Sunday, September 12, 2010
On Getting Lost...and the art of the accidental
On Saturday morning Larry pointed to the travel section. "Look at this," he said. There was a huge, and I might add, brilliant spread by one of my favorite travel writers, Matt Gross. It was called LOST IN TANGIER. I love the idea of getting lost. Or trying to get lost which Matt struggles with. It's something I try to do myself and also without much success because, for better or worse, I also have a strong sense of direction.
I also loved the way Matt wrote about Tangier because we are going there in just a month. As I was reading, I promised myself that I would not follow in Matt's footsteps because the point of his article was about not doing that. Still I found myself circling cafes he mentioned and booking a room at the Continental. So it was exciting for me to read, but it also became grist for the mill.
Perhaps because the day before the Times had another excellent piece on an artist named Dan Colen, who uses among his mediums, chewing gum, and he's not adverse to having his canvases dragged face down through grassy fields. One line stuck out in this article. It was on how Colen practices the art of the accidental. He not only isn't afraid for random things to occur in the making of his art, he welcomes it. And, beyond welcoming it, he actually goes looking for it.
Matt Gross, who recently stepped down from being "The Frugal Traveler," (and I won't pretend I didn't envy his life for the past five years) tries to get lost. He doesn't want a GPS or Google map or guidebook ruining the pleasure of coming upon an unanticipated alleyway, a café that serves the best coffee you've ever tasted, a neighborhood where you can watch children playing in the streets. He wants to stumble on to that perfect restaurant or hotel. Or the not so perfect as well. I love his chance encounter when he asks a man what it means to be a father.
Similarly for Colen the accidental in a sense is his art. Whether from chewing gum or grassy fields, he doesn't want to know what his art will be before he makes it.
Once again I am struck at how similar the traveler and the artist are. Getting lost is to the traveler what the accidental is to the artist. It is only when you allow yourself the freedom to get lost or as an artist to allow the random to enter your work that you can truly be creative. Perhaps in a sense creativity is just that. Allowing for the surprise. Welcoming the unexpected. The detour is the journey. Just as the character who takes a surprise turn can become the story.