Saturday, October 10, 2015

Variety and Enrichment

What made talking about the art from my “Imaging the Idea” class such a pleasure was partly due to the wonderful variety of approaches this semester’s class represents. It was stimulating to go from paintings and constructions to photography, animation and video collage, stuffed objects and reconstructed prints offering a thorough exploration of expressive iconography. That combined with the interesting and perceptive responses from the group got my own ideas moving into brand new territory. This is serious enrichment. I can revisit any one of the works mentally and get to know the mind that created it, feel their humor and priorities, the particular gifts each brings to the things they need to show us. Perspective is enlarged by the accumulation of many ways of seeing. This was the reason I created this class and the “Imaging from Current Events”, as a way of spreading a variety of visual and verbal ideas on the table so everyone gets a sense of the range of the ways others come at a topic without dispute. No idea has any more claim to being truth than another. Building the skill of moving through and pooling ideas rather than using mental resources to defend and prevail offers a more interesting, open journey through the field of ideas, the extended mental space of collective perception.

Variety is enrichment at every level of biology. When people are threatened by difference it can often be because they aren’t attuned to essence. The idea that everyone has to come around to one way of
thinking is an archaic remnant of colonialism. The availability of multiple points of view needs a more open-ended orientation toward belief that allows for growth and change. Understanding underlying relationships, how things function and the patterns of behavior formed in early development provide a platform for understanding all that is shared. Every human being has the experience of being a helpless baby that then begins to sit, to crawl, to begin the struggle to stand and
walk, and these shared early experiences are an important component of how we respond to gravity, position, obstruction, imbalance and their analogue in the composition of art. Art communicates through the human response to space. The metaphors based on functioning in the world are universal.

Understanding this essential responsiveness should enable us to transcend superficial physical descriptions and appreciate the ways in which human beings are varied as valuable. A restricted gene pool and monoculture weaken a species and make it more vulnerable, whereas interbreeding takes advantage of the best genes on both sides to makea more vigorous next generation. When Picasso saw African masks it opened a new creative direction for him. Whatever is new and different stimulates dopamine in the brain, which is represented in behavior as curiosity and focused attention. This is not something to be suppressed.  One way to make use of the untapped potential of the mind
is to expose it to more difference and find the novelty that most inspires creative thought. If as so many are now saying, we are moving into a post-knowledge era our tools for depth understanding and creative thinking will be essential to the future.

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