Claire Patton

Physical Theater Mojo


Posted on May 5, 2013

I hate it when artists use the word “Innovation”.

InnovationHere’s why:

Innovation is a lie.  It’s one of those buzzwords that we artists use to feed our own egos and make ourselves feel important.  And creating art directly from the ego is a volatile practice at best.  The art you create should transcend you.  I know Mozart was an ass, but you can make the argument that in composing, that in music he was somehow able to transcend his own ass-y nature.  If art is to reach even one stranger, then it has to be greater than you.  Ego cannot create that because ego is all about itself, about you and it goes no further than that.  (By the way, I’m not arguing that you can’t create art from a personal place, just that that you have to nourish the artwork as something outside yourself.  You have to protect it, let it grow as something “other” and bigger than you.)

Innovation is overrated.  I hold to the old ways, the belief that art is a reflection of nature.  If it isn’t a reflection of nature or directly play in contrast to nature then it is untrue and unreliable from the audience’s perspective.  Your work has to be true.  That means that somewhere the audience recognizes themselves in what you’re playing, whether it’s a tragic hero or a Mouseketeer.  Often the pursuit of innovation as a goal results in the loss of that truth.  Innovation overtakes truth and twists it into something unrecognizable.  Innovation becomes an excuse for creating work that is hollow and mediocre.

Innovation is impossible.  In the seventies, thinking outside the box was an interesting artistic proposal, a departure from traditional theater practices.  Nowadays, there is no such thing as traditional theater practices.  People are making art in all sorts of ways and crossing boundaries all the time.  Rebellion is only valuable if there is something to rebel against.  There isn’t.

Well, there’s still one thing to rebel against: bad art.  Innovation is often used as some kind of gimmick, used to mask the fact that a piece of art is bad.  What’s the point of innovation if what you have created is lifeless?  Forget innovation, just focus on creating good art and entertaining people while you’re at it.  That’s what this world needs more of.

Challenge yourself as an artist, yes.  Try new things and go in the direction of that which frightens and exhilarates you.  Follow the joy.  Don’t try to be innovative for the sake of being innovative.  Just be awesome.