What I am witnessing around the world right now is a desire and simultaneous resistance to new ways of thinking, of seeing, and of imagining a change in the way we live, learn and make sense of our world.
For me, this means we need more art. All forms of art, in all parts of our lives. Art is not luxury, it is the probiotic ecology in the digestion of what is “now” into what will “be”. This is not an essay of 100 pages, and it certainly could be, it is just a quick touch upon my itch for loosening the knot around art. The art world can be exclusive, so let me be clear, this is not about the art world, it is about the world with art in it.
My work has always had a foot in theory, a foot in science, a foot in communication and foot in art. I think I might be a giraffe on roller-skates. I am kidding of course. But the point is that I see art as a way to engage epistemological shift, and to experience understandings in ways that are indirect, multi contextual, and multi textured. It takes complexity to perceive complexity. It takes many voices, many forms of expression, many ways of receiving. To “be” in new ways requires playing with our frames of perception, and loosening the grip that prevents the blurring between intellect and emotion.
Art gives us an entry into developing and exploring sensitivities we have not habituated into our mechanistic thinking. Art is an entrance into the liminal space, and a warm bath of expressing that which cannot be said in logical terms. I am curious in this moment about what we consider rational, and how that rationality rationalises all the destructive and false separations in our descriptions of the world. The possibility for possibilities as yet unseen, lies in that which has not been claimed by the rationale of our world. Change, is going to feel non-rational… trans-rational… and will come, at least in part, from art.
To play with our perception and expression is to find new forms, new forms that inform in new ways. There is no existing language for the changes ahead, and try though we may to tame this unknown territory into fitting into known description, we will fail. Procrustes, the old Greek gatekeeper, had an iron bed he measured all visitors to Athens upon. If they did not fit in the bed, he made them fit. He trimmed them here and there, stretched them when needed. His job was to commit horridly violent conforming manipulations to make the unusual into the predictable.
We do not need an iron bed to homogenise perception though, we have language and money and culture to measure against. Breaking though is not a gradual process, it is sudden and sensory. The boundaries of our understandings are strung between cognitions, intuitions, premonitions, superstitions…
Think about all the ways in which African American life in the inner cities of the US was un-expressible through white academic English.The experience would not fit in that mode of expression– until Rap gave it a form in which to be communicated. So too, so much of the interdependency that gives us life, gives our biosphere life, is un-expressible in existing terminologies.
We need art. We need the slow-truth that long-honed skill together with accidental connectivity and the very intimate perceptions of an individual can render. In a post-fact, post-trust world… it is the honesty of multiple ways of knowing that will hold water. Facts that live in contexts of relation are not merely facts alone. They need their bits, the parts that hang off the bed, the too short, too long inconvenient complexities. They need more room to be contemplated. “Real time” and big data will only ever offer fragmented information without this necessary element of qualitative time, sensory exploration of many contexts, and multi-textured expression. It takes art to feel complexity.
But art is not necessarily benevolent.
It can be used toward fascism. It has been. Do not underestimate the shifting ground in the invisible worlds that art enters. We make art, and art makes itself through us. It waits, like Michelangelo’s David, who stood inside the marble for a million years before the artist let him out. We need art now to get us out of this ruthless, truthless stuckness.