ACTIVATING ART | ACTIVATING PEOPLE
Our rationale is that we must keep trying to find new ways to connect, to communicate with each other effectively and creatively in order to activate ourselves around the important issues of our time.
THE WIDER SCOPE
There is a growing movement in every corner of the world driven by people from all walks of life who have realized that we must find more effective ways of collaboration in order to contribute towards building a better society. The truth is, we are all in need of assistance in order to help find the correct solutions to the challenges of the 21st century. To adequately meet these challenges we must continue to widen our possibilities of interaction and build new roads and intersections between the things we know already - and the growing information-gathering and sharing means we have. In this endeavor, the Arts have served to bring together creative minds across many disciplines with the ‘transfer’ force capable of truly engaging cross-culturally important questions and preoccupations.
One example of this relationship is the interaction between the various domains of both the arts and the sciences. In our present time there is an increased focus on real life issues - such as the rapidly escalating pressures on water, energy and food security; likewise there is poverty, war, inequality, economic and political instability - many of which are daily problems for countless people around the world. Without doubt, the superseding benefit derived from the merging of Art and Science is its contribution to the practical objective of helping inform the world on how irreversible damage to the Earth’s human and to its natural systems can be prevented. But beyond this too - on the level of the individual - this connection may even have the outcome of helping us all better understand and appreciate Nature, and humanity’s relationship to it - a humanistic disconnect that is at the core of our society’s largest problems. The path to successfully achieving this, begins first by finding the spaces of common ground that exist between us.
CONNECTING ARTS & SCIENCES
The alliance between Art and Science has been a long and enduring relationship historically, and today we are increasingly seeing the benefit of bringing those two parts of human understanding together. Although at their core it may seem that one is purely data-driven, the other driven by emotion, art has always had a dialogue with the sciences - and this association has continuously led to new forms of exploring human insight and knowledge surrounding the larger questions of life.
Each of these disciplines is a research practice, a way of investigation, a way of understanding human nature and the world around us. Both observe the natural world and human activity within it; they notice our world and can explain and interpret. Both at their core are driven by risk-taking, experimentation and aspiring to search for new methods of discovery. Both seek answers to the same basic questions: what are our origins, what are we doing here and where are we going? Both share the innovator’s mindset of envisioning and interpreting new ideas. And above all, both know that one has to risk, one has to fail, one has to take chances, in order to progress in a forward direction.
Our expanding worlds
Today, contemporary artists and scientists are being increasingly driven and enriched by the use of a trans-disciplinary process and from the collaboration of different types of research and practices - new vectors for experimentation which emerge when drawing upon a broadened knowledge base. The work of artists is expanded by the exploration of scientific themes and data through critical research; it is enriched by new media, the communication and information systems of the computing sciences, and the methodologies of science, technology and engineering. Likewise, scientists of all fields are inspired by the artist’s unique creative processes and thought-patterns, by the potential of image-making and the power of art’s visuality; through collaborative projects their research is empowered by the possibility of reaching new audiences and exposure to the public realm through the means of participatory action made possible by art’s capacity for community practice and interactive civic engagement.
The mutual benefits of the merging of scientific inquiry with the artistic interpretative ability have evolved into an integrated and more official means of investigation that is bridging the best talents from both domains and creating a new generation of creative thinkers. To this end, we have been seeing forward-thinking approaches to integrating the two fields of learning: more interdisciplinary arts and science curriculums being instituted within universities and dual-degree programs; moreover, is the growing use of a more humanistic-cultural approach to Science and Technology education, and likewise an expanding scope of STEM career possibilities. Indeed, artists are increasingly sought out by university and independent research centers for collaborative projects within the lab environment - for the exchange of ideas and the imaginative problem-solving that can result from artistic participation and expression - creating zones that can be new networking ‘ecosystems’ for innovative thought.
Progress in the right direction
At a time in which we are faced with a multitude of seemingly insurmountable social and environmental challenges, the co-operation and collaboration between artistic and scientific knowledge and their comparative working methods is not only mutually-enriching, but can also lead to some shared goals. The two disciplines have the opportunity to make a potentially greater impact on society in so many ways; on the most basic level this interconnection can take advantage of the emotionally persuasive and interpretative capacities of art to illustrate sound scientific evidence and data - to communicate as an integrated message on specific topics - such as on climate change.
Together these two worlds form an ideal bridge into real world-practice, and this type of purposeful action can serve as a connector to expose people to a wider reality due to the unparalleled impact of a dually-informed debate on any relevant issue. The hope is that the level of conviction proposed by such a productive alliance will continue to engage the interest, stir sentiments, and convince people to take an active interest in pressing issues that may still seem abstract or distant. If artists and scientists continue helping to connect the dots, they might potentially make a long-lasting change to perceptions and behaviors that will contribute to increased public awareness within our broader community, and ultimately to the betterment of our shared futures.
