Have you ever sat and considered how the place where you are and the things that surround you affect your emotions and experience? It seems obvious to word it that way, but really consider how much of an influence your surroundings have on you. A few weeks ago I wrote about finding artistic motivation and freshness in collaborating with artists that operate in different mediums than yourself. Today I’d like to explore the idea of being focused on your surroundings and finding distinct spatial motivation and influence on your art.
The common trope of a band venturing to a cabin in the woods to spend time writing their next big hit is seriously played out but there is value in the heart of the concept. For many years bands like Bon Iver and Into it/Over it have packed up their gear, theoretically turned off their cell phones, and marched into the woods to hole up in some cabin to chase the art that is hidden deep in the foliage. The idea is to create some space between the artist and the everyday distractions that keep us from being able to focus and also to introduce a new primordial soup of textures and sounds that are more raw and organic than the buildings and sidewalks and automobiles that we are generally surrounded by.
The way that Sigur Rós embraced the textures around them in their DVD Heima (which means ‘at home;) has inspired me in a large way. The path that the documentary traces of the band’s return to their home country after a world tour, playing free concerts around the country, and discovering sounds and textures based on the places that surrounded them. The story is not one of a band that sits in a remote place and waits for something to happen, rather we see vignettes of the band turning over rocks, testing the acoustics of old buildings and caves, and really searching for the sounds of their surroundings. Interacting with their environment and allowing that to shape the process, not just on an emotional level but in a direct tonal way.
In my own creative experience, while working in collaboration with the dancers and choreographers in Fischer Dance we were allowed the opportunity to work in abandoned warehouse spaces in South Bend, IN which carried decades of dirt and history of past industry, economic blight, and cultural rebirth. The depth of the space we were working in gave light to themes and stories that begged to be told through some artistic creation. I see artists pulling this sort of detail out of their surroundings and using it to appeal to listeners and supporters in new and fresh ways; not just as entertainment but as a platform for learning and awareness.
Implementing this sort of spatial exploration in your art can come in many forms, from very simple to immersive and interruptive to normal life. Pick up a pen and a pad of paper and maybe a simple instrument. Find a place to be. Sit and be aware of what’s happening around you. How does this place make you feel? If there are others around you, how do you think they feel? How does this space affect your relationship with the people around you? Find the flavor and texture of life and share that with others.