Confessions of an Outlaw: Discipline and Play
A marriage of discipline and play seems contradictory, but Philippe Petit thrives on being an extreme and contradictory artist.
Philippe Petit has performed on the high wire more than eighty times around the world. He is famous for his 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Petit is also a magician, street juggler, visual artist, builder, lecturer, and writer. He is the author and illustrator of several books, including To Reach the Clouds, the basis of the 2009 Academy Award–winning documentary Man on Wire.
Petit's latest book is titled Creativity: The Perfect Crimes. His World Trade Center act is the subject of the 2015 biographical film The Walk directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Philippe Petit: I think of myself as a man of contradictions. I mean first I am very brutal in my way of thinking. I love or I hate; it’s black or it’s white, which is not very true because then a part of me loves the gray festivals. But anyway I realize that I am a man of contradiction and extreme and very often I state something and within the same sentence I contradict myself. Or I give a rule and of course I add the exceptions to that rule.
The discipline that I demand in many of my arts — the discipline of spending hours in front of a mirror perfecting a magic trick by manipulation — also comes with its antidote or its extreme, which is the opposite of discipline. Forget about what you’re doing. Don’t work; play. And very often in my arts, taking the magic again as an example, if I stop working on a move, but if I just fool around, as you would say, with a deck of cards, you know, watching a film or talking to a friend — suddenly out of the playfulness will come a great invention. It could be a very small detail, but a way to turn a card or something that I can use in a magic trick and it didn’t come from the discipline of work; it came from its opposite. It came with playing, you know. So I advocate that and I think I am a man who works very hard and also plays very hard, enjoys life.
This is the fifth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form <a href="http://bigthink.com/playlists/confessions-of-an-outlaw-a-creativity-workshop-with-philippe-petit-2">here</a>.
A marriage of discipline and play seems contradictory, but Philippe Petit says he thrives on being an extreme and contradictory artist. The high-wire artist explains why being a successful artist requires a marriage of extremes. You have to work hard and play hard. There is no sacrificing either.
This is the fifth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form here.