Art is often thought to require the expression of something relevant. Relevance is highly subjective though: what might feel relevant to one person, might not ever faze the next one. You don’t need a lot to understand what you care about, yet introspection will let you dig deeper into your tastes. Experience shows that many of them change over time, while others remain unchanged over years; both can matter to you. The more you create work that’s relevant to you, the more vulnerable you are: caring creates vulnerability. You might be attached to your work, and require courage to express and exhibit your deepest ideals. Your work isn’t just another performance or another short film, but an honest expression of how you view the world. Others might make fun of it, misunderstand or ignore it. This is disturbing, but to be expected: they might dislike it because they dislike you personally, or because it touches a topic they are deeply uncomfortable with. Neither of you might know this – potentially even resulting in weird antipathies: if you create a highly sterile work, some people will despise it for its lack of emotions. If you create a highly emotive work instead, some people will despise your over-abundance of public emotional release. It would be a huge misunderstanding to take either situation personally, or as worthwhile feedback of your work – it’s not. Neither should you thrive on positive feedback; feedback simply highlights the alignment of personal relevances and affinities, not the value of what’s relevant. Values are personal. Relevances are individual. Instead of discussing relevance, think about individuality as metric to judge your work: what matters is whether what you do is authentic – to you. Only you can judge your authenticity; if relevance is a currency, your individuality has the highest value. In a world of global brands, any individual approach will stand out as unique and rare: push for it.
Art is often thought to require intention, but that’s not necessarily true. Of course we want to live in a world where our intentions influence situations, since it gives us the impression of power and control over the world. Reality often shows us the opposite though: randomness influences the world just as much. You often can’t influence more than your initial leanings and affinities. Work, network, business and personal development thrive on intention and randomness. Life brims with their synchronicities. Art loves intention as much as randomness. Unintended situations and mistakes can set the stage for intentional further steps. Order and chaos constantly overlap and expand each other. Your grasp of the situation, your sensitivity and empathy are the best possible navigation tools. Especially when thinking of art as process to express contemporaneity, and witnessing the many unintended aspects of life surrounding us, the “best” art might actually be the result of unintended choices: you can create sloppy work if you’re sloppy or lazy – and might expertly express something relevant about the Zeitgeist. Since the arts don’t feature monolithic, fixed quality judgements, you can use processes as sloppily or exacting as you want, without resulting in works that are inherently better or worse. There simply isn’t a connection between a work’s creation process, and whether it will appear “good” or “bad” to others. What ultimately matters is whether your practice is authentic to you. Instead of intention, focus your authenticity.
What’s ultimately required of you is the curiousity and determination to carve a niche that fits you. A niche offering processes and collaborations satisfactory to you; then with luck and business dedication, and a sound understanding of what success means to you, this success might actually follow. Along the way, unexpected situations will arise: conversations with people who care about your work; job opportunities and collaboration requests; these might influence your idea of success, and create an ever-more holistic version of it.