Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In your hands: Rujian or Taoist?

There is the well known stage of being a newbie. Many people learn to get what they want from SL, and happy go along from there. However, for creative people, there is another stage. It exists for everyone, but for creatives it is much more protracted. That is the time when the creative person is simultaneously hit with the power of the platform, but has not yet learned how it should flow in his or her hands. They get frustrated, produce early pieces, and think of things that can't be done. The get a bad case of the "if only this, or that, they I could."

When does a person leave this stage? When they come to one of two conclusions. One is the road of being interested in highly detailed work. There are very large financial rewards, 6 figures even, for being really good at making lots and lots of very detailed things. The faux real rests on being able to do huge volumes of high detail things. The highly detailed artist finds a way to make small variations on their detail, and produce them in a wide range. Most successful designers and commercial builders are detail people. Call these people many things, because some are realists, others create the fantastical. Instead, I think that the best way to think of this kind of artistic work is as confucianists. I use the word "rujians" for my own purposes. A rujian sets a goal, and accumulates changes to reach it as best it can be reached within the present context.

The other road is to flow with the platform. These people are taoists. What can be done with an easy flair is exploited. The taoist spends a great deal of time avoiding spending a great deal of time.

The confucian point of view is a hit or miss proposition. For every success, there are many people who will spend hundreds of hours as failures. The taoists are fewer in number and tend to be even wider in range. A poor taoist produces things that don't even seem to be creative at all, so vast is their failure. But then, so does the master taoist, only in a different way.

When I talk to someone who has reached that point of frustration, it is inevitable that they are conflicted. They want the ease of a taoist artist, with the ability to impose and order like a rujian. This is a contradiction. Imposition is always impressive because it is detailed, because it had to scale a wide gulf of activity, because it takes time and is so placed. Rujians are differentiated by their ability to create and order details in their myriad. The taoist cuts through such difficulties with a blazing stroke, and leaves behind an image or an experience which breaks the older way without seeming to do anything. When you see a taoist work, you realize you could duplicate it in a few hours, now that you have seen how to do it.

Few people are purely one or the other. At the heart of almost ever great rujian work, is a tao-like understanding of how to produce the variations that will be needed, a seem in the fabric which is worked over and over again. The rujian masterpiece is a million taoist steps from shore to the top of the sacred mountain. The taoist, for his or her part, studies details in their thousand, picking this or that one to exploit in a fantastical way. The taoist has done as much work as the rujian in detail, but throw the million ordinary details out, and left behind the single best.

So each artist should learn both rujian and taoist approaches, even if one or the other will be there most common path to art.

1 comment:

  1. "The taoist spends a great deal of time avoiding spending a great deal of time." Thats me all right. Another great post. It occured to me this week that the present is much more expansive than the past or the future. I want to spend more time in the present reading your posts! more!