Cameron Robbins, 08:05:2010; 5:50pm; ECNU Shanghai; showery and cool; 29 and 1/2 hours, 2010
"V'la l'bon vent, v'la l'joli vent,
V'la l'bon vent!
V'la l'bon vent, v'la l'joli vent,
V'la l'bon vent!
-Canadian folk song
You know that feeling you get when you've been in a "groundhog day" routine for a while, and you start dreaming up your escape route to some exotic lands where you can wrap yourself in a cloak of infinite freedom? Well I used to actually do that quite frequently. Not always the exotic lands bit, but I would literally quit my job, pack up my gear, and move on to another landscape. I would allow myself to get carried away with the next adventure in the same way that Vianne Rocher's gypsy heart is constantly called to movement with the north wind. The book and film, 'Chocolat', portray the heroine's restlessness as such a romantic notion: to be swept away and seduced by the magic of the unknown, carrying nothing but her mother's tarot deck, a box of trinkets and ancient mayan chocolate recipes...
I won't lie- the north wind has shown me some pretty eclectic experiences. I've lived in a bunch of unconventional homes from an old train carriage in the bush to a teahouse in an industrial zone. I have searched villages around numerous islands of fiji for traditional handicrafts, and walked 450km through the Basque country of Spain, mapping it with poetry. I have tried various vocations, learned how to make do with very little, and met a whole lot of eccentric characters along the way.
But the flip side of all this is that it was also pretty chaotic at times. There is a price to pay for continuously uprooting, and there is a part of me that deeply desires a nest in which to build my fire and grow my dreams. And so earlier this year I made some "adult" decisions: to find a stable home and income, a career that could grow to be an expression of what I love, and a relationship with myself and others that didn't include the emotional rollercoasters I'd become accustomed to. While I have come to value the notion of having the patience to stand still for long enough to really build something, I do, however, still get restless. It's not always possible to simply "follow our heart", because we are complex beings with diverse and sometimes conflicting desires. People have families to look after or career goals they wish to fulfil whilst also wishing for whimsy, travel and play. As writer Tim Parish so eloquently poses the question, "how do we plant roots and stretch wings at the same time?"
Jackson Pollock had an answer. So do Akram Khan and Cameron Robbins. Pollock's famously chaotic "drip" paintings are actually deceivingly quite ordered and modelled on the fractals of nature upon closer inspection with specialised computer software.
Akram Khan (alongside Nitin Sawhney and Anish Kapoor) choreographs contemporary dance from the inspiration of chaos with “Hindu Gods, black holes, Indian time cycles, tablas, creation and destruction”.
And Cameron Robbins builds customised, automated drawing machines that trace the patterns of the unpredictable winds of the Roaring Forties in Tasmania.
What each of these artists do is study chaos and transform it into art. Chaos is inherent in the creative process. When you think about it, creativity is the act of consciously channelling chaos. It's pulling things apart and reassembling them into a new order. Dr Robert Bilder, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at UCLA, explains that "in any system, there are forces pushing towards organisation and others introducing unpredictability. A truly creative idea straddles both of those states. The truly creative changes and the big shifts occur right at the edge of chaos."
So now when I find myself getting itchy feet, I scratch them by walking them to my computer, and I sit down and write. I suppose you could say this is still an escape into the recesses of my imagination, perhaps one of the few places where unbridled living really exists. What I do know is that the thrills I experience when I'm in "the zone" stitching together words are made up of the same DNA as the adventures of the north wind, but the difference is I'm thoughtfully riding its contours instead of allowing it to scatter me across the landscape.
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