Friday, April 13, 2007

Nonviolent Communication as it relates to Art-Making

This week I went to a very interesting workshop with Marshall Rosenburg, the creator of "Nonviolent Communication." Nonviolent Communication is a method of mindful communication, aimed at reducing anger, guilt, blame, and judgment. It's quite interesting.
Many thought-provoking points were made, but a few things caught my attention in relationship to art and art-making.

Nonviolent Communication places emphasis on hearing the needs and feelings behind a person's word - rather than focusing on the words. For example, if someone says "You rotten jerk!" - rather than hearing an insult or personal affront, you focus on hearing that the person is feeling angry. Interesting quote: "When you are hearing the needs and feelings of someone else, you won't hear anything about yourself."

All of this reminds me of art making, and of Geoffrey's comment of Steven Larose's blog recently - that he has the quote "It's not a face" written above his portrait painting area. Of course, the subject matter of art work is a source of potential power and emphasis - but the feelings and needs held in one's heart while making the work will shine through regardless of the subject matter. Personally, I think this is especially true with painting and drawing. This explains why a Jasper Johns painting of numbers can still be evocative. Or why a Van Gogh painting of a field can be tortuous.


Another interesting quote from the workshop "People often know what they want to say, but have no idea what they want in return." NVC encourages people to follow up statements of feelings/needs with specific requests. For example, "I feel frustrated when you leave your dishes on the table. Would you please take your dish to the sink?" (compared with "You always leave your dishes out!"). That's a banal example, but it's an interesting point in relation to art-making.

It's so important to know not only what you want to say with your art, but what sort of response you want to get. Who is our target audience, and how do we want them to respond to our work? What action do we want to request of them? What are we trying to say, to whom, and why?

One last thing: More than once, Mr. Rosenburg said something along the lines of "Speak your truth in a way that people receive it as a gift." Isn't that a nice dictum for making art?


Blogger Angela Rose Voulgarelis Illgen said...

Reading "The Gift" by Lewis Hyde is also wonderful...a whole book dedicated to art as a gift and the problems of commofication of art in modern society. I highly recommend it!

6:30 AM  
Blogger springsandwells said...

Hi Sweet Angela!
Yes, it's funny that you mention "The Gift" - I was thinking of it as I wrote this post. It's one of my favorite books ever.


7:59 AM  
Blogger Neva Vegan said...

A really interesting entry. Sometimes I am able to hear the subtext behind what someone is saying rather than hearing an insult, and other times I get caught up in emotion and I can't do it as well.

I try to put good energy into my art, and I hope my intentions shine through. But I also know that people bring to it their own emotional state as well and sometimes see themselves reflected back, which is not always a bad thing.

1:26 PM  
Blogger jessica said...

good post. thank you.

10:10 PM  
Blogger KleoPatra said...

Wow. Where have i been, not seeing this blog? Wonderful post...

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the post.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Mikaela said...

Great post :)

6:56 AM  
Blogger Maria Rose said...

It is interesting that you mention a target audience and you hoped for reaction. I found that line of thinking to be paralyzing as an artist. It was not until I released myself from the restrictions of the invisible audience that I felt really free to make the art that was really in me. I cannot know what is in someone's mind and letting go of that desire was really quite a big step for me as an artist. What are your thoughts?

8:01 AM  
Blogger Maria Rose said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my site. I see where you are coming from and my husband works on much the same manner!

9:44 AM  

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