Improvisation has recently become central to my artistic practice. What had always played some role for me on the periphery, I am now deliberately placing front and center, as the mainstay of my work.
Improvisation is beautiful, and I don’t necessarily mean to look at. It’s beautiful to be inside of, perhaps one of the best ways to get to know and be yourself. It’s an embodied way of staying curious, and I’m curious what it will reveal for me over time. Right now, I’m aware of a handful of reasons why I’ve intentionally committed to improvising.
Improvisation allows me to:
- Remember to have fun!
- Give importance to things that are playful in spirit, raw, messy, unpolished, and unproduced.
- Get out of my head and into my heart.
- Lead with my impulses rather than default to a cerebral, calculative mode of making.
- Enjoy an inward gaze, a more somatic experience, rather than fixate on a dance’s visual quality from outside my own body.
- Distill my own artistic voice, to discover what I am really after.
- Make art that is of the moment and in tune with the pulse of each day.
Improvisation alone has so much meaning for me right now, but it also provides fodder for a project I’m developing called This Is How I Feel Today. Additionally, I’ve been posting weekly glimpses of my improv sessions on social media because it feels important to make a point every now and then about how play is good for your health, how creativity for its own sake can be a part of daily life like your morning tea, and how things need not be so put-together all the time.
Perhaps, also, improvisation and the act of sharing it is a way of abiding in my own counterculture. It counters:
- The capitalistic notion that only a sellable, deliverable product has worth or is worthy of one’s attention.
- The precious treatment of one’s creation as intellectual property that should be owned, monetized, and is at risk of being stolen.
- A trend amongst South Asian artists to often stand behind a facade of highly produced if not overproduced work that seems to value production over authenticity, vanity over vulnerability, glitz over self.
- The idea that “successful” artists are some kind of “professional” “experts”, who have it all figured out.
- The idea that what I do needs to agree with somebody other than me.
- The idea that there is one right way to do things, that it is better to demonstrate unquestionable technical precision in finished outputs over messy explorations.
I guess there are a lot of norms I don’t buy into, and I’m still reflecting on and figuring out how improvising gives me a real and symbolic release.
Improvisation feels like emancipation, no joke. Its magic is this year's best discovery.