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Everything is incomplete: Bruce Mau's manifesto

Everything is incomplete: Bruce Mau's manifesto

Somewhere in the world.

Saturday morning, 10am. 

 

We sat down at a very simple coffee place, with high-ceilings and light jazz. Three travellers, an opportune encounter, before we all fly away to our next destination.

 

A brief moment in time, with several conversations at once, the beginning of something, to be continued.

 

We could be anywhere, but we're here. Sitting and standing between what seems like random ideas, building on top of one another, a name, an artifact, a place, a reference. What we need is more incompletion. Projects abandoned, and starting points between them. Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth captures that. And so, here it is.

 

An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

 

1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. 

Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce 

it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience 

events and the willingness to be changed by them.

 

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we 

all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of 

unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you 

stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

 

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the 

outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve 

already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re 

going, but we will know we want to be there.

 

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). 

Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as 

beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long 

view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

 

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover 

something of value.

 

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in 

search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the 

process. Ask different questions.

 

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production 

as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

 

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack 

judgment. Postpone criticism.

 

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to 

begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

 

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, 

allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone 

lead.

 

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, 

generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, 

benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

 

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to 

reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your 

practice.

 

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and 

surprising opportunities may present themselves.

 

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free 

yourself from limits of this sort.

 

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and 

innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning 

throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

 

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is 

filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative 

potential.

 

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for 

the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

 

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, 

been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest 

of the world.

 

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for 

something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

 

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of 

yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today 

will create your future.

 

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it 

again.

 

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build 

unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new 

avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even 

a small tool can make a big difference.

 

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther 

carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And 

the view is so much better.

 

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone 

has it.

 

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the 

morning that you can’t see tonight.

 

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not 

good for you.

 

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By 

decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called 

our “noodle.”

 

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions 

demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of 

expression. The expression generates new conditions.

 

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not 

device-dependent.

 

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any 

other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of 

cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able 

to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth 

of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a 

‘charming artifact of the past.’

 

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By 

maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly 

rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, 

and how many have failed.

 

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings 

with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could 

ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their 

needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither 

party will ever be the same.

 

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that 

of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, 

dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–

simulated environment.

 

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I 

think it belongs to Andy Grove.

 

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll 

never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. 

We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel 

Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused 

imitation is as a technique.

 

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up 

something else … but not words.

 

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

 

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid 

trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge 

because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made 

obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

 

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth 

often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces 

— what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once 

organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of 

a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with 

no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned 

many ongoing collaborations.

 

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and 

regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. 

They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, 

complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and 

cross the fields.

 

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we 

laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how 

comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

 

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. 

Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a 

direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded 

or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes 

us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every 

memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, 

a potential for growth itself.

 

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people 

feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re 

not free.

 

 

I think I'm going to print it and stick it to the wall.

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