The unachievable quest for perfection in art

Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 3:56pm

Art is a really weird thing to me. I’m not really sure how to explicitly define it besides saying that it’s any form of creative expression — but even that seems extraordinarily vague. I don’t claim to know a lot about art, or how to be an accomplished artist in any way whatsoever. However, one sort of epiphany I’ve had over the past few months about art is that all art, no matter the medium, is not perfect in any sense of the word, and there will never be a piece of art that is.

I have so many friends who pursue creative interests of a wide variety here in Ann Arbor. From painters to dancers, classical musicians to performance artists, I think I’ve had a glimpse into the world of an extensive range of artists. Something I’ve noticed about the work that really takes my breath away is that it doesn’t strive to be perfect. Too often the descriptions of artist and perfectionist become synonymous, and this is a stigma that I think is extremely toxic to the creative mindset. Art should be fueled by creativity, not perfection. If you have an impossible idea, see it through in any way you can, regardless of how achievable you think it is.

Over the summer, a few of my friends started a project called The Bada-Ba-Ba-Ba’s, an endeavor that encouraged those who chose to participate to experiment and make purposefully “bad” songs. It was a really interesting concept based loosely off of the sound of the female-fronted, outsider garage rock group The Shaggs, but the idea actually proved to be quite freeing. I participated in a few of these projects and actually really enjoyed myself. We made songs about really wacky topics in as little as five minutes. There was no re-recording. There was no writing. It was all about putting down whatever ideas came to you as fast as they came, without worrying about the quality of these ideas.

Ideas are debatably one of the most important resources to an artist, but they shouldn’t be treated as such. Ideas are cheap and malleable. It may not be important for you to carry out an idea exactly as you imagined it, but what does matter is that you follow it to some point of completion, even if it’s not what you originally thought. Nothing is going to come out exactly as you imagine it to, and that’s half the fun. If you have an idea, do what you can to make it a reality, and see what the outcome is.

In the past, I’ve talked about how Ann Arbor’s D.I.Y. and house-show scene has influenced me and the way I think about creativity and art, but I don’t think I can stress how important this mindset is for an artist. My housemate and I have, for a while, really enjoyed staying in on a Saturday night and just hanging out and listening to music, and sometimes that music includes — wait for it — showtunes. We had joked around a lot about putting on a two-man musical, but what was stopping us from actually putting one on?

So, we got some songs together, found a few props, created a Facebook event and started transforming our living room into a theater. We had everything planned out, and even though we didn’t have an orchestra or a stage, we put on a show for about 50 people in our living room. The only thing stopping us from putting on a musical in our house was the possibility of a noise complaint. We wanted to do a musical, so we took what we had and we put one on ourselves. Was it the same quality as a production put on by Broadway professionals? Holy moly, no. But it was an idea we had, and after a few weeks of planning, we did what we could to put it on.

Striving for perfection will get you nowhere, and although I feel hypocritical for saying that (the amount of unfinished demos I have on my computer is pretty sad), what really matters is creating, no matter how subjectively good you think it is. The point of art is to create, not to achieve perfection.