Last week I went to a major retrospective of American pop artist Robert Rauschenberg at London’s Tate Modern. Rauschenberg was a hugely influential figure in American art, connected with many other artists, musicians and creatives, including a number of dancers and choreographers. HIs work is continually reinventing itself, engaged with politics and real life and yet always experimental and playful.
Here’s a story that really struck me.
From the 1950s onwards he created set and lighting design as well as costumes, working with particularly with the choreographer Merce Cunningham. However, in 1963 he found himself mistakenly credited in a programme as a choreographer.
How would you or I respond? Laugh it off? Say, ‘if only?!’
Not Rauschenberg. He decided to become it. He started to choreograph.
The result was a performance called Pelican, and it was followed by others. It’s fun, and slightly mad (you can see it at the bottom of the page). If he was intimidated by the weight of experience of his dance colleagues, it’s not obvious.
‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’
What would happen if you named a deep desire?
What would happen if someone called yourself a writer, a podcast, a dancer, a designer?
What would happen if you began to believe it yourself?
Here’s one technique to help make it happen.
How to find your hidden artist
Name what you, somewhere, want to be. Don’t be shy – this is your chance to listen to what captures your imagination. Rauschenberg was an artist who worked with professional choreographers: he would have had so many reasons not to dare to create public choreographic work.
Write down your name with that job as it would appear in a programme or on a poster. See how it feels.
To take it a step further, create yourself a poster, book cover or workshop sign. Canva is a great place to start – it’s a free and easy to use design program.
Put it up someone you can see it regularly, and simply observe how it feels when you think about it. Notice whether it starts to pull you, or whether your feelings change about it.