Thursday, 23 September 2010

inner necessity

Jim and I have been having an interesting discussion in relation to my previous post on play. We ended up talking about motivation, the push and pull to create...

I hadn't noticed that in the quote I used Jung talks about inner necessity - or I had forgotten, having recently been reading Kandinsky, who uses exactly this term:

'As a last conclusion it must be established that it is not more important whether the form is personal, national or has style; whether or not it is in accordance with major contemporary movements; whether or not it is related to many or few other forms; whether or not it stands completely by itself: but rather the most important thing in the question of form is whether or not the form has grown out of inner necessity' (Chipp, 1968:158).

The footnote to this quote reads: 'That is, one may not make a uniform out of a form. Works of art are not soldiers. With a given artist, a given form can be the best at one time and the worst at another. In the first case, it has grown out of the soil of inner necessity; in the second, in the soil of outer necessity: out of ambition and greed'.

What a strange thing, inner necessity. What does this mean? It seems different to me from what we think of in relation to motivation -  the stress on necessity for a start. This is not just something you fancy doing, or something you like. And, I would argue, it also isn't the same as compulsion, or obsession, both of which are perjorative and out of control. Nachmanovitch (1990) talks about this:

The creative processes of free play and concentrated practice can be derailed. They can go spinning off into addiction or procrastination, into obsession or obstruction, leaving us outside our own natural flow of activity, in states of confusion and self-doubt. Addiction is excessive, compulsive attachment; procrastination is excessive, compulsive avoidance.

Addiction is any dependency that self-perpetuates or self-catalyzes at an ever-accelerating rate. It accounts for much of the suffering we inflict on each ourselves and each other.... An artist can be addicted to an idea, stuck in a particular self-concept, a particular view of how the work must go, or what the audience may want. Some habits may appear in both addictive and non-addictive forms. Some habits may seem addictive, such as physical exercise or practicing a musical instrument, or doing some other labour of love, yet we may consider them to be positive and beneficial. There is a fine line between the pathological and the creative, between addiction and practice. What actually is the vital difference between 'I'll just have one more drink' and 'I'll just try the Bach fugue one more time'?

Addiction consumes energy and leads to slavery. Practice generates energy and leads to freedom. In practice... we obsess in order to find out more and more. ...In addiction, we obsess in order to avoid finding out something, or in order to avoid facing something unpleasant. In practice the act becomes more and more expansive; we are unwinding a thread outward and building more and more implications and connections. In addiction, we are folding inward, into more sameness, more dullness' (126-127).

Inner necessity seems to me to be like a flame. It can warm, it can catalyse, it can feed. Out of control it can consume. On the whole, of course, we don't care about the consumption of those whose works we value and romanticise - Van Gogh, for example, or that Japanese artist who paints spots in order to maintain a reasonable mental equilibrium. And, indeed, musicians and other celebrities who entertain us whilst burning up on the side.

Inner necessity can possibly also be lacking even in those who are involved in creative making and performing. This interests me. What Kandinsky calls outer necessity. It seems to me that it shows, that often you can feel it, even if only via the haziest instinct. I'm out of my depth mentioning Damien Hirst here - I know nothing about the guy - but is it possible that he moved from outer necessity (which was generating huge sucess and wealth) to inner necessity, when he recently apparently 'withdrew into a garden shed' and came out some months later with a very different kind of painting, which the critics slated mercilessly?


  1. So glad to have discovered your voice here . .
    I have a sense of shared inquiry (though I work with less text and more visual) we are both feeling our way. This sentence spoke to me - "the most important thing in the question of form is whether or not the form has grown out of inner necessity".
    I found that heartening to read - helping me trust more the waiting for that inner necessity to reveal itself. thanks !

  2. Thanks for getting in touch, and for reading! The sentence that stood out for me reading through your blog was a little note to yourself about sometimes being overwhelmed by art, and sometimes wanting to join in. A momentary glimpse of the questions that someone else trying to do this kind of work might ask themselves, which I found very heartening, especially from someone as experienced as you are, and who creates such arresting and moving images...

    I love your work not only because it's so sensitive and well-observed, but for the way it witnesses all those small moments; forms and colours that we normally walk past every day, usually without so much as a glance.



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