Art with Cause

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Where do they come from?

I remember my first assignment given to me by my 3D/Sculpture professors at Parsons School of Design. She set us up with (what we all thought was) a rhetorical question:
Where do ideas come from?

Literally and scientifically it comes from a chemical reaction in the brain. But exactly how an electrical pulse becomes a cognitive thought is still quite a bit of a mystery. Like a computer reading code? Sort of, except the computer doesn't have independent thoughts and understanding... it reads code and computes. And an Idea isn't an electrical pulse but a cognitive thought.

So that magical, unknown and abstract place that creates cognitive thinking... is that where ideas come from? Possibly.
I have spent many hours there trying to come back with a good idea - just part of the creative process, I guess. But I have been there when NO ideas have come to me.
So maybe that is just a meeting ground where we go to meet the ideas. We come from here. They come from... where?

The assignment was to answer the question. We could write a report. We could paint it. We could sculpt it. Some aspect must be presented in 3 dimensional form. (...and of course you need it to be good, if you want that A... so no lame answers)

I thought about it in excess, with no great understanding and no idea how I was going to complete the assignment, until the night before the class. I had asked the other students what they came up with and wasn't satisfied that they truly answered the abstract question. I was tired, and time was running out (but I was also running out of clean clothes). So I took my laundry to the buildings laundry room, I grabbed a drink, a snack, and my sketchbook. I sat there on the washer for the longest time with no idea where ideas came from, staring at my blank page, nibbling on my cheerios, and listening to the rhythmic thumps and vibrations of the machines.

Some time between then and sun rise, I had an answer that surprised even myself.
I arrived to class with a box painted to look like a washer, big enough to be a washer. I had a few classmates help me: one sat inside, two sat behind, and I sat on top...
I read a poem that I wrote, while one friend blew bubbles around me, the other tapped on the box rhythmically like a drum, and the friend inside shot cheerios out at the classmate who looked on. I read the poem in a rhythm that matched the drumming beat or did the beat match the poem? Soon everyone watching was tapping, drumming, beating along with us...
Everyone was entering into the experience I was trying to share with them...

"Where do ideas come from?
I sit
of the washing machine
eat a cheerio

Where do ideas come from?
I look
soap suds
and the drying machine
eat more cheerios

Where do ideas come from?
they come
in the stupid machine
eating cheerios


The poem went on for a full 2 minutes, like a song, with breaks and pauses, and even a drumming solo.
At the end the teacher asked me if I felt a answered the question... as she wrote down my grade. I said...
"yes, ask a silly question, get a silly answer.
Ask and abstract question, get an abstract answer."

I got an A...
but I still don't know Where Ideas Come From.
Do you?

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