Martha Graham: On Self-Invention

Interview with James Grissom

What we invent is the means by which we express what is unique to us. A baby struggles in the arms of adults to emulate the sounds that are directed to it, and which surround the baby all of the time. From the earliest age, we want to contribute something--an opinion, an appreciation, a criticism perhaps. But how? We don't know, so we imitate. 

Within all of us are stories that we know minutely, perfectly, but to write the initial sentence, to hit the right key on the piano, to make the best step forward is agonizing, and we tend to move in a way we remember. We invent a means of being authentic.

Now artifice I don't much care for: A lot of people become very animated and ornate and they want us to believe that they are artistic. This is artificial, of course, but it also distances the artist from his audience: Far more pernicious is the distance it creates between the artist and his own story.

You will not know how to speak or walk or sing or live, so you'll look for models, and a marriage will take place between their bold examples and your story. 

Self-invention occurs in the act of self-expression.

© 2014 James Grissom


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