STYKKISHÓLMSKIRKJA, ICELAND, 2016. PHOTOGRAPH © ADRIENNE CALLANDER
Summer 2016, I attended a ten day residency at Gullkistan Center for Creativity in Iceland with my Canadian friend, the curator Melanie O’Brian. Our “Aim of Stay”, as they phrase it at Gullkistan, was to engage the tradition of walking thinkers by conducting a series of conversations about art and its many tangents while walking the Icelandic landscape.
We were sitting in a hot pot after a day’s walking when Melanie mentioned a friend of hers who was researching the last living speaker of a dying language. I had always understood the tragedy of a lost language as the death of an audible experience, but Melanie phrased it as the loss of “a perspective, of a way of seeing the world. “ She said, “A word is a way of seeing.” Later, we talked about my endeavor to establish an arts incubator at my university. We talked about arts entrepreneurship. We talked about entrepreneurship as a discipline heavily imprinted by the language of business, and Melanie cautioned me to not surrender the language of art. Back in the States, speaking into a recorder while driving from Kentucky to Alabama, I thought of surrendering the language of art to entrepreneurship, of losing the word, the way of seeing that the arts carry that is reflected in the language that the arts deploy.
Melanie and I did not record our conversations. At night, in the midnight sun, I would compile daily lists of words that captured the day’s key insights. One word was “generativeness”. The note app on my phone autocorrected it to “generative mess”.
Art is a generative mess. It unknows to know better. In the spirit of not surrendering the language, I named the arts incubator the “generator”.