This post is a follow-up to The Dance of Mystery.
The Mystery is not something that can be created. It is something that already exists, yet can be nurtured. Indeed it must be nurtured in creating good art. Mystery is the secret ingredient to good art, but it cannot be sprinkled on from a jar like so much fairy dust.
The framework is not superfluous, it is crucial. But even more crucial is its fidelity. How strong, how supportive, how prescriptive are the questions. These questions can only be addressed in the moment of creativity, there is no guide to follow, only intuition. One could say the possession of this intuition is something that separates good art from bad art, talented artists from the rest.
In constructing a building, there are plans, blueprints whose quality is measured by its fidelity of prescription. The more prescriptive, the more understandable, the more thought-out, the better. Building the framework for a house of mystery is not so. The framework for mystery is more like constructing a lattice framework for a plant to grow into. The plant decides where and when it will grow, which directions it will take. The framework need only be strong enough to support it. If the lattice is too tight, there is not enough space for the plant to grow in freedom, and it will die or else be stunted and limited in its growth.
The plant is like the mystery. It must have a certain degree of freedom to flourish, and just as the lattice model should change from species to species of plant, the frameworks for mystery should be equally diverse. Just as no two plants are exactly the same, no two mysteries are exactly the same.
Why the Mystery?
The Mystery, and indeed its very existence, is a matter of philosophy. Of moral philosophy actually. It could be said that good art must be possible to engage with. It’s the whole Cry in the wilderness question. If no one sees it, no one experiences it, does it matter?
I am writing this based on the crucial truth that we are created to be social. Because of this, I believe art is made to serve others. The artist is merely a skilled servant.
The Mystery is what makes art possible to engage with. It is what makes art compelling. It does not enable reflection, but it multiplies the possibilities thereof. If you believe your art is meant to be seen, heard, tasted, smelled and thought of, you should be making the Framework for Mystery the top priority in your moments of creation.
The Mystery is crucial to art because it is what makes it ‘salty’. Mystery is the spice of art.
How to Build the Framework for Mystery
in a word, rely on your intuition. Change your perspective when creating your art. After all, art is meant to be experienced by others. Imagine if Apple created their iPhone thinking only they would use it, how different would it have been? Would it have been such a hit because of its ease of use? Probably not. Apple were thinking of you when they designed the iPhone. It is a piece of art made with people in mind, from the beginning.
Your art is the same.
The Mystery is what subtly, even subconsciously inspires your audience to engage. It accomplishes this by simply allowing room for the imagination, like a plant, to grow within its framework, which is why the fidelity of the framework is so important. The framework must be properly constructed to nurture and provide the appropriate climate for the Mystery to not only exist, but to flourish within it.
This is not about art alone, it is about creation itself. Not the initial creation of the universe, but the creative moments that continue to happen today. In fact, I recently pitched this talk to be included in a conference about the heuristics, usability and interaction of designing software and websites. The concept can be applied anywhere that creation is happening. And the concept should not be seen as a tool to improve your work, rather, it is the one ingredient in creative works which keeps people there, engaging on the deepest levels, because the Mystery is itself a framework for imaginations to build even further within.
First, the initial Framework for Mystery enables the Mystery to live. Then, the Mystery becomes the new, improved framework for the viewer’s mind to engage with, and to further build. It is truly collaborative, like a game of telephone, where the sum is great than the number of its parts. The art itself takes on a life of its own, and is no longer limited to the vision of its creator. Because of this, the artist must accept that the entire experience cannot be controlled, and that once it is hung in the gallery, shown in the cinema, read at a cafe or heard on an iPod, the Mystery captures imaginations and the building process begins anew.