CONNECTING BEYOND OUR CULTURES
Any cross-over of thought exposes us all to new thinking. To new inspiring ideas, and to new routes that lead towards the solving of the world’s systemic and long-standing problems. The truth is, in our era of boundless connectivity, a large number of people from every culture can access any information by using globalized methods of communication. The question is, how do we spread the desire for critical thinking and action regarding any one of our many critical issues – whether it is our changing climate, the Commons, social or environmental injustice, economic or political inequality; or even an issue that is much smaller and less overwhelming. Information is within reach, but how do we keep going that step further beyond just accessing the basic information, to actually learning what we can from the personal experience, traditions, way of life, and the wisdom of others?
Engaging minds through our networked cultures
Our cultures today are undeniably transnational - but they are also interwoven and driven by their own specific and locally-ingrained forces such as state institutions and ideology, systems of government, political traditions, economic systems, social architecture, ancestral customs, historical heritage, religion and moral norms. At the same time, each one of these things is also trying to digest information transplanted from another place. The arrival of the internet represented a huge cultural shift - bringing us a powerful tool for communication and the ability to see things happening both locally and far away. It gave us the capacity to look at each other, to see beautiful and wondrous things, cinematic visual imagery of people and places around the world and made people and events seem more proximate than ever.
At the same time this new capacity for worldwide interaction also changed the way we think, feel and operate in the world, and made it possible to reach and affect each other in good - but also in damaging and counterproductive - ways. These new processes altered the ways in which we construct our individual worldviews, and gave us the power of doing so even without actual human contact. While it gave us the possibility to share endless information across borders, it also released an unfettered power to be able to incorrectly generate narrow ideas and beliefs, to make adhesive the media’s versions of reality, to be able to ‘advertise’, ‘produce’ or even ‘translate’ the culture of others and to ‘colonize’ minds inaccurately, and to ‘manufacture uncertainty’ out of our dissimilarities; essentially, to construct for others how they should perceive things. In most cases the reality is that the misunderstood or ‘displaced’ story created out of a confusion of disinformation and distorted truth always carries the risk of highlighting the differences between us. In effect, right in this moment in time we seem to be collectively at a juncture where exposure to our differences is causing an equal amount of detrimental tension, fragmentation, conflict around the world on all levels of society, as it is producing affirmative progress and constructive end results.
Yet despite the discontents of globalization, it perhaps can be safely be said however, that a broad cross-section of the global community would probably agree that connecting our cultural diversity is a good thing - as ultimately, we will be increasingly interdependent for a successful, bright and sustainable future. This century is proving to be one for the exchange of ideas, across cultures and across generations as our evolving technology and new accelerated communication networks have enabled us to bridge distances. We are flooded with information, and although viewing each other closely is no longer a rarefied experience, taking the next step to understanding, and allowing the complexities of others to genuinely engage our minds, must become our focus for the future.
Building our multicultural identities
As the ideology of collaboration is growing everywhere, it can provide an optimistic and progress-oriented perspective to our rapidly changing world. Being porous as a human being, hospitable and generously open to new gateways of learning is the only way to take advantage of the potential of a transfer approach - a diffusion of ideas between our cultures. Just as art and the cultural aspects of scientific knowledge can interact on a human and social dimension, all of our fields of knowledge have the potential to deepen social relations - awareness, understanding, engagement, and acceptance - to get us to that point that within our dissimilarities we will find more strength-giving opportunities and results.
How do we work against the existent global engines in which ‘creating doubt’ has become a product in itself?
What can assist us in ‘improving’ our multicultural identities – in what new ways can we communicate or participate with each other in order to extend our limit-points and often pre-conditioned ways of thinking?
As citizens of any location, how do we find new ways to use our differences, to find better answers, solutions and fair compromises, whether it is on a local or much broader scope?
How do we personally accept the notion that what someone else has lived directly, that person must know better? How can we be open to the good judgment of others, even if the reasons do not always make sense?
In what ways can we better understand that to genuinely appreciate another person’s reality requires not just learning...it means actually becoming part of what one has learned.
Our growing inter-connectedness
Throughout human history, people have had a predisposition towards group contribution and collaboration, as a means to intensify probabilities of survival and prospects for growth and development. Today, we see the ever-increasing propensity within academic disciplines to engage other fields of study; and likewise, we see the professional sectors seeking to nurture multi-stakeholder partnerships, business collaborations with cross-sector organizations, and the strengthening relationships between the public and private spheres - all of these inter-relationships have become increasingly common, effective, and are evolving constantly.
