Confessions of an Outlaw: Intuition and Improvisation
Intuition and improvisation are not opposites. They are cousins. One must take an intellectual approach to an adventurous exploration of the unknown.
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: Intuition to me is almost an illegal notion. Certainly it carries rebellion because we are being taught in life – when you’re a little kid your parents and later the teachers will tell you how to do things and how to think. They will very rarely say well, you know, try it your way and if it doesn’t work I’ve got a secret in my sleeve.
For me when I review my life intuition and improvisation are really almost the same thing so that they are distant cousins because intuition is more of an intellectual calling, right. If I need to do a certain little task by intuition I know I would need three tools. I would improvise those tools if they don’t exist. So you see right there in the same sentence I use intuition and improvisation. Now improvisation is much more. We use it a lot in the acting world, you know. It’s much more jumping, diving from the diving board into a – I don’t know – into a volume that you’re not even sure is filled with water. Improvising is welcoming the unknown. And that’s another thing we’re not being taught in school, right. We’re saying be afraid of the unknown, you know. Follow the sheep. Follow the rules. So I would say welcome the unknown. Follow your intuition and improvise and it’s a different concept. Improvise means act upon your intuition, you know, live through it and of course you have to adjust through improvising sometimes. Like an actor will do.
High-wire artist Philippe Petit explains that intuition and improvisation are not opposites. They are cousins. One must take an intellectual approach to an adventurous exploration of the unknown.