conversation about his work and life, on the day before his de Young Museum exhibition premiered to museum members. What follows are edited excerpts from our interview.

How he works: “In art school the real spark happened when other students, and instructors alike, would approach their art like it was almost a blank canvas — almost as blank as this table. And then you take colors, and somehow you bring them to this blank canvas, but there’s never pre-described notions that go with that. And I’ve always wondered, ‘Where in the world would you start with something like that?’

“Yet some of that painting, that Abstract Expressionist painting, was some of the best art — and it’s held up quite well throughout the years. It’s just as good today as it was back then.”

•“I have off-and-on (assistants) that work part time — there’s like five or six people, and they keep things going. And I don’t mess with machines much, I’m not too good with that — I was sort of left in the dust with the Internet. Every day I’m reminded: Too bad I didn’t join. How would I ever get back onto the Internet world? So I kind of pass on that, but I have an assistant or two that can help me find things. I’m a paper and pencil person.”

•“I get up around a quarter to 6, or 6 if I oversleep. Then I make it to my studio and I basically stay there all day. ... Pretty much, yeah. Except when I’m traveling. It’s a habitual thing, and it’s not as though I have planned out my day. I don’t exactly do that. It’s fluid, and I bounce from project to project, and never really complete anything in a day’s time. But by the end of the week, maybe I get a few things that I’m happy with.”

•“I find that I want to spend less time thinking about things that I’ve already done because that’s, in itself, time-consuming. So I kind of put those things to sleep, as much as possible, and concentrate on doing something towards the future.”

•“It’s maybe a strain of nervous energy, or habitual behavior, that’s guided me. If I was so in love with the world, why wouldn’t I want to be traveling every day? Why not give up everything and go suck the good stuff out of the world and go everywhere? But I don’t. I live a kind of prosaic life. I just get up every day and do this stuff, and don’t think too much about it.”

Getting out of town: “When I go to (my home in the) desert, it’s always a drastic change from the noise of the city. And I appreciate that; I can dig in. And there’s always ‘events of plain living’ that take over. So I can be away from all this noise of the city, and then I’m ready to go back. So, it’s sort of a cyclical thing.”

Young artists today: “I see a lot of what I consider healthy motions in the art world today. The younger people, especially, they’re just willing to kamikaze the whole thing. They just really throw their guts into it, and to hell with what the future’s like. I see that and I admire that — some artists can really get along by exploring 10 different attitudes. They’ll paint a realistic picture in one stroke, and in another they’ve got splashed paint. And that’s amusing to see.”

Critics and editors: “(Critic) Dave Hickey is an old friend, and he once said, ‘Oh, you painted a picture of a Standard station, and you painted a picture of Norm’s La Cienega Restaurant on fire. Oh, I see, he paints norms and standards.’

“It’s such a strange observation, something that I never intended. I can’t say it’s not true. It’s just a coincidence of these two things that somebody other than myself will pick out, and expose. If he’s doing it in an antagonistic way, bless him; if he’s trying to make me realize something that I planned out, well that’s not true.”

•“I’ve often wondered why somebody like Ernest Hemingway, for instance, would ever have an editor to tell him, ‘Oh, you can’t put that sentence in there.’ I found that to be really strange, how writers, especially, have editors that can sometimes attack the very thing that you’re trying to say. Or shape something into a more palatable product.

“Artists, myself included, are lucky to be immune to that. Because we can rest on artistic license. You could extend that to the world of literature (or music), too, but the notes have to fall into the right places. With visual art, nothing has to fall into the right places. Sometimes, that very thing, when you’ve achieved that, you make a good picture. So you have all these irrational things that don’t add up, that eventually can add up, and make a solid picture.

“It’s like sailing on a strange sea, where there’s almost nothing out there. That can be scary, of course. Visual artists can just about do anything, and that’s a puzzling fact of life. There’s nobody who comes in and says, ‘No, it’s better if you change that color. Or put that color there. Or, if you like that color so damn much, put it over in the upper left-hand corner.’”

•“There have been times when somebody said absurd things (about my work) that I discount. Indifference is another thing. These books I made, I felt like they’re off in a zone by themselves. I would hand these books out to people — the gas station book (“Twentysix Gasoline Stations” (1963)). I sort of felt, like, ‘Boy, maybe this was kissed by angels. I like what I’m doing here, I gotta keep making this and doing this.’ And I would find that people who were intellectual — poets or people like that would get the book and their attitude was, ‘Are you putting me on? Are you having us on?’

“And yet, ordinary people from the street, like somebody who might work in a gas station, would say, ‘Hey, look!’ I gave the books to strangers who worked in gas stations and pumped gas, and I got more of a welcome from those kind of people than I did from so-called intellectuals.

“I kept making them till I felt like, ‘Well, I’ll put the rest of my ideas in the refrigerator and see what happens in the year 2050 or something.’

“They’re little wild hairs that finally emerged. The idea, I guess, is to keep the future and near future open to possibilities.”

•“When it comes to the exhibit itself, usually what I do is I have a group of things that go into a certain space. And I find the choice wall, and I take my favorite thing and put that on that choice wall. And then everything else kind of falls apart.

“I’m not very good at how to display a group of my things. That’s why curators are so good at what they do. Other eyes are very helpful.”

Having an audience: “Some might see a strangeness to my work, and that’s fine — I’m OK with that. I think it’s best to not exactly know where your position in the big picture is. It’s vague, and it’s also changing all the time, too.”

•“I’ve never felt like I was meant to communicate with anybody. So if you’re not going to do that, then you’re not going to have an audience, I guess. But, inadvertently, whatever I might do as an artist — that I feel that I’m eager to do — will be seen by other people, and that’s part of the package, I guess. That causes me to think about what the art world is like today, and I see it’s vastly different from when I was younger. I mean, there was no promise of making a vocation out of it. We just did it for the sport of it. And to impress each other.”

Sustaining a career for more than 50 years: “I sort of started with a kind of a menu, and then never really looked either way. It’s like some undescribed principles that I follow. But I do it intuitively. There have been periods when things got real slow.

“I don’t look at it as though I’ve reinvented myself. Because I think you’d have to go way down, and almost quit. And then you reinvent yourself. I always just wanted to follow some course. And the course is, of course, no course.”"
edruscha  davehickey  art  artists  2016  howwework 
august 2016 by robertogreco

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