Process of Art & Making – a strategy?

More in context of my other work as art therapist and finding out how to communicate artistic approaches to the public, I got hold of a book called ‘Complementary artistic Strategies’ from a series called ‘Transformation’ published by the MSH Medical School Hamburg (Freygarten, Strunk, 2017).

The interesting aspects brought forward by the authors are related to verbs of action. Something I very much do related to Richard Serra’s ‘Verb List’ from 1967-68. Serra created a list of transitive verbs that could be applied on material. The authors are using verbs to analyse and subdivide art creative processes of making, verbs they call ‘strategies‘:

Sammeln  Setzen  Variieren  Experimentieren  Improvisieren  Chaotisieren Fragmentieren  Reflektieren  Verwerfen  Kopieren  Strukturieren  Auflösen Irritieren  Verbinden  Zweifeln  Stabilisieren  Nuancieren  Verdichten Reduzieren  Kontrastieren  Konstruieren  Dynamisieren  Integrieren  Präzisieren

english translation by me:

Collecting   Setting   Varying  Experimenting  Improvising  Confusing Fragmenting   Reflecting  Discarding  Copying  Structuring  Resolving  Irritating   Connecting  Doubting  Stabilising  Nuancing  Condensing  Reducing  Contrasting  Constructing  Dynamising  Integrating  Specifying


Can a process of not-knowing, exploring, engaging with material matters, ideas, moments of epiphany be classified through these categories? 

It is certainly an interesting approach in using verbs or actions useful in art to transform and transmit in other areas outside of art, e.g. corporations, team work. Example: what do I discard in the development and making, to discern the more and the less successful attempts, and to discard the latter. What could be discarded in non-art projects? 

The authors describe the value of art practices as a change management strategy build upon not-knowing, improvising, and creative explorations. Not shaping from the past but from potentialities in material and form. This reminds me strongly of some ideas expressed by Deleuze related to becoming and difference.  

Personally, this is also how I approach with my clients in art therapy, solution focused, using material as a mean to recognise patterns in life, to reflect on, to paraphrase and to transfer new experiences and insights ‘back’ into one own’s life. Some call it also de-centering, step aside from a disturbing problem area, be creative and engaged, and to come back afterwards for integration.

I was always seeking ways of integrating myself as a person, my past, my work, my art, my approaches, my attitude. 

The book ended with a kind of summary reflecting once more on the process and phases of making. The author Peter Sinapius relates strategies and attitudes in three phases: treiben und sammeln (floating and collecting) // tasten und reflektieren (feeling and reflecting) // erspüren und integrieren (sensing and integrating). 


What do I take from it? 

I feel reminded of last year’s London Study Day where Caroline guided us through a iterative process of doing – reflecting – doing – etc. I feel that there is some structure around creation, and personally it might be useful for me to stay better on track re time-management. And it might be beneficial when organising a workshop ourselves in scope of our regional group activities. Certainly, something useful for me when approached future projects – with my belief that art practices do can add value to non-art areas.

On the other hand, I would have some concerns with trying to put the making into a method. Perhaps, the key idea is more about the attitude towards ‘problems’ and how to find new perspectives through verbalising. As Serra established a list to act on material. Nevertheless, an interesting transfer of art practices as a change management strategy.


Image credit: scan from Freygarten, Strunk, 2017:24-25


  • Freygarten, S. and Strunk, M. (2017) Komplementäre Künstlerische Strategien: Ein Handbuch für Künstlerinnen, Berater und Multiplikatoren in Veränderungs- und Bildungsprozessen, Transformation. Edited by Jahn, H. Berlin; Hamburg: HPB University Press.
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