Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Your Life is a Work of Art

Elspeth Murray - 16 January 2017




Who was there:

Alice Ellerby, Emma Abel, Chris Rowland, Li E Chen, Marianne Powell, Anna, Connor Edwards, Jenny Smith

What happened:

I felt really happy that I called this session and that people came who resonated with the title in their own unique ways.

The title is also the title of a poem I wrote in 2009 for the now-defunct BBC Blast website which was an online resource for young people to create stuff.

Here's the poem …

In the blink of an eye
on an ordinary day

When your pocket spills
a picture that says it all

When the street you're in
is a scene from a film

When your soundscape
whirlwinds in a single kiss

Your life is a work of art.

The shine that you
bring to the story

The way that you
wear that hat

The faces you saw
in the cracks on the floor

Your life is a work of art.

When you and your
friends strike a pose

The reason that you
chose those rhymes

The angles of your arms
at the end of the dance

Your life is a work of art.

Your own reflection
when you least expect it

Or colours caught in your
drawer of clothes

A collage of everything
you've ever left behind

Your life is a work of art.

How you frame it
when you see it
because you sense it
and how you edit.

It's yours to interpret
It's yours to exhibit
You are the creator
You are the curator.

Your life is a work of art.

Themes and threads in our discussion:
  • personal experience as a political statement,
    personal experience in devised work,
    known narrative,
    new ways of being and identity,
    an expansive world of narrative on social media,
    being current, not stuck in convention,
    a self-refreshing ‘social evolution’ reflected in created work,
    dissolving barriers,
    progressing cultural thinking,
    making events that challenge the norm,
    the freedom of circus and trapeze,
    feeling free and knowing it's possible,
    the very idea of running away and joining the circus,
    the Live Art Almanac,
    Orlan - performance artist manipulating their body,
    the concept of being artist in residence of one's own life,
    making every day inspiring and beautiful,
    life is magical,
    each day is a story,
    how to make art that is not all about galleries or markets,
    feeling a sense of missing making art,
    how families interrupt art making and also are art,
    what difference does making something intentional make?
    being in the moment is a work of art,
    what difference does it make to capture the moment we were in a moment ago,
    being away from home and noticing the beauty of our surroundings in a new way,
    the excitement of a new city - the sense that anything is possible,
    it's harder to feel that back at home,
    making personal performance art and sharing it with strangers,
    conceiving of all of life as art rather than feeling that not actively ‘making art’ is ‘stagnating’,
    theories and practice in performance art and conceptual art,
    art vs life,
    durational performance art,
    Tehching Hsieh's piece ‘Passing Time’
    James Taylor: “the secret of life is enjoying the passing of time”
    our sense of how we feel the flow and passing of time,
    meditation as an acceptance of reality rather than attaining an idealised state of mind,
    Pema Chodron,
    'art' is a limiting term - can ‘life’ be enough?
    art tells a story through the art form of the artist's intention,
    carve your own destiny,
    you've got your own paintbrush,
    all these daily choices determine how your book will end,
    what's the difference between creating and curating?
    (there's an article Jenny is sending about this - but it hasn't landed in my inbox yet sadly),
    being dismissive of praise for our creative work that we don't value as ‘art’ because it's not our paid work,
    'that's just pictures of my walk',
    'but that's not art',
    'I don't do art, I let other people do the art',
    how to be an authentic leader and support other people and what they bring?
    feeling that our healthy and intensely-felt experiences is one thing but that re-presenting them on social media is at odds with the authentic experience,
    how to create a space where it's OK to recognise ourselves and our lived lives - like this event, this room?
    impostor syndrome and the tendency to judge how we feel inside with how others look on the outside,
    social media and addiction and depression,
    the importance of Brené Brown's research on vulnerability and shame.

TED Talks:
Brené Brown on Vulnerability - the one that went viral
Brené Brown on Shame - the one that didn't go viral because people don't like to talk about shame

Some useful reading:
Brené Brown: “The Gifts of Imperfection”, “Daring Greatly”, “The Power of Vulnerability” (audiobook),

Thank you so much to everyone who came and shared their thoughts in this session. I look forward to working with these ideas in coming weeks and months.

This is an unfinished - and imperfect - report - our lives are unfinished - and imperfect - works of art …




Chris Grady

16 January 2017

Thank you for this - how do we make art through our lives, which can resonate with people who's lives are so so different ? Do we try ? Or is there something fundamental in all our lives which is a connecting tissue between our work and their connection to it ? If so, then how do we take work out their, ourselves and our lives out there, so that we avoid being in the echo chamber which is our artistic community - most of the time ? How do we fashion doors through which non-artists will wish to walk to experience our life and art ?

Elspeth Murray

18 January 2017

Hi Chris! Great comment and question. I think that accepting our actions and choices as being creative means we are telling our truth. And I believe that in telling our truth, we are more likely to connect with others, whatever their position or background. Trust is important - building trust by sharing stories. Building trust by making things and working together. I think! I look forward to talking more about this with you and others over coming months :-)
Li-E Chen

18 January 2017

Thanks Elspeth for sharing your poem in the report, it is really great to be able to revisit your poem again - Your Life Is A Work Of Art. Sending all the best wishes, Li x
Elspeth Murray

18 January 2017

Thanks Li! I'm really glad you could be there & that the concept was resonating with the Invisible Museum as it evolves into something that is inside you and everywhere at the same time.
Jenny Smith

25 January 2017

Thanks so much for calling this session and for sharing your poem. Here's the TED talk about curating your own stories (from a psychological point of view):


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