Monday, February 16, 2009
EVERYONE IS AN ARTIST
As our society collectively awakens to the realization that it must devise ways to stem the hemorrhaging caused by years of denial and excess, and as the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement becomes proportionally more popular, I am constantly reminded of Joseph Beuys’ words “Everyone Is An Artist”. Beuys believed strongly, not that everyone should make (so-called) fine art, but that everyone can live a richer and more meaningful life by infusing any vocation or action with his or her own personal creativity.
Beuys believed that personal creativity could be cultivated and honed by reconnecting with nature, and by developing a more intimate relationship with it. He believed that individuals, as well as our entire culture could be healed by returning to a simpler way of life, and by becoming more attuned to the subtle, ineffable forces of the ecosystem we inhabit
EVERYONE IS A SHAMAN
Some call one who consciously connects to, communicates with, and elaborates on the intangible a shaman. Some called Joseph Beuys that. Most just called him an artist. Shamans, artists, cooks, gardeners, scientists, inventors and all others who bring imaginary things out of the realm of the intangible to help give them form could benefit from enhanced access to the mysterious force of inspiration. In this sense, everyone is a shaman as well.
And as people begin to seek ways to “do it themselves” they are exercising a form of personal creativity that has been largely neglected in our culture for far too long. A basic fact of existence that has been all but forgotten is that human happiness and the sense of freedom (the pursuits of which are among our so-called inalienable rights) depend largely on the ability to express personal creativity (Beuys also famously said, “To make people free is the aim of art. Therefore art for me is the science of freedom”).
THE JOY OF FLUXUS
I believe that the reshuffling of our collective deck, while discomfiting at times, will ultimately result in an overall increase in happiness as people come to realize that we were misguided in relating the ravenous, mindless accumulation of stuff to personal joy, and as we begin to experience instead the sense of simple, profound satisfaction that comes from planting a seed, sewing on a button, or cooking a meal from scratch.
AUTONOMY AS RADICAL ACT
Consciously creative types (“makers” as they have come to be known) are returning to the sort of DIY approach to the creating and sharing of their work that the fluxus artists of the 1960’s and 70’s pioneered – only now we have the internet. Websites, blogs, and social networks have made the white box/velvet rope gallery mentality virtually obsolete - now everyone has the same access to the same art and artists, from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Sculptors can create installations in a basement, musicians can give concerts in their living rooms, writers can publish in an instant – and everything can be shared with millions of people across the planet.
For many years, I have been interested in the internet as a by-product of the fundamental human longing to connect. The telegraph, telephone, and television are all apparatus devised to facilitate communication. The internet takes it all a step further – now we are able to pool resources, share information, and create tangible links. In 1998 I read a brilliant article on the subject by Howard Rheingold, an early internet researcher and pioneer, in the Institute of Noetic Sciences newsletter. In the article, called Thinking About Thinking About Technology
Mr. Rheingold posits that for new technology to develop into tools for enhancement of creativity and “mind amplification” as opposed to becoming merely a source of “disinfotainment” we must develop a philosophical framework within which it can evolve. That was 11 years ago. Now we know that technology has become everything that we are - enriching and distracting, elegant and dangerous, brilliant and ridiculous.
Shortly after reading Mr. Rheingold’s article, I became a member of “Brainstorms” a private experimental virtual community he was starting. I wanted to be among the early pioneers of cyberspace as a cultural phenomenon. The platform Brainstorms has run on since its inception acts very much like a modern blog. I was extremely excited and intrigued by the prospect that a written essay, much like this one, could have links, sound, and image files built right in.
Technology has arrived at a point in its evolution when it is exceptionally easy for the maker to direct all aspects of his or her own creation, from inception to publication, marketing, and dissemination. From Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr to Ebay and YouTube, it is an exciting moment for the DIY innovator.
INTERNET AS CAVE WALL
Technologies for the amplification and enhancement of imagination and conscious intent have existed in every aspect of human culture at least since the first cave painting was created. The development of modern western civilization’s fanatic rejection of the unquantifiable has, in many ways, done us a great disservice. I believe that a reenchantment with the intangible and an open minded acceptance of alternative modes of perception will make it possible for humanity to emerge from this period of economic, environmental, and social reevaluation into a more peaceful and contented era.
WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME
Electronic Shamanism at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Center in Toronto ‘til March 7
New Videos on Youtube:
How to Explain Quantum Physics to a Dead Hare
Alyce's artwork on Flickr
Improbable Projects on MySpace