Bruce Mau 2

No 2 on Bruce Mau’s An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth:

Forget about good.  Good is a known quantity.  Good is what we all agree on.  Growth is not necessarily good.  Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research.  As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

A great reminder, especially for those of us being measured against external ‘assessment criteria’ and terms such as ‘good’ and ‘excellent’… More and more I’m grasping that it’s not always obvious what will be ‘good’ until it happens.  Rather than this horribly vague yet damning label, I like the way that the authors of Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland, refer to whether a work ‘rings true’.  They say that ‘Provocative art challenges not only the viewer but also its maker.  Art that falls short often does so not because the artist failed to meet the challenge but because there was never a challenge there in the first place‘. (p94)

Another reminder, then, to take the more difficult route, the path less trodden.  In my most recent unit for my textiles degree I chose to ‘tackle the ugly’ and look at ideas which were not pretty to look at but which certainly represented a challenge.  I think it paid off.

Which leads nicely to Mau’s no.6:

Capture accidents.  The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process.  Ask different questions.

Of course, this has been said in many different ways elsewhere but I like the emphasis on questions rather than answers.  And it’s well known that accidents feed creativity.  Last night I accidentally broke a sample I was trying to make a latex mould from and look what I got – a lovely stretchy, transparent join which has sprung loads of other ideas:


Not ‘good’ but definitely interesting.  So now the question becomes ‘what can I do with this?’  Art and Fear explores the analogy between art and science in this sense:  ‘Collect wrong answers as part of the process.  Ask different questions… The answers you get depend on the questions you ask.’

One thought on “Bruce Mau 2

  1. Oh. Julie this is such an inspiring read – You put into words what I have been feeling without being able to put it into a unifying thought. This aspect of our making is exactly what make me so humble about the my making. It is not possible to ‘force’ a ‘good or exellent’ idea. One really can just keep at it and hope and prepare the way for ‘something’ to emerge. I sometimes get really freaked out because confidence in the process is not my fortitude (and it is so different from my previous experience). This post seems like a signpost for the attitude that could see us through. I have the Art and Fear book…. will re-read it. Thanks for sharing these thought.


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