I don’t know about you, but as an artist I’m never completely satisfied with my work. Yet, I take pride my collected body of work, while at the same time I wait for that masterpiece that never comes.
I started taking pictures because it made me feel more special than anything else I did at 15, but the “special” wore off. I hit Art College (a.k.a. photo college) and memories of average grades and bad critiques displaced “special” with an undefined obsession; an obsession I’ve tried sporadically to rid from my professional life only to have it zealously restored just as often.
From where does the underlying threat of a life under achieved come? The canvas is barely dry and it’s nearly worthless to the artist; boring let’s move on, we’ll appraise its memory later. Art’s cash value to it’s creator is about ½ ego, ½ a need for food. The real value of the art to the artist is what then, pride plus memories?
Great work is memorable; good work is not. Does that mean that to be satisfied with your work it has to be great? Merely good won’t do. Perhaps it’s the memory of how it affects others that’s important and not so much how memorable it is to the creator.
Is it the “doing” that drives your work, or a satisfaction with the result? Is it notoriety? Certainly it can’t be wealth. My thoughts tie it to a pursuit of well-being and a desire to cheat death; the thrill of being “in the zone” and producing memorable works. This may not be true for everyone.
Permission To Suck Manifesto Law #2: The boss is the problem; the puzzle to solve, the idea to create, the crowd to excite, or your soul to satisfy. Don’t piss off the boss.
In this thought provoking presentation, Daniel Kahneman explores the complexity and confusion between experience and memory. He draws a line separating happiness in our life from being happy with our life. The connection I made between his talk and artists is the ease with which artist’s trap themselves by distorting the importance of how their artwork affects well-being.
What defines our story are significant moments and endings; memorable works and what we’ve done lately. Artist’s think of the future in terms of anticipated great works. It’s a trap.
Daniel Kahneman is an eminence grise for the Freakonomics crowd. In the mid-1970s, with his collaborator Amos Tversky, he was among the first academics to pick apart exactly why we make “wrong” decisions. In their 1979 paper on prospect theory, Kahneman and Tversky examined a simple problem of economic risk. And rather than stating the optimal, rational answer, as an economist of the time might have, they quantified how most real people, consistently, make a less-rational choice. Their work treated economics not as a perfect or self-correcting machine, but as a system prey to quirks of human perception. The field of behavioral economics was born.
Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Memorial prize in 2002 for his work with Tversky, who died before the award was bestowed. In a lovely passage in his Nobel biography, Kahneman looks back on his deep collaboration with Tversky and calls for a new form of academic cooperation, marked not by turf battles but by “adversarial collaboration,” a good-faith effort by unlike minds to conduct joint research, critiquing each other in the service of an ideal of truth to which both can contribute.
“Amos and I shared the wonder of together owning a goose that could lay golden eggs — a joint mind that was better than our separate minds.”