Thus begins the spring and summer of educating myself about contemporary art outside of photoland. I’ve got 4 months to shore up knowledge of current work in installation, social practice and performance/video – yikes!
People approach any task with one of two mindsets: what I call the “Be-Good” mindset, where your focus is on proving that you have a lot of ability and already know what you’re doing, and the “Get-Better” mindset, where your focus is on developing ability. You can think of it as the difference between wanting to prove that you are smart, and wanting to get smarter.
The problem with the Be-Good mindset is that it tends to cause problems when we are faced with something unfamiliar or difficult. The Get-Better mindset, on the other hand, is practically bullet-proof. When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and mastering, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur.
The quote is from the written piece, but in the video, she cites data that shows that Get Better people tend to persist and this tends to lead to better performance. They also tend to take action when things are going poorly whereas Be Good folks tend to mope. In her words, “because [Get Better people] thought the point was to improve, they found a way to improve.” The one-line take away is to always compare yourself to your own past performance, not to other people. At all. Even though the entire world wants to evaluate you. That’s not to say that performance markers don’t matter in real life, but her point is that if you focus too much on them, you actually perform worse, so it is self-defeating.
I’m starting to like 99u more and more. They are trying to be TED for creatives. Sure, 80% of what they publish is fluff, but occasionally, something really helpful pops up. Maybe this is only because I am speaking from the perspective of a former raging perfectionist…
Often, recorded images seem to be a substitute for memory. There is the vacationer videotaping his experience out of both abhorrence at the fleetingness of all things and an often-mistaken sense that he will watch it later and truly know where he has been.
There is the modern state of seeming to remember as experience what has been known only as image or footage. There is the way that photographs become repositories of memory, and by that token our memories cease to be such repositories. That is to say, that the photograph is not augmentation of the mind but replacement of it in some sense, as all material recordings of knowledge, information, and appearance are, since drawing, since writing.
- Rebecca Solnit, “The Ruins of Memory,” After the Ruins: 1906 and 2006
I don’t think that one should sit and look at a blank page. The way around it is to walk around with scrap paper and to take notes, and simply to take notes on the observable world around you.
I think everything – everything – starts with the observable world, and even though you may cut that out of your final go, nonetheless I think this is where it always starts, and with overheard conversations.
I often recommend writing as a tool for self-discovery because it’s helped me so much. I use writing in different ways: I write as an artist but I also write when I’m just trying to work through something or make a tough decision. And I think, a lot of times, even people who aren’t writers will write in crisis. They’ll write in their journals after breaking up with someone, even though they haven’t written for two years. That’s because it’s a way to essentially practice your thoughts and see what’s there.