Notes from Today: A Blog

Liz Maxwell is a theatre director, producer of culture, and artistic innovator. I am passionate about the role of the artist in society, interdisciplinary collaboration, and making original work. I believe that the process and product are important, that new ideas are the life-force of society, and that the arts hold a vital role in shaping our collective future. This blog reflects musings on the evolution of theatre, reflections on the process of art-making, and committed observations on what it's like to be a human being these days.

Experiencing Art Is the Most Creative Act

I think that reading books is the most creative thing I do. I write, I paint, I make weird theatre shows with groups of people - but I think I am my MOST creative self when I'm reading a book, or looking at a painting, or witnessing a show, or hearing a song for the first or thousandth time. 

Because to experience someone else's art is to try to make sense of the ideas in someone else's head - and that takes work, that takes engagement. I believe all artists are operating from the subconscious assumption that goes something like: "No but wait, look at it THIS way." "Listen to what happens when we do it like this." "I bet you'll like what this tastes like." Sometimes I feel that I'm only making theatre shows because *I* want to see some particular moment on stage - I have an idea for a thing that feels true, and there's no way to know until I put it up on stage. And then hopefully it feels true and alive to other people as well. 

 Taken at the Whitney Museum, fall 2013. Modern art, folks. We have to decide what to make of it.

Taken at the Whitney Museum, fall 2013. Modern art, folks. We have to decide what to make of it.

But that's the turning point. That's when it passes over from this thing I'm working on to you, the audience, in your most creative state. See, then it's up to you to make sense of what I have put out into the world, and you have to think about what I've said, and hold it up to what you already were thinking and know and believe, based on your understanding of your own past experiences. And you have to reconcile those two things, now, in this moment. What I think is true and what you have thought was true up til now, and what I want you to believe and what you think I want you to believe. 

And even now, when I appear to be speaking directly, plainly, about things everybody knows...it's complicated, you see. Because people are so complicated, and even though it is likely we have many things in common (we probably both have all our limbs, we were probably both loved quite a bit as a child, we probably both ate breakfast this morning) - it's possible for 2 human beings to arrive at VERY different conclusions about how the world is and how it should be. 

But you see, in this moment - YOU are the creator. Even though this is my "original" essay and I'm putting the thoughts on the digital page, you are the creator and I am the destroyer. You, as the reader, are creating your own experience at this moment - you are taking in what I have written, in the past, and experiencing it to build your own reality, now.  You're maybe smiling a bit, or already forming disagreements, or skimming quickly for a hook, something you can latch on to easily agree with. But even that's creative - the desire to Connect, to Build. 

I am the destroyer. By committing words on the page - this one, and not that...punctuation and capitals in all it's messiness and "permanence." I have to make choices here, and thus carve away at the possibility that existed when I started this essay.  By now, I've said a few things I intended to say, perhaps not how I meant to say them, but even after a few rounds of edits this will be "done" and I will be left with a feeling that I didn't quite nail it, but at least I put something out there. 

And in so many ways, I envy you, the reader. I want desperately to just experience the world and not feel that I have to speak back all the time. Because to create new things is to destroy so many others - whereas you, the audience, at least in this moment, have nothing but possibility.