Phoenix Project

Creative Process: Let It Simmer by Kerri McGill


Idea to action...
That is success.  The idea energizes immediate action and grand results.  The concept erupts into being and the audience goes wild!

Isn't that how it goes?

"Creating something new requires leaps of imagination... A hunch, immersing yourself in source materials.. Things need time to simmer, connect...Somewhere along the way...Click...everything falls into place."(Davis&McIntosh)

Xu Bing scribbles a bird into a sketchbook.  Maybe he has just returned to Bejing.  Maybe he is in the galleries of NY.  Maybe the little sketch has followed him from his days in China's countryside.  A small scribbled bird becomes two cranes.  The cranes are rejected and evolve into  The Phoenix Project; a male and a female phoenix, 100' each and over 20 tons collectively.  The exhibit program (Mass MoCA) dates the project as "(2007-2010)...Created over a period of two years."  This implies that the first year mentioned is dedicated to the concept.  When your birds carry the weight of socioeconomic class differences that structure China's growth, this time span is reasonable.

For most, the neglected part of the creative process is the "simmering" stage.... That part where we sit still and let the idea set for a while...take it in.  Immediate result-driven action undermines the potency of the idea.  Complexity and detail fall by the wayside.

We take in so much.  Some things stick and some are forgotten.  A scribble turns into a sketch.  Time goes by.  We observe and absorb.  Ideas grow. The sketch sits.  The idea outgrows the sketch.  We need more sketches.

"Xu Bing is known for mining a subject in depth over the course of many years."(Mass MoCA)  His Phoenixes are made from the waste materials of the skyscraper constructions in Bejing.  Small LEDs line the birds.  When the sun sets, the mythical pair turns into a constellation.

Their original home was to be the Cesar Pelli-designed World Financial Tower. The contrast of the luxury building and the course nature of the sculpture's materials emphasized all of the underlying themes.  "The original commissioner abandoned the project."(Mass MoCA)

The Phoenix Project astounds at every level: physicality, layered concepts, the materials and the relationship between concept, process and material.

It is about the simmering.

Xu Bing was sure it would only take 6 months to complete.  What shadow of a phoenix would he have come up with in that time frame?