Process and Product

The theme of a number of conversations I was involved in this week was the notion of process in the artistic universe. “It’s all about process.” “You have to go through the process.” “You can’t throw out the process just because you are unhappy with the product.” “The process is constantly being refined. It’s how we learn.” These are just a few of the statements I have heard in the last seven days.

Most artists I know would agree with the first quote. When asked whether their work is about process or product, the vast majority will answer “process.”  We are taught in schools and workshops and discussions that it’s all about process. Many of us believe it on the basis of experience.

My experience as both a stage director and photographer has borne this out, at least to a point.  A younger director, who had opening night nerves on the third night of the run, once asked me if it ever got any better. I told him that it did not, but it does. It gets better when you realize that what you do as a director comes to an end once the curtain goes up. There is absolutely nothing you can do to impact the outcome of tonight’s performance; you might as well not be there. Often I am not, as is the case with many directors. They have come to realize that it is about the process. Once you have done what you can do to make the production the best it can be, given the tools you have to work with, your task is completed.  No amount of anxiety will make the production be any better than it is.  Your job is to take the production through the rehearsal process and then turn it loose. You conference, cajole, coerce, and sometimes conjure to make it what you can, according to your vision. You create; then you are done. Your product, if you have one, is then in the hands of the actors and technicians.

As a photographer, you involve yourself in at least two very different processes: that of setting up and capturing the image and then that of post-processing, of arriving at a final image. It is much the same as theatre, but a bit easier to summarize, and ending with a tangible product (if you commit to print). You do what you can do to create the best you can create, and then you are done.

However, once you are done, once the process ends, there are all those resultant products.  As Plotinus said, “In the realm of process anything coming to be must come to be something.”

Sometimes, we become so wrapped up in process that we don’t quite know what to do with the product. Some of us do nothing. However, others us decide that we must deal with the product as well as the process. Then we move into a different mode. Then we become marketers, salesmen, negotiators, showmen. We worry about getting the product in front of someone. We are concerned with how our product will be perceived. We hope that we will find someone who will be able to recognize what it is and appreciate it. Sometimes that can get in the way of the artistic process; sometimes it can be integrated so that it becomes part of that process.

Regardless of how we view the product, regardless of how much product we produce, we must return again and again to the process. We must acknowledge that process is a major building block of creativity. And we must learn to trust those processes we have developed and are developing to create product that will communicate whatever we have to communicate. Participating in the process is what we do; participating in the process is making art.

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Date: Sunday, 14. November 2010 23:54
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Audience, Creativity, Photography, Theatre

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2 comments

  1. 1

    This observation is spot on:

    Sometimes, we become so wrapped up in process that we don’t quite know what to do with the product. Some of us do nothing. However, others us decide that we must deal with the product as well as the process. Then we move into a different mode. Then we become marketers, salesmen, negotiators, showmen. We worry about getting the product in front of someone. We are concerned with how our product will be perceived. We hope that we will find someone who will be able to recognize what it is and appreciate it. Sometimes that can get in the way of the artistic process; sometimes it can be integrated so that it becomes part of that process.

    As a writer, I find myself worried more often than not how the product will be (pe)received even though I have a great deal of sales data and anecdotal evidence to suggest “success.” Sometimes this gets in the way of the process, sometimes it becomes part of it.

    Lovely.

  2. 2

    Perhaps full integration is the only way to keep marketing from getting in the way of process. Or maybe we need to modify our perception of process. Or maybe it’s one of those on-going struggles that has no clear answer. Deserves more thought.

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