Contact & Iterate & Contact & Iterate... etc.
“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”
- Marcel Duchamp
If we live by Duchamp’s perspective, the creative act does not come to life until the outside world engages with it. So at what point should we as artists expose the creative act? At what point does contact with the spectator become essential to the artist’s creative act?
Of course, the creative act is committed for the artist alone: we create because we are driven to create, drawn to create by some internal instinct or sensation.
To engage the spectator too early would distort the sensations before they have been fully formed. Maybe that becomes a part of the process: this exposure and reaction, a concealment that reclaims the privacy of the act, and this process of re-exposure: iteration upon iteration, hand in hand with the audience, imagining and reimagining the creative act.
Maybe this helps an artist process and overcome an obstacle, clear the path to the essence that initially inspired the creative act?
Maybe endless iteration is essential to the creative act.
But the contact, the invitation to the audience, when do we open up the creation to be explored and deciphered and interpreted? How do we make peace with this process and embrace the idea that everything we create is but a collaboration? Everything we bring into this world is a draft?
And when do we know we've done everything we can with the creative act? How do we know we've reached the end of this chapter for this particular creation?
We are the medium: the creative act moves through us. The inspiration makes contact with us, and through our actions we ground it, we translate, we interpret, and then we release. We must embrace the need for further contact, but how?
We want the creative act to be perfect. We want it to be complete, and to speak for itself. But of course, that cannot happen. If we wait for perfection, if we wait for a finished draft, the creative act will suffocate, it will stagnate, it will escape us. The creative act will only reach the potential we ourselves have imagined for it, which is limited.
And so, we must remain open—it helps if we are open and aware from the outset—and understand that the time we've been given with this sensation, the great honor bestowed upon us as inspiration passes through us, this is all a gift and our days with it are numbered, and we better get to work, and we better prepare for its next stage of development. Or, we risk limiting its potential.
We make contact, we create, we release and witness, we prepare, and we make contact.