Inspiration, Influence and Collective Unconscious

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Words that get thrown around frequently. Here are recent examples from our own lives.


Inspiration happens when you see, hear, taste or experience something that makes you want to act. I’m happy that our recent screening in Batavia inspired friend and fellow artist, Rita Grendze, to start gardening next year. She saw all the fun that Tiffany, Arlen, Diana and I have gardening and wanted to get in on it. You’ll hear more about Rita later in this post.

Inspiration also struck me years ago when I caught the opening segment of a documentary series about photography. I didn’t finish the show and I haven’t been able to find it since but a scene featuring a photographer that uses camera obscura, an experimental form of photography, made me wish I was him. I didn’t take notes or save the link so it haunted me for years as I wanted to see more of his images and of the doc itself. I’d been aimlessly inspired until May of 2011, when National Geographic published Rooms With a View, about Abelardo Morell. As that inspiration takes form and I begin utilizing the camera obscura technique for myself, it’s safe to say that Abelardo Morell influenced any photography that I produce in that vein.


I recently learned that my work has influenced someone else’s. Lisa Brotz was a student of  Phil Hastings, the co-teacher of my Production 2 class, at Southern Illinois University. Lisa and I are academic cousins. In researching optical printing, an experimental form of filmmaking, she came across In the Shadows. I’d posted the film to Youtube in 2007 where it’s racked up a whopping 231 views and a single like. It’s amazing that one of those views influenced Lisa’s Vinegar and Brown Paper and if you watch both videos, you’ll find a few tiny similarities throughout them.

Some influences are much more direct. The Patio Gardeners are halfway into their 3rd season and they’re inspiring other gardeners to show videos of their own gardens. The Zone Eight Gardeners in Seattle, Washington took them up on the offer and started documenting their own garden. Similar to the way that Tiffany and Arlen give guided tours of the things growing in their patio, Julian and Anastasiya describe the things growing on in their fenced in lot. The influences are strong but there are two big differences that show an evolution of the original idea.

First, Anastasiya appears on camera frequently in the very first episode while Tiffany and Arlen only appear as hands, feet and shadows in the window in the 50+ episodes they’ve produced.An exclusive, street-level look at Somewhere in Chicago Viewers have already asked to see The Patio Gardeners, so you might see some influence come back… Cross-Pollination? No apologies.

Second, the moniker The Zone Eight Gardeners shows another evolution of the original idea. People around the world are watching these videos and learning from one another but we all live in different hardiness zones so the experiences are nice but the tips don’t always help. Instead of identifying an audience by the kind of growing they do, they want to focus on viewers that deal with the same weather patterns and can grow similar plants. As garden videos become more prevalent, people will be able to learn from the trials and errors of people in their own city, town or even their block.

The Collective Unconscious

This is a strange beast so I’ll start with an example from Diana’s work. A few years ago, she started using ordinary materials; cotton yarn, nylon tape and mason line to make large drawings that viewers can walk into and experience from various perspectives. Recently, we were told about some artists halfway around the world that had similar ideas but different tools at their disposal.

Nervous Structure (2010)

Diana’s Oscillating Reciprocity and Maritima share a lot of similarities with this piece by Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza even though she was never exposed directly to their work. The easiest way to explain this connection is the collective unconscious. Many creative people agree that originality is overrated because we all repeat the same stories and ideas in different combinations with whatever tools we have. Another way to think of it is that ideas float in the ether until someone is willing to grab a hold of one and bring it into the world. Sometimes a bunch of people will grab a hold of the same idea and it seems like a coincidence or conspiracy Catch Photography: 342 at Treehouse Gallery &emdash; Web 2 but the truth may be that the idea builds in each of them individually until they each let it out on their own before finding out they’re not alone.

My last example is a weird hybrid of all 3 concepts. Rita Grendze, mentioned above, was one of the four artists that participated in Apparitions and Constructions. As Diana and I were building Maritima, we’d leave for the night and return to find Rita’s pieces around the space. As the hours and days went on, they became part of our environment as Diana’s work must have for Rita as she came in to drop off and install pieces. They didn’t speak much during the installation week but their art and ideas mingled and they were able to pick each others brains during the opening.

Here’s where it gets creepy. Rita and Diana each went off to make new pieces right after that show. I hope you’ve all seen the photos from Diana’s Treehouse installation. Well there’s a direct resemblance between her installation and a sculpture that Rita and her collaborator made for Indulge. Both deal with the idea of filters and interconnectivity but Diana’s 342 focuses on interactions between simple elements like line, form, and space while Rita’s Commodity, with Room addresses concepts like dialogue, consumption and clutter. Somehow the experience of their show at The Bridgeport Arts Center acted as a conduit for these two artists to manifest the same concept in two different suburbs. Cross-Pollination meets Collective Unconscious.

Please share your Inspiration, Influence and Collective Unconscious with us below!

2 thoughts on “Inspiration, Influence and Collective Unconscious

    A Few of My Favorite Films | thecontrerasgabrielproject said:
    November 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    […] had a discussion with Erika Valenciana about the 25th anniversary of La Bamba, one of the most influential films in my life, where she met Esai Morales, Elizabeth Peña and Lou Diamond Phillips. She knew […]

    […] been close to a year since we posted Inspiration, Influence and Collective Unconscious, about different ways that ideas are transmitted between artists and the world around them. In that […]

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