Once upon a time, I couldn’t handle being out of control of my surroundings and was afraid of chaos and the unknown, but now I recognize I navigate it everywhere and all the time. Chaos isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just the unknown of life mixed with the disorder and randomness of humanity’s existence.
Since beginning graduate school I’ve used the word “chaos” a lot. Either if I’m talking about my program or my personal life, cooking or work, the word “chaos,” or the concept of it, comes up. Honestly, I thought it was just a reflection of my mental state and a fun way to perceive my busy life, so I didn’t get dragged down by negativity. After some thought though, I’ve come to recognize that “chaos” means a lot more to me than craziness and a busy work/life balance; “chaos” is a mysterious entity that I’m constantly trying to investigate because I believe it’s my responsibility as an artist to do so.
Many artists (including writers) try to render beautiful pieces of art and others try to craft honest and vulnerable work. This work is often abstract to other people and is not always understood the same way by everyone, which is what makes art subjective. Yet, there is one objective standard of art, and which is that art is an investigation or revelation of internal or external mysteries in life. The artwork produced renders artists’ experiences and understandings in a way that is true for them. These “mysteries” can be many things, but they usually lead back to an entity (question, material item, abstract concept, idea, etc.,) that was at one time mysterious to the artist.
The word “mystery” has a deep history in religion and theology and therefore it isn’t used frequently in today’s society or in Western thought. So, to be fair to Western thinkers, you could say that these “mysteries” could also be general questions of larger values and ideas such as beauty, destiny, and life.
My own investigation of this chaos is directly related to my own spiritual path in the Eastern Orthodox church, and this is why my investigation of chaos is so important to me. I find that by interrogating the unknown chaos of life (like meanings of status, perceptions of beauty, and influences on gender identity to name a few) I can further develop my artwork (dance and writing) and therefore further investigate complex theological and ontological questions.
So why “chaos”? Why the drama? And what’s it really got to do with art?
For me, it’s not dramatic or strange to refer to chaos casually. Chaos is present everywhere: on the roadways where crazy drivers weave through traffic, at the grocery store where an elderly person is holding up a line of people, at a festival where someone decides to be the loudest for a 5-mile radius. so, to refer to my program and my writing in a similar way is no problem at all.
Moreover, the more I work in academia, the more I realize just how completely random social expectations and bureaucratic measures are. There’s been several instances in the last month where some of my employers have made random and seemingly unnecessary requests of me. Of course, this stems to the maintenance and control of power, but is also a reflection of the chaos everywhere in our lives.
In a strict sense chaos does refer to evil disorder. But in the context of art, “chaos” is the unknown and both the journey and destination of our artistic adventure. Artistic chaos is the before, during, and after of artistic creation (or production, if you want to call it that).
When I think of chaos or use it to refer to life, I’m not just talking about being busy or having a crazy schedule. My life is “chaos” because it’s a beautiful journey towards developing my art and better understanding and articulating my own values as it relates to my spiritual beliefs.