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Essay: Art Direction as Spiritual Practise

Began as a daily journal practise with reflections around art direction and spirituality.
Written in the fall of 2020 | Haavard Holmaas

The field of art direction presents a unique challenge to its practitioner: to master the pairing of its inherent opposites: the emotional and the rational. It requires the ability to rein two horses with equal grace: Art (emotion) and Direction (reason).

Paradoxically, the two flourish in diametrically different states of mind. Strategic direction involves careful analysis and structured thinking, while pure works of art seem to arise from a place far beyond reason and thought.

However, what they share is their quest to arrive at a point of absolute clarity – a place from which true nature can be felt and subsequently conveyed. In this way, art and direction are driven by the same force: they both seek to reach and express truth.

In art direction, this quest for truth unites the rational and emotional through what is best described as a feeling of intuition. As such, a daily practise of art direction is a daily practise of intuition.

A journey towards truth is also at the core of most spiritual pursuits. Attempting to go beyond matter, time and space, the objective of the spiritual seeker is to experience or embody a deeper, formless energy, or “spirit”. This nondogmatic spiritual level is simply known: it is not intellectual or rational, yet neither emotionally ecstatic, but asserted through a state of absolute harmony.

From 2015 project «Operation Heim».
From 2019 project FEIT Paris Showroom.

Most spiritual traditions touch on this phenomena, using various names and prescribing various ways of getting in touch with it.

These spiritual paths often involve some form of deep immersion, moving beyond our thinking minds to allow true insight to manifest. Breaking free from the concepts of conditioned mind, you begin to see directly into the core of being.

The perhaps most commonly known form of such deep, deliberate immersion is meditation. Yet, Zen Buddhist writings also emphasise that any form of complete immersion – or “burning yourself completely” as Shunryu Suzuki refers to it as in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – holds the same potential for spiritual experience.

Immersed in creative process, a door sometimes opens up into this potential. When our traditional self begins to melt away, attention moves from local, conditioned mind to beyond thought, to a greater force of intuition. As our egos get out of the way, true nature begins to effortlessly unfold and manifest itself. In this state, heart and mind is operating as one, in a state of unrestricted flow. The result, more often than not, is creative output that is both powerful and effortless, both personal and universal.

It is simply in balance.

[Above] The book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.

Through the dissolution of mental concepts and constraints, what begins to manifest is the energetic charge from a source much greater than our thinking minds. This is an unmistakable energy, inherently true, by nature.

Few fields are more obsessed with the idea of authenticity than the creative professions. There is a deliberate pursuit of authenticity – an attempt to recreate it, or somehow systematically harvest its force. Thus the race begins to manufacture this elusive energy for maximum output, often with monetary gains in mind.

Yet true authenticity, like most of the deeper workings of the universe, can not be forced, commodified or contrived without a substantial loss of life energy in the process. In its most potent form, it is unadulterated, already there.

In creative direction, it then becomes the task of the practitioner to intuitively recognise any form of this frequency and to tap into its energetic charge. Great creative direction is simply great facilitation, moving rocks out of the way, allowing water to flow without obstruction.

The highest potency of creative energy lies in the most direct embodiment of true nature possible.

In that, also, lies its puzzling beauty.

Personal project, 2018.
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