Someone sent me a link to this Washington Post article about an experiment where Joshua Bell, ‘one of the world’s greatest musicians’, played his Stradivarius in Washington DC metro station during the morning rush hour. The gist of the article is that most people ignored him, even though people had paid $100 to hear him play sell out concerts the week before. The article is interesting because it raises lots of questions about how we perceive excellence, about when we’re ready to be attentive to art and about how the experience of being ignored can undermine even the most brilliant performers!
There’s also a question about what pearls we miss when we’re not attentive, when we’re busy and ‘focused’. I guess I’m also curious about the beauty that’s available for discovery in unexpected places.
Having just toured Casadh Arís in Baile Bhúirne, in a secondary school in An RInn, and in a new theatre space in An Daingean, I’d love to make work that’s an unexpected delight. Because people in rural areas in Ireland don’t see contemporary work so often, the nature of it is unexpected to them, perhaps a little puzzling. But the response to Casadh Arís has been positive, generous, inquisitive and eager. And that delights me.
This aspiration to be an unexpected delight does betray something about me and about how I see my work. I don’t see it as a take-it-for-granted-it’s-fabulous-extravaganza and you could say that my image of creeping into the consciousness of others rather than demanding their attention betrays a lack of confidence. But there is also a kind of resilience and maybe courage implied in putting my work in places where a positive reception isn’t guaranteed or accorded by context or by convention. The creeping is also a determination not to accept being kept in one place and to surprise by crossing boundaries – stealthily but inexorably.