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When You’re Not Scared Anymore, It’s Time to Quit: Reflections on Courage and Fear

Date and time
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 3:02 PM

When You’re Not Scared Anymore, It’s Time to Quit: Reflections on Courage and Fear

In an inspiring audio clip produced by SFMOMA, we can hear Robert Rauschenberg, reflecting on his White Paintings, describe the courage built into their uniqueness and individuality, as well how this collection of work continued to scare him for some time after their creation.  John Cage says that he responded immediately upon seeing these white, empty paintings; they gave him the courage to finally create a composition without sound  - the iconic 4’33” - based upon his earlier experiments in an anechoic chamber at Harvard University.

Recently, in front of Ryoji Ikeda’s own 4’33”, I asked a multidisciplinary group of artists to what extent fear and/or courage played a role in their art practices.  Responses varied and included the risk involved in opening oneself up and exposing personal experience, managing the interior pain that persists at the core of creative resolve, the challenge of translating one’s ideas into a new language, and the danger of no longer being afraid.  Sculpture, architecture, photography, and trapeze are all art forms that implicate the body and intellect in a myriad of ways and accept fear to varying degrees as an inevitable part of creation and performance.  Whether an obstacle, a driving force, a starting point or a lingering after effect, the way we perceive and experience the interplay between fear and courage can contribute to the unfolding of our practice and, inevitably, ourselves.

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Text: Emily Keenlyside
Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay

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