Undeniably, these processes are also both timely and relevant, as we confront ever-greater cross-cultural challenges, such as the U.N. multi-nation development goals and climate objectives, which require a global effort from government, business, civil society, scientists, and the general public to act together. Engaging the minds, the knowledge and strengths of people within other cultures, connecting across boundaries of geography and language give us greater strength to meet any challenge, to progress in the right direction, demand positive change and take action. All of these energies will be a new and powerful force in building our futures if we learn from the experiences of deeper inter-connectedness.
Collaboration in the creative community
In the contemporary art world, collaborative formations are considered both a strategy and a working method to intensify both the effect and result around a specific issue, greater than any private effort could hope to achieve. Creativity is certainly becoming a problem-solving device, and it is also a means to come closer to others by working and interacting with them. Partnerships in any kind of collaborative project can teach us not only how people think within their profession, but also how they think as people, who they are, what ideas they uphold, and what they believe in. As more individuals working within contemporary artistic practice become better acquainted with other cultures, their work and life experience lead to new points of intersection and alternate ways of understanding people.
Perhaps we can agree that the role of members of the creative community everywhere might be to contribute to the movement of unifying ideas, diverse worldviews, and to even permeate each of our own often self-defined - if not always visible - cultural perimeters. As culturally-engaged people, our ultimate goal should be to bring together the best insights from people with sounder judgment on certain things, because the personal - experiences, preoccupations, unique qualities, capabilities, and skills - that come from the background of each individual might help us use our connectivity in the best way possible: to create new plans, approaches, aspirations, purpose in our own lives that are broader than the existing methods we are accustomed to using.
The essence of diversity
Connection and understanding does not come from uniformity - from the integration of consumer culture, from a unified taste in goods and products, buyable services of all kinds, look-alike social media profiles, plastic TV ethnic identities and Hollywood portrayals, nor from the imagined lives of those in mainstream celebrity culture that we can all reference. Without doubt, the facility of our world-systems and our current globalized culture puts at risk the overriding of - real human connection, the strength derived from shared origins, the continuity of unique national cultures, and inherited notions of ‘research’ and ‘knowledge’. Our communal identity should instead be based on unanimously shared human beliefs and core values such as the sanctity of basic human rights, on a common footing for human moral action, and the consentient appreciation of the contributions of each and every culture to human civilization.
The hope would be for all of us to do our part towards reversing the troublesome and damaging ‘blind spots’ that still fester within our societies from lack of understanding, those that persist such as intolerance between faiths, inter-generationally, or which manifest as racial, minority discrimination or gender bias - and attempt alternately, to achieve a better understanding of today’s complex relations that now extend far beyond our own geographical borders and cultural exposure. In order to start building a worldview that takes into account the essence of diversity of our own time, it will entail being more ‘culturally active’; and this might just mean that one is always aware of trying to find ways to use our differences positively - at all levels of society and beyond our immediate environment. It may also necessitate actively pointing out to others the value of shared knowledge in contemporary society - the need to value and encourage everyone’s contribution, but to also accept shortcomings. Indeed, all individuals do create something in their lives and should be allocated a possibility for contribution. And one does not have to be an artist, curator, critic, gallery dealer, art director, or even a scientist, architect or engineer to do so.
Connecting minds beyond our own cultures
Consequently, to find more ways for us to harness our cumulative power towards solving the world’s most pressing challenges, we must focus in more closely on recognizing the experience and the circumspection of other cultures’ histories. In order to be able to contribute to social, environmental or political change of any measure, we must go beyond standard, accepted or impersonal global perspectives of the moment, and have the readiness to seek the individual insight, new thinking or approach of other people - to hear and believe someone else’s wisdom or constructive criticism. Likewise, we must be ready to tell a story that will activate the transfer of our own little piece of special knowledge - so that it can travel beyond our own customs, way of life, mindset, reveal something meaningful to another person - and at the same time so that it may also be appreciated and preserved in a new location.
Ultimately in order to be able to legitimately expand the human experience, connect with other minds judiciously, truly bridge the distance of difference, and create a real exchange of cultural values and ideas perhaps all we have to do is a few simple things consistently: remember to always have real presence in the moment in order to be able to ‘receive’ from others whose origins are different, to maintain an honest willingness to go beyond our own beliefs and cultures, and to be open to the intention that everything we do can always be done with a genuinely human disposition and as a deeply lived process. Sometimes ideas and beliefs and customs come from deep within and cannot be dislodged. We have to decide which ones need to be preserved and reinforced, which ones ought to be passed on to our future generations and to other cultures, and which are the ones - in the wider scope of things - that no longer need to be held on to.