The Art of Impermanence

Our guest writer today is Darcy Walker. Darcy is a writer, photographer, and all around creative person. We know Darcy through working with her as a senior copywriter at Belief Agency. She helps us shape this Creative Valhalla project and is one of our favorite people to talk with about creativity. You can check out Darcy’s earlier post where she ponders creativity and the subconscious here.

The other week I trekked four hours into the mountains to take a three mile walk to see the last of the season’s wildflowers. Some were still open and smiling at the sun, but most had faded from their vibrant, full-of-life yellow to dry, crinkly brown—and all I could think about was how much energy went into creating just a few weeks of aesthetic bliss.

Nature’s creative process is the opposite of ours. When we make things, it usually comes with the intention, whether conscious or subconscious, to give our creation a long lifespan. We ideate, sketch, draft, make prototypes, all to make a final product that’s worth keeping around. For some reason, things that stand the test of time are worth more than the things that last almost no time at all.

But this isn’t true with mother nature—the OG creative. Everything outside is constantly evolving. Birds are migrating. Leaves are morphing shape and changing color. Streams are flowing. Nothing is permanent.

Impermanent art is an interesting idea: investing time, energy, materials into something that dissipates, and therefore has no material value. One of the very best people at creating impermanent work is Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose most prolific pieces are designed to evolve over a short period of time before disappearing altogether. It’s a goal so counterintuitive that you almost want to let out a laugh watching him fuss obsessively over the placement of a stick in a rushing river. The art doesn’t hold any monetary value, but it offers us a unique opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of letting your creations take on lives of their own.

Looks like Andy Goldsworthy stopped by . . .

Letting go of control in the creative process is difficult—we want to produce something useful, durable, relevant. But too much control can be repressive to creativity, and taking inventory of the impermanence of the outside is a good reminder that not everything has to last forever to be worth something. In fact, some things can hold value not for their existence, but for what they ask of us: to evolve.

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