We first have to become limited in order to become limitless.
– Phil Hansen –
When artist Phil Hansen became inflicted with a tremor in his hand he was advised by his neurologist to ’embrace the shake’. Interestingly, Hansen does not describe this illness as his biggest feat but rather that of an idealistic space many artists might be able to relate to. Having left art school, he was able to support himself in order to be in a position to buy art materials. Although empowered by his financial position, Hansen soon realized that he had become ‘paralyzed by all the choices’ and confused in the realization that he had become creatively blank. The result of this experience impacted greatly on him, leaving him in a ‘dark space for a long time, unable to create.’ It is a space I can relate to.
What is truly inspiring about Hansen’s creative journey is his search back to the core of his creative self. Hansen speaks of ‘searching in the dark’, of ‘starting to wonder’ and asking questions such as ‘what if?’. Most interestingly, he comes to the realization that:
If I ever wanted my creativity back, I should quit thinking so hard out of the box, and get back into it.
Most of what we do takes place here, inside the box, with limited resources.
By understanding that the answers to a creative life are directly linked to the creative self in the here-and-the-now and not elsewhere, Hansen proceeds to let go of ‘outcomes, failures and imperfections’. How does he do this? By the simple decision (though no simple act) of creating the ultimate limitation, which is the destruction of his art. For Hansen, destruction (read: deconstruction) brings him back to what he calls a ‘neutral place.’
Imagining the idea of neutral space got me thinking about the fiber artist Jessica Bell who deliberately cuts up her art work into pieces before re-assembling it. For Bell, the act of destruction allows neutrality of play and composition. There is no pressure to create a compositional whole and temporality is suspended in this process. For William S. Burroughs: ‘In cutting up you will get to a point of intersection where the new material that you have intersects with what is there already in some precise way, and then you start from there.’
For me, thinking about neutral space brings images of astronauts to mind: weightless, suspended, enlightened, engaged and excited. Space becomes nothing and everything, filled with unpredictable possibilities of movement, actions and happenings. For astronauts, limited space [the cabin] becomes limitless in potential value. An equation of sorts. For artists the cabin is the mind, the here-place.
I recently came across the music of Elintseeker. For me, the idea of neutral space is aptly conveyed in his track ‘Shoreline’ particularly in light of the idea of suspended temporality and weightlessness. Take a listen here. Limitless within its own limits.
Ask yourself what Hansen asked of himself:
Could you become more creative by looking for limitations?
- Jessica Bell: