in 2012, Dalia Lithwick published <a href="https://slate.com/human-interest/2012/06/chaos-theory.html" target="_blank">an article in Slate</a> where she postulated a theory of human behavior. Her thesis was that in our world, there is a dialectic between two types of people—(link-reveal: "order muppets and chaos muppets.")[order muppets and chaos muppets.
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/slateScreenshot.png" height="300px"> <img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/bertErnie.jpg" height="300px">
(link-reveal: "ORDER MUPPETS")[: they are neurotic, regimented, and averse to surprises. "They resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their shoulders.” that’s Bert.
(link-reveal: "CHAOS MUPPETS")[: they are emotional, volatile, warm, fuzzy. "They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C.” that’s Ernie.
[[what are you?|you]]]]]since i don’t have any improv to show you i will show you something that i made in an hour with my boyfriend
<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/258370808?color=fffb00" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen" allowfullscreen></iframe>
//I'm Paul!//, 2018
(he improvised the voiceover but i made all the stunning graphics so my name is ultimately the one that gets credit)
[[→|thoughts]]#ON CULTIVATING CHAOS (in art)
Created in the summer of 2019. Some of the content is outdated, but I've left much of it in its original format.
[[Chapter One: Muppets and Art|muppets]](link-reveal: "<h1>what is chaos in art?</h1>")[(link-reveal: "it is //NOT// mania or anarchy (though if you’re naturally inclined towards any of those things you’re probably a chaotic muppet)")[
(link-reveal: "it is //absurdity// — a truthful randomness")[
(link-reveal: "it's the feeling of being drunk on creativity")[
(link-reveal: "it's subconscious influence, the id")[
(link-reveal: "it's collages and sketchbooks and mood boards")[
(link-reveal: "it's making intentionally ugly art")[
(link-reveal: "it's made-up words by teenagers (yeet, scrappy, etc.)")[
(link-reveal: "it's the feeling of losing your keys inside your house")[
(link-reveal: "it's the //internet// — good and bad parts")[
[[EVEN MORE EXAMPLES|examples]]
]]]]]]]]]]Paul McCartney, Geocities, //Yellow Submarine// (movie), the carousel scene from //Strangers on a Train//, the actress Gong Li, //Daisies//, longform improv, Oskar Kokoshka, the priest from fleabag, //Priestdaddy//, florine stettheimer, //Curb Your Enthusiasm//, Antoine Doinel, Nina Simone, St. Vincent, William Blake, BTS's "Dionysus", Lynda Barry, Contrapoints, etc. etc. etc.
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/chaos-mood-board.gif" width="100%">
this presentation is about chaos (guess what I am?), but i don’t mean to imply that order doesn’t have its place in art. [[in fact, much like Bert and Ernie...|ch 2]]#ON CULTIVATING CHAOS
//Chapter One: Muppets and Art//
//(link-reveal: "Chapter Two")[: Intelligible Chaos (or, There is No Chaos Without [[Order|camp]])]//''TO RECREATE THIS AT HOME, YOU WILL NEED:
* scissors, glue, tape
* several sheets of half-folded paper (to be put together in a zine)
* pre-cut images and stickers to collage with
* a timer (or podcast, provided!)
* some friends''
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
with chaos and collaboration in mind, i’d like you guys to do this exercise.
trust your instincts. be playful. have fun!
feel free to create two separate collages or one that spans the page. but know that it WILL be folded.
(link-reveal: "''ARTS & CRAFTS TIME!''")[
1. Make a collage on one side of the paper. Write your name in pencil on the back.
2. You have <a href="https://www.thisamericanlife.org/203/recordings-for-someone/act-one" target="_blank">10 minutes.</a>
[[PART TWO|final activity 2]]](link-reveal: "''ARTS & CRAFTS TIME, PART TWO!''")[
1. STOP what you're doing! Glue down the last things you need to glue down. Then, fold your paper in half, and trade it with someone else. NO PEEKING!
2. When you get a new collage, write your name in pencil on the back. open it, then finish the collage with your images. You have 10 minutes.
[[3. Show and tell!|zine]]
//Some thoughts: Don’t worry about steamrolling, or being precious with the other person’s collage. Treat it as if you are receiving RAW materials with which you can transform in ANY way.
And In the back of your head, try to figure out what principles you are being guided by while collaging—what your theme might be, or what you notice when something “clicks” on the page.//]Susan Sontag’s seminal essay “Notes On Camp” is a collection of vignettes that aims to describe the sensibility of camp. (camp, to put it reductively, is an ironic appreciation for something deemed to be in bad taste.)
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/notesoncamp.jpeg" height="450px">
but my point isn't about the theory or aesthetic of camp. let's instead talk about how she delivers her message. her writing is articulate. dense. she divides her paragraphs numerically.
[[but...|camp 2]]i make all of my mood boards on this website called are.na. it’s like pinterest but multimedia, or tumblr without the social currency.
<iframe src="https://www.are.na/marcie-lacerte/channels?sort=RANDOM" width="1200px" height="600px">
i make mood boards for basically all my projects—work, freelance, personal—but i also have mood boards for [[as-of-yet-unresolved ideas for future projects|fever dream]]another sketchbook. i was employed when i started this one, and my commute to work was an hour each way. i had a lot of time to kill
<img src="http://marslizard.net/gifs/sketchbookB.gif" width="100%">
(link-reveal: "(don't worry, i don't live at that address anymore)")[
i think trains are one of the best places to draw. there are a lot of very still people, and the vibrations are very soothing. you don’t even have to like the train that you're on. my train was actually the literal bane of my existence: new jersey transit. (link-reveal: "(this is a joke for new yorkers.)")[
by drawing in sketchbooks pretty consistently for about a year, i started getting these mystical inclinations towards art and creativity. i noticed that sleep deprivation seemed to improve my skills. i began to both worship and fear the train. i started drawing the same kinds of creatures and patterns over and over again. and i became less interested in drawing people from life, and more interested in composing quasi-religious compositions, drawings of figures in a (link-reveal: "spiritual ecstasy.")[
this nascent spirituality felt weird to me because i’ve never been actually relgious—mysticism was always more of an intellectual curiosity than something i truly //believed// in. so like, what’s up with that? is this in any way #relatable? [[anyway...|sketchbook A]]]]]this is my latest sketchbook. it’s mostly collage
<img src="http://marslizard.net/gifs/sketchbookA.gif" width="60%">
i’ve collected old photos since high school for the purpose of EVENTUALLY collaging them, but i’ve only recently really dug my hands into (link-reveal: "my collection.")[
it takes a lot of time to cut up the pictures, but it takes no time to paste them onto the page. generally, when i put things down, i look for unique compositions, funny juxtapositions, and colors. but these collages take shape based mostly on instinct and intuition—ultimately, i trust my gut, and (link-reveal: "i don't question any impulse.")[
the more i work in sketchbooks, the deeper i feel that the subconscious mind has a far larger part to play in creativity than anything we can consciously control. collaging is one way to poke a stick at the subconscious. [[another way...|free writing]]]]these drawings are from the first sketchbook i kept after graduating from college
<img src="http://marslizard.net/gifs/sketchbookC.gif" width="90%">
i started out by drawing from pictures on my phone, but since it was summer, and since i was unemployed, i started going outside and drawing from life a lot.
i listened to dense, heady podcasts while drawing—not because i wanted to learn, exactly but because they helped quiet the judgmental parts of my brain. so the drawings started coming from a more subconscious place. that helped loosen me up but i still couldn’t really conjure anything from my imagination. when i did, it felt stiff, or [[artificial|sketchbook B]]but her subject matter, “camp,” is playful, weird, outrageous, fun. in other words, the formal structure of //Notes on Camp// contradicts its content. yet, this structure is precisely WHY people understand camp, and why her essay is THE essay on camp.
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/notesoncamp.jpeg" height="450px"> <img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/camp.jpg" height="450px">"
this tension between structure and content, medium and message, reminds me in a lot of ways of something else that many artists are familiar with: [[mood boards|mood boards]]this is something i call "fever dream"
<iframe src="https://www.are.na/marcie-lacerte/fever-dream-asoosizgtws" width="1200px" height="600px">
i'm not sure what it is yet. but it might be something one day.
i think mood boards are an INTELLIGIBLE chaos. i start with feverish image-gathering, framed impulsively around a vague theme. and then, i cull through the content, picking away at cliches and assumptions, smooshing together unlike things, until i come away with a collection that feels inspirational, tangible, and true.
[[but chaos is deeper than mood boards|ch 3]]#ON CULTIVATING CHAOS
//Chapter One: Muppets and Art//
//Chapter Two: Intelligible Chaos//
//(link-reveal: "Chapter Three")[: In Pursuit of a [[Deeper Chaos|sketchbook C]]]//in //The Artist’s Way//, Julia Cameron came up with an iconic free writing exercise called “morning pages”—you’re suppose to fill up three pages, front and back, with stream-of-consciousness writing, by hand, first thing in the morning.
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/artists way.jpg" height="500px">
i’ve only done this a few times because i don't usually have a lot of time in the morning. but it's an exercise i pick up when i'm feeling "stuck." more importantly, it's a practice i've brought into my [[mood boards|an afternoon rippling writing]].this is my mood board for my game, <a href="http://marslizard.net/afternoon" target="_blank">An Afternoon Rippling</a>. it started with images, like most mood boards.
<iframe src="http://www.marslizard.net/process/senior.html" width="1200px" height="600px">
but since this project was a text-based narrative, i knew i needed to write an outline. that outline started as stream-of-consciousness brainstorming, which took place at 3 am in a febrile outpour (this kind of task isn't suitable for daylight!). of course, i eventually beefed up my ideas with external research, but [[it all started in this document.|aar 2]]...is through the ART of THEATER! specifically, IMPROV
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/theater.jpg" width="600px">
i took improv classes at UCB. it’s an iconic comedy institution so i had high expectations. (i literally had my class performance last weekend so it’s VERY fresh)
[[some thoughts on improv|improv]]i’m pretty bad at it, so it's been a humbling experience
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/ucb.gif" width="100%">
but apart from skill, i've learned some things. like, it's better to risk cringeworthiness and commit fully to a scene than to be ironically detached. i think this is like finishing a bad drawing instead of ironically crossing it out, because (link-reveal: "it's probably not as bad as you think it is.")[
we did exercises in class where we literally just had a conversation with another person, but on a stage. because that’s basically what improv is: (link-reveal: "being a person on a stage.")[
most people who don't know improv at least know this tenet: it's important to respond to your scene partner with “yes, and”, not “no, but.” my main takeaway from this phrase is that improv isn't just about being a creative person with good and funny ideas. it's also about TRUSTING that the OTHER person is a creative person with good ideas
[[but this doesn't only have to apply to stagework|i'm paul]]]]to recap what i’ve talked about so far: i believe that chaos is a state of being that every creative person can and should utilize (link-reveal: "in their own practice.")[
in MY work, i am trying to approximate this feeling of bridled mania, of something unhinged boiling beneath an intelligible surface. i have not yet attained this chaotic ideal. i’m saying it out loud right now in a karmic attempt to (link-reveal: "self-actualize it.")[
but this is just my specific goal, informed by the art that i love and my own natural inclinations.
nevertheless, YOU should also care about chaos in your art. [[here are TWO reasons why.|ch 4]]]]#ON CULTIVATING CHAOS
//Chapter One: Muppets and Art//
//Chapter Two: Intelligible Chaos//
//Chapter Three: In Pursuit of a Deeper Chaos//
//(link-reveal: "Chapter Four")[: [[Why Chaos?|your gut 1]]]//''1. YOUR GUT MAKES YOUR WORK''
i have a lot of friends who are artists or who work in creative jobs, and when we critique each other's work, i often hear from them: (link-reveal: "“oh, i was thinking about changing that, but i wasn’t sure if i should.”")[
not to knock on my friends—i do this too—but i think this type of attitude is ultimately detrimental. if we aren't listening to our instincts, then what exactly are we relying on to make decisions? i think the answer to that is (link-reveal: "we are relying on the knowledge of what we SHOULD do.")[
for example, at my job as a motion designer, i might gravitate towards garish colors like pink and orange and turquoise, but i know that i SHOULD stick with more palatable and serious colors, like greys and blues and blacks. (link-reveal:"i think this is a necessary part of making art for other people.")[
but in my personal work, i try not to let the “should” affect my art. i do what i feel like i want to do. and i do it as [[decisively as i can muster.|your gut 2]]]]]''1. YOUR GUT MAKES YOUR WORK''
when i was in school, one of my favorite teachers told me that i had good instincs, and that i should continue to listen to them. i don’t think he's entirely right—i don't think my instincts are better or worse than anyone else’s. but i do think that (link-reveal: "i trust and rely on my instincts more than a lot of people.")[
and i think i do that because i really believe that instincts are the foundation of our inner creative worlds. relying on instinct will make your art both [[unique and relatable.|your gut 3]]]''1. YOUR GUT MAKES YOUR WORK''
instincts can be fostered intentionally, by exercises like free writing and sketching and making mood boards. but it’s just as important, i think, to ingest content—because (link-reveal: "the more you know about the world, the more you’re able to build on it.")[
i watch a lot of movies and read a lot of essays and listen to a lot of podcasts not just for inspiration, but to stow these stories away in my subconscious so that when i am creating my own art, my gut instincts will be (link-reveal: "stronger and more decisive.")[
the adage of “learning the rules before breaking them”—i’m kind of advocating for that, but for the part of your brain that [[lies dormant.|cluster]]]]here is my subconscious:
<iframe src="http://www.marslizard.net/thecluster.html" width="1200px" height="600px">
not really. but it’s dreamy and floaty in the way that i think all our subconsciouses are. i call it “the cluster.” it’s where i digitally organize all my notes, loose ideas, processes, and intentionally bad artwork, like “i’m paul!”
as much as i’d like to say that by fostering my subconscious, i can pump out the most amazing and unique and inspiring art on the reg...i can’t. most of my output is pretty average, objectively. i think that's normal. but, if there’s one thing that i want you take from this presentation, it’s that [[the MAGIC is in the UNPLANNED|magic 1]]''2. THE MAGIC IS IN THE UNPLANNED''
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/ucb.gif" width="600px">
a lot of improv beginners will try to plan their scenes and characters from the get-go. i do this, too. it’s really hard not to, because it’s terrifying to be thrust into the unknown, especially when that unknown is on a stage under a spotlight in front of (link-reveal: "people.")[
but the moments i got the hardest laughs—or when i FELT the best—were when my lines or actions were completely unplanned, when i was reacting to the other person or situation in a truthful way. in improv, this is called reacting at the (link-reveal: "top of your intelligence.")[
this isn't randomness, because randomness happens naturally and at all times in improv. randomness is predictable. in improv, the unpredictable is truth. [[it's the absurd.|magic 4]]]]''2. THE MAGIC IS IN THE UNPLANNED''
here’s another example. in Aristotle’s //Poetics//, he writes about what makes a successful tragedy. he says that successful tragedies should include (link-reveal: "“incidents which, though unexpected, are seen to be no mere accident but the inevitable result of what has gone before.”")[
in other words, the most cathartic moment of a tragedy is when, in retrospect, the plot suddenly seems to have fit together all along, and the ending is somehow both [[a surprise and the inevitable.|conclusion]]]Created by Marcie LaCerte, 2019. Talk originally given at the Light Grey Art Lab Residency. Here is the [[exercise|final activity]] that accompanied this talk.
website: <a href="http://marslizard.net" target="_blank">marslizard.net</a><img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/zine/Scan_1.JPG" width="80%">
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/zine/Scan 0.JPG" width="80%">
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<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/zine/Scan 8.JPG" width="80%">
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/zine/Scan 9.JPG" width="80%">
<img src="http://marslizard.net/chaos/zine/Scan 10.JPG" width="80%">
[[thank you :-)|end]]the mood board initially served as an inspirational and organizational tool. but i didn't realize then that i would be working on this game on-and-off for literal YEARS. so down the line, after i'd graduated, after i'd stopped feeling the feelings that propelled this project in the first place, (link-reveal: "it became a different kind of tool.")[
even though my final project isn’t a lot like what i'd initially "planned"—characters got consolidated, themes got dropped, jokes were nixed—i nevertheless was able to reenter the headspace i was in by (link-reveal: "rereading my stream-of-consciousness brainstorming.")[
so, for people like me who struggle to finish things, mood boards can wield a dual purpose, across time and space!
[[but another way to channel your inner chaos...|theater]]]]here's a tip: look at your long-term relationships and collaborative partners. if your partner is an Order Muppet, you are likely Chaos, and vice versa.
[[but what does this have to do with art?|chaos]]most of what we do is in service of the inevitable. write write outlines so that we know where our story (or presentation) is going. we make mood boards and sketches and styleframes so we (and our clients) can know what our final piece will look like.
but i think the best part of any project is when our brains react to our own plans, and say, “no thank you.” because that’s where the truth of the human experience is—not in anything we can predict or plan for. it’s in the [[chaos|end]].