Why do you make art? That’s the simple question Greater Good posed to seven artists. Their answers are surprising, and very diverse. They mention making art for fun and adventure; building bridges between themselves and the rest of humanity; reuniting and recording fragments of thought, feeling, and memory; and saying things that they can’t express in any other way.
All their answers are deeply personal. In this issue of Greater Good, we explore the possible cognitive and emotional benefits of the arts, and yet these artists evoke a more fundamental benefit: They are just doing what they feel they’re born to do. Gina Gibney’s choreography has been widely presented in the United States and Abroad. © Andrzej Olejniczak/Gina Gibney
Gina Gibney: Giving power to others
Gina Gibney is the artistic director of the New York-based Gina Gibney Dance Company, which was founded in 1991 to serve a dual mission: to create and perform contemporary choreography that draws upon the strength and insights of women and men, and to enrich and reshape lives through programs that give voice to communities in need, especially survivors of domestic abuse and individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
I make art for a few reasons. In life, we experience so much fragmentation of thought and feeling. For me, creating art brings things back together.
In my own work, that is true throughout the process. At the beginning, developing the basic raw materials for the work is deeply reflective and informative. Later, bringing those materials together into a form—distilling and shaping movement, creating a context, working to something that feels cohesive and complete. That’s incredibly powerful for me—something that really keeps me going.
Interestingly, the body of my work is like a catalog of the events and thoughts of my life. For me, making work is almost like keeping a journal. Giving that to someone else—as a kind of gift through live performance—is the most meaningful aspect of my work.
Dance is a powerful art form for the very reason that it doesn’t need to explain or comment on itself. One of the most amazing performances I have ever seen in my life was of a woman—a domestic violence survivor—dancing in a tiny conference room in a domestic violence shelter for other survivors. She was not a professional dancer. She was a woman who had faced unbelievable challenges and who was living with a great deal of sadness. She created and performed an amazing solo—but to have described her performance as “sad” would have been to diminish what we experienced.
That’s the power of dance. You can feel something and empathize with it on a very deep level, and you don’t have to put words to it.