Staying True to What You Believe / by Louis Holstein

“Who are they performing for? ... I realized that they were performing for God, whatever that means...
— Julie Taymor

I'm convinced Julie Taymor is a genius. What she has brought to the preforming arts world over the past three decades has been some of the most moving pieces of art out there. In the TED Talk linked above, she speaks on several different topics, but it is her opening story that I want to discuss here. 

The opening story is about a trip she went on to Bali. One night, when she thought she was alone, she witnesses 20 old men putting on a dance of some sort. She describes it as quite a theatrical experience, with costumes and sounds.  She notes that while watching this ceremony it was obvious to her there was no publicity, no money, and it was not for a human audience. She quickly realizes their audience is God. After the ceremony a man comes with a propane lantern and lights the square for an opera. Within minutes the entire village is present, watching. 

You must be true to what you believe as an artist, all the way through. But you also have to be aware that the audience is out there... it’s this incredible balance that we walk when we are creating something that is breaking ground.
— Julie Taymor

As I digest her story I think about how the art that I create must be for me first. As an artist, what I create speaks to my situation, my moment, and my story. That is what "being true to what I believe" is. I don't create for others. In fact, I find that I don't even know that I create for God as much as I respond to God by creating. (Although, I'm not sure there is a difference.) One thing I know for sure, and this talk confirms it, what I create does not need a human audience in the way entertainment is created for human audiences today. My art is a response to my creator, and God's attention is all I seek when I deliver my creation. As Julie says, that doesn't mean that I write off the human audience, they are just not present in the preliminary stages of my creative process. They can't be. It is not for them.

I think of the creative process that writing and curating On Mercy has been. I gave my book to two general editors and a copy editor. I did this because I wanted to share this piece of art with an audience. Some things were added, some taken away, all for the audience that will eventually take part in the story that is On Mercy. As Julie said, it is an "incredible balance" of staying true to oneself as an artist, yet knowing the audience is there too. Even as I begin this blog, no one knows about it but my wife. I won't be advertising it. It would be great if an audience finds it, but if not, that's okay. This is for me anyway.  

-Louis

(Original Ted Talk here)