Creative role models: Miranda July

Sep 15, 2015

In:Role Models

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creative role models

This is a series where I write about the people that inspire me to be more creative every day: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a better place. I’ve also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, Lisa CongdonAmanda Palmer, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Who is Miranda July?

A multi-talented, multi-passionate artist who is known for her bold, unconventional choices. She started out in performance art, made a couple of feature films (Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future), published a short story collection, helped start a massive group art project, wrote a book while she was procrastinating writing a screenplay, sent her famous friends’ emails to a hundred thousand subscribers (I was one of them), created an app that lets you send someone to deliver your messages in person, designed a handbag, and published a novel, among a myriad of other projects.

What’s so great about her?

Another one of those artists that can be very polarizing, Miranda isn’t afraid to tackle topics and characters that are weird and messed up. Her art might make you uncomfortable (my boyfriend found her movies to be almost unbearably awkward) but if you stick with it you might find a depth of truth to it. She is obsessed with human connection, or the lack of it, and her stories come from a place of both sadness and wonder, of both loneliness and joy. She knows how to encompass the entire human experience in a single sentence. At times her work can be disturbing, painful, and even a little perverted, but still somehow so so real. When writing, according to Miranda, “You get to give life to feelings that maybe there’s really no place for in the world.”

How has she inspired me?

The first time I encountered her work I went to a randomly selected movie – Me and You and Everyone We Know – by myself on a rainy night in New York City. The theatre was packed and when we got to the scene about pooping back and forth the audience erupted with laughter in a way that I’ve never really experienced before or since. It was funny and disturbing and sweet and weird and it was clear that no one knew what to think of it so we all just laughed and laughed. The laughter somehow contained our shock and discomfort and empathy all at once and we were oddly united that night as strangers that had been through something together. Considering how fascinated Miranda is with interactions between strangers, I can’t help wondering if she orchestrated this experience on purpose.

What does she do that’s different than others?

The fact that she has tried – and been successful with – so many different mediums feels like proof that you don’t need to spend your life focused on one thing. She says, “the creative art of moving between the media is my process – genuinely. I’ve done it from the get-go.” She demonstrates that working on many different projects lets her creativity blossom in new ways as each avenue feeds into others. She wrote a fantastic book called It Chooses You about a side project she took on while working on a screenplay: she found people in the Pennysaver listings in LA and went and interviewed them. Not only did this help her finish her script, it also ended up adding elements to the movie that wouldn’t have been there before. When she was thinking about creating her app, Somebody, she was also making a video for Miu Miu and ended up combining the two projects, with amazing results. Though Miranda July is a bit of an extraordinary example, I like to think that her multi-passionate nature can set an example for those of us who want to do a little bit of everything.

Quotes

“Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it’s worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.”
Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.”
Miranda July, It Chooses You

“I walked down the hall and saw that [she] was sitting on the floor next to a chair. This is always a bad sign. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s best just to sit in chairs, to eat when hungry, to sleep and rise and work. But we have all been there. Chairs are for people, and you’re not sure if you are one.”
Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You

“My favourite thing in the world is when I look at a piece of art or read a story or watch a movie where I walk away feeling like, ‘Oh my god, I have to do something or talk to someone. Things are not the same any more.’ And I try to make work where you come away with that feeling.”


 

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