Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

William Kentridge

Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In

June 1, 2011
This looks to me like a diagram for negotiating the Creative Age. By William Kentridge at Marian Goodman, exhibition through June 18th.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. My frustration in the toy store (see the post below) had less to do with gender stereotyping or even materialistic messages, than my inability to find anything that would 1) interest an intelligent five-year-old for more than two minutes and 2) not clutter up the household with ugly shit.  Believe me, if I'd found a girly girl toy that was really cool, I would have bought it. 

However the plethora of toys that narrow, rather than facilitate, the imagination are symptoms of a larger issue, which I’ve finally realized is behind the intention and philosophy of this blog: the increasing tendency to see information as an end in itself, valued over creativity and imagination, even experience. I have nothing against information, but it’s simply another commodity, absolutely useless unless you do something with it.*  I saw a magazine ad for an investment firm that boasted, “We take the emotion out of investing.” Well if investing could be reduced to a set of rules, anyone with the right computer program could make himself rich.  Instead what I’d look for in an investment counselor is someone with imagination and intuition, who has the ability to understand (imagine) my lifestyle and needs, and who’s had enough experience to trust his or her hunches (what are hunches, anyway, if not the ability to recognize and respond to positive and negative emotion?) to successfully negotiate the market.

This issue is also behind the crisis in medicine, which is slowly, very slowly, coming to recognize that “the test of replicability, as it is known…the foundation of modern research” is fallible:

(From The New Yorker): Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.  (Read more…)

Hence the rise of artist’s statements, museum wall text, and pre-concert lectures, all attempts to reduce to information experiences which, when at their best, are ineffable—emotional rather than intellectual.

The valuing of information over creativity and experience are also part of the current crisis in higher education, in all education:

(From The Nation) Online courses, distance learning, do-it-yourself instruction: this is the future we’re being offered. Why teach a required art history course to twenty students at a time when you can march them through a self-guided online textbook followed by a multiple-choice exam? Why have professors or even graduate students grade papers when you can outsource them to BAs around the country, even the world? Why waste time with office hours when students can interact with their professors via e-mail? (Read more…)

[So as well as substituting information for experience, we also expect to substitute online teaching relationships for those that are face-to-face.  Where does it stop? With online marriages? How about Skyped parenting? If we have the whole world to choose from, surely there’s someone in India who’s a better parent that you.]

Instead of getting rid of primary school playgrounds, eliminating liberal arts programs, and emphasizing rote like the Tiger Mother, we should be doing the opposite—because, without our recognizing it, the Information Age has segued into the Creative Age. There’s no longer such thing as career or even information security, and starting right now everyone has to be an entrepreneur. That’s what recent college graduates are finding out, that there’s no safe job to slip into, no set path; they have to make the whole thing up.  As do we. Those of us who’ve been at whatever it is we do for any length of time, have to completely rethink it—and furthermore, understand that this process of reinvention is not going to stop.

This rapidly changing world is one for which artistswho have always had to make it upmay be the best prepared.

Who knew?

*This idea is not original. In Self-Reliance, Emerson calls “spontaneity” and “instinct” the “essence of life.” “We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition,” he says, “whilst all later teachings are tuition.”