I’ve been reading, albeit belatedly, a New York Times Magazine article (“A Physicist Turns the City Into an Equation,” Dec. 17, 2010) that explores one scientist’s take on cities: how they work, why they work, what are the hidden laws that govern them. It’s a fascinating piece, and I keep returning to one passage: “What the data clearly shows…is that when people come together, they become much more productive.” The “human friction of a crowded space,” though uncomfortable at times, results in the sharing of ideas, the cross-pollination that spurs on inventive thinking, and the “watercooler moments” where a casual conversation starter can result in 45 minutes of in depth exploration or a sudden, “Aha!” Working alone in a creative studio can be magical (the space to play without someone watching; the quiet, the solitude), but it can also be isolating. Now, I’m beginning to realize that the solitude (or isolation) of my studio also precludes those spontaneous “watercooler moments.” Nuts, nuts, nuts!
Now, sometimes I stumble on a virtual “watercooler” in an email conversation, on Facebook, or while reading a blog. But more often I find the invisible “watercooler” when I’m with a group of other artists: at a group event; at a gallery opening; at a meeting; at a supply store where I frequently run into other artists I know (and don’t know). Working alone, away from the “human friction” of an office building or even of a shared studio building, it’s incumbent upon me to keep my eyes and ears open for the spot that can, for just a moment or two, become my watercooler — and to be aware of those watercooler moments when they occur.