The music between the notes

Debussy once said that “music exists in the space between the notes.”  Samuel Beckett said that “All art is the same – the attempt to fill an empty space.”  One of the first exercises I did as a drawing student was to draw, not the objects in front of me, but the space in between and around the objects — the space artists call negative space.

My colleague and friend Andrew Taylor, whose blog The Artful Manager has long been an innovative commentary on our profession, has posted a commentary on a new book that offers some wonderful insights.  The book is called NONOBJECT, and it explores “designing the intangible space between the object and the user.”  This exercise leads to some interesting places — some of them exciting, some completely impractical but beautiful nonetheless.  Here are some of the ideas presented in the book.

Andrew’s point in sharing this book was to ask if the thought of thinking about the space between the audience and the art had any value for us as arts managers.  He says:

“We invest sweat and contributed income to build ever-more technically effective cultural environments. We request grants and huddle in the marketing office to explore the needs of the audience, and how to make them feel more welcome and connected to these machines of cultural production. We make continual, incremental improvements in our policies and processes that don’t look radically different than the practices of five decades ago.

Instead, what if we considered ourselves designers of the space between? Between a person and an extraordinary act of expression. Between a creative collective and the witnesses that bring their work meaning. Between people in that electric moment when it’s hard to know who is creating and who is receiving.”

How might this idea play itself out in our organizations?  It would be fun to explore.


About Ellen Rosewall

I am Professor and Chair of Arts Management and author of Arts Management: Uniting Arts and Audiences in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). I believe that arts and culture are undergoing a profound change in the 21st century, and I love talking with people about how we continue to bring arts to our communities and individuals give the brave new world of social media, technology and economic changes. Join the conversation!
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