Don’t Listen to the Experts
by Míša Rygrová
The fact that I would never be an artist was sealed before I reached the age of six. Living in communist (at that time) Czechoslovakia meant that a committee of “experts” would come to the kindergarten, examine a child, and deliver the verdict to their parents. And so it was. Two ugly people came, observed us for a minute or two, made us do a few tasks, and after our every move or answer wrote something down in their notebooks.
Raised eyebrows, eye-rolling and whisper-like speak was ever present as I was standing in front of them. They were not amused. They snickered when snatching a drawing from under my little shaking hands. They were not smiling. The verdict was quite straight and harsh: no talent at all, no recommendation for any of the music or art club for kids. Useless. Done. My mum looked at me softly, caressed my hair, and we went home. The result? I couldn’t be enrolled in any State-organized after school art or music class — and in case you were wondering, no, there were not private ones. Since then art was not for me to make but to watch, and both my parents and I were wholeheartedly convinced of it.
Things started to change when I was bit older (around 6th or 8th grade). Communism was gone, the system had changed, and I would “art” at home more and more often to the point that I collected all my courage and went to art class after school and asked if I could stay for the lesson. I was older than the other kids there. I didn’t have a paper signed by my parents, as they didn’t know I was there at all. I didn’t have money to pay for it.
The teacher said yes. I loved it. It was different. I was free and happy. I was surprised by my own creations. I never would have guessed I am capable of such things. At the end of the lesson I asked if I could come again and the teacher handed me a form for my parents to fill out and sign, and they asked me to bring money next time. I was very nervous asking my mum — after all, I was not a match for art. It was clearly said by “experts” that I should keep my hands very far from any of it. To say that my mum was surprised when I handed her the form would be an understatement, but she didn’t hesitate, and she supported me. The family budget was tight, but she made it work. How? I do not know. Art stopped being the thing to “only watch” for me and my mum still has several of my pieces hanging around the house.
I experienced my next big artistic milestone in 2010 when I first came to Black Rock City at the age of 28. Sure, I’d seen big art before. For sure I had encountered some interactive art before as well, though I could barely remember it. But I didn’t see THIS coming.
I was mesmerized. Not only by its beauty and creativity, but what it did to people. They were coming together, strangers were becoming friends while admiring the pieces and playing (!) with them. Later I learned that also happened while people were creating them, too. The adults were playing with art like kids with no shame, with huge excited eyes and opened hearts. The art was changing people. It transported me to the time before I was condemned not to be an artist, before I met the “experts”.
Interactive art became the “new normal” for me. Over the years it integrated into my life so much that I started to share my own ideas with others, and even my own creations. (Heck, I even got a grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), which until today is one of the most insane things to happen to me.) This “new normal” enriched me not only through unforgettable experiences, but through the people who expanded my circles, many of whom became my extended family. I’ve seen adults turn into kids, kids turn into engineers, silly ideas turn into dreams, and dreams turn into reality. I’ve seen unexpected connections made despite differences in language, nationality or religion. I’ve seen the insane and impossible to turn into “Hell yes let’s do this.” Just pure joy moving mountains for art to come to life and delight others.
For me, We Are From Dust embodies all of this. It is a means to spread interactive art around the world, to put it close to people, and let it change them — to eliminate the voices of the “experts” in people’s minds which say they should stay away from art. Let people touch, feel and play with the art. Experience it. Then they can decide how far they really want to go. How far do you want to go? Will you participate?