If you have travelled in South East Asia, particularly Thailand, you will have heard someone say ‘same same … but different’. It is such a widely used and amusing phrase, you can even get it on a T-shirt. What people are conveying is that it is the same as what you want, or similar enough, but it is not actually that, so also different. In this case they are trying to impress the sameness. But what if you want to be different or stand out from the crowd? What does this mean in art?
At the MOMO exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria there was a fascinating room where you could write your name and the date at the mark of your height. The first people must have been somewhat pleased to leave their mark. By the time I visited on the final weekend, most of the area of names was just black, you could only read the individual details if you were exceptionally tall or short (in this case presumably children); for 98% you could not read the individual names, but when you stood back, together they made a stunning and beautiful impact.
My first response was ‘there is no point getting measured and leaving my name, you would not be able to see it’. I was thinking that it was all about me and seeing it in a very narrow way. I was not thinking about how my contribution might impact the whole and together make something beautiful. As artists, and in life, we are often ego centric, wanting to be noticed, comparing our work to others, worrying about what others may think.
It may only be the exceptional artists and innovators that are remembered or go down in history books; but we all standout and impact in our own sphere and perhaps it is our collective actions that will have the greatest lasting legacy. Be kind to yourself and others, bring colour and warmth into the world. Art is such a metaphor for life. What will your legacy be?