Art, at the speed of life

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been several months since my last column.

(A surprisingly clean and uncluttered) desktop. Note: this desktop usually is covered in files.

I know there is no real excuse for this terrible lack of editorial communication. I can throw around the regular reasons – “I was rehearsing/ teching/ opening/ closing South Pacific at the Opera House”; or “I was writing news and features and co-ordinating the team for AussieTheatre”; or “I was completing an assignment for my latest subject at law school”; or “I really wanted an hour off to watch Breaking Bad season 4 and have a glass of wine.”

Yes, indeed I can tell myself that I haven’t written a column for a while because of the above, but I end up sounding like a child who is trying to tell her teacher that the dog ate her homework. Excuses, excuses, Erin. Now it is time for me to sit down and think about why. (Admittedly, I am on the plane to Melbourne with nowhere to go, and discussing Fifty Shades of Grey with the passenger next to me is the only other option for the next 90 minutes. So my mind wanders).

I guess it all comes down to my not wanting to publish something that is undercooked or underdeveloped. There, I said it. I begin to write an editorial column on, say, what clothes are appropriate to wear to the theatre and decide halfway through that “this isn’t interesting/this could be written so much better with some research to back it up/this isn’t your best writing” so I stop.

And the piece finds its way into a folder on my desktop and is likely never to be seen again.

Now, I began thinking about this and decided that it cannot be just me who suffers from this terrible case of perfectionism. Surely there are many, many people in the world who would love to show the world what they write/create/compose, but the material just never makes it past their desktop? Does the ‘desktop vortex’ claim some of the most incredible, revolutionary, creative theatrical and musical work?

Of course it does. (Note: I’m certainly not implying that my columns here are revolutionary or wonderful). And it’s been happening for centuries.

It has been said that Satie’s best work was found behind his piano or in jacket pockets after he died. Incomplete manuscripts and unfinished symphonies by Beethoven, Schubert and countless others have been hailed as masterpieces. Creative works across the ages have hidden away for years before finally finding their way to the light.

The flip side of this argument is found in the material that IS presented in Australia (be it in print or on the stage) that some would classify as ‘undercooked’ .

[pull_left]The world moves fast now, but should that mean we speed up the human creative process[/pull_left]

Andrew Henry, a Sydney based actor and producer expressed his concern about this very issue in an interview with AussieTheatre earlier this year while defending his choice to present international plays (which have been developed and workshopped overseas) in Australia rather than presenting new Australian work that has been… undercooked.

“I really think that a lot of theatre that goes on is just crap, and really underdeveloped, but we just put it on because its Australian, but it’s not always ready to go”, he said.

He praised companies like Griffin for presenting works that have been developed and redeveloped over the years – including re-stagings of pieces like The Boys (for this year’s Sydney Festival) and Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis.

But the point he made while doing so got me a-thinking: is it possible that with the immediacy of the world we live in, we have created an unnecessary haste in developing ideas? In developing creativity? In developing art?

It seems possible that this very notion of life at the speed of light through fiber-optics has created a wider divide between those who simmer ideas and those who present the ideas as early as possible. Because today, ‘immediate’ is much more immediate than it used to be. It is just expected these days that everything happens a lot faster than it did five, ten, twenty, one hundred years ago. And it’s bound to be having an effect on the way artists create, even if it’s on a subconscious level.

Could it be that, on the whole, we as a community are missing a period of development that only comes with simmering an idea for a while? The world moves fast now, but should that mean we speed up the human creative process?

I’m not sure we should. There is something wonderful about really thinking things through, and suddenly, I don’t feel so bad that I spend some time stewing over my writing. Perhaps all I need to do is rename my dreaded desktop vortex ‘desktop holding bay’, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and trust that development is preferable to haste.

What do you think?

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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