For many years I have been striving in my artwork and creative making to establish a discourse with the numinous transpersonal experience embodied in a material form and throughout this period of expressive practice one phrase has kept resonating in my mind: “Making Art as if the World Mattered.” This sentence can be interpreted in a variety of contradictory ways including those that negate the importance of the world. It may be taken as if one is making art without connections the domains and societal relations of the made work and the worlds around us; art as forms of representation reflecting concepts of beauty and for no-thing else. The phrase was the title of one of the chapters in Suzi Gablik‘s significant publication from 1991 ‘ The Reenchantment of Art’. of this book she has recently restated that the essential premise of the text is that ” we need an art that transcends the distanced formality of aesthetics and dares to respond to the cries of the world” and that this is as valid today as it was twenty years ago. (The Art of Art in Resurgence Issue 256 • September/October 2009 • Exploring Consciousness). In the chapter “Making Art as if the World Mattered” Gablik suggests that in order to engender social relations and realise global transformation we need to first change our creative vision to one that expresses itself in action. Gablik’s argument frames practices of making as community orientated establishing a power of consciousness that “calls us into relationship” with our creative inner being and alien external Others. She echoes James Hillman in her conclusion quoting ” the new aesthetics will not be found in museums or beautiful objects, but in some visible manifestation of ‘ the soul’s desperate concerns.'”
Expressions of culture are evolving in the 20th century with a shifting and intersecting of the fields of creativity and forms of making. At one time the medium and field of practice whether painting or photography defined the boundaries of meaning whereas the contemporary situation is of multi and cross media platforms being adopted as vehicles of narrative and creative expression. The quality and language of the made form was often coloured by the field from which the work arose and possessed in its essence signs of its etymological evolution. Through global interrelations a connection that was previously with the land and the local as the structure of being communicating in the language of text and images has now become a multidimensional space of worlds both real and virtual that we fluidly move through with each moment stretching through time grasping onto a moving piece of media arising from cyberspace posted 1 year ago to then connect with a comment or debate at the cutting edge of contemporary thinking. In a world where every where is access to data and information through many levels of media I feel that we are intimately closer than ever in relations to the ‘soul’s desperate concerns’; the external plight of the earth, the nurturing soil beneath us and the loss of ecology, human devastation in the face of natural disasters, and the isolation of the individual as well as the beauty of the ethereal image and sense of other in angelic sounds. Csikszentmihalyi states that the site of creativity is to be found in the domain of knowledge and action. at the site of society, culture and production. Each domain expands interelations with the experiential worlds and expands the thresholds of our individuality. The domain of creativity grounds us within its rules and languages from which we emerge to perform to the limits of their potential. Each domain of practice conveys a consensus of knowledge through symbolic unity generating a clarity of mutual knowing. Each person is not isolated within a domain of creativity but is surrounded and influenced many an almost infinite number of domains with the potential to open new worlds and dynamic possibilities. In this respect a domain might be a discipline or field of knowledge, it may be a geographical location such as a city or country, a community or interest group. Steve Johnson talks about a moving fluidly between domains of knowledge to exploit adjacent potential as ‘liquid networking’. As we go about our daily lives liquid creativity is the ability to adapt, bring ideas together, touch each other, energising and inspiring one another through shared discourses to nurture participation and interaction.
In a clip on Youtube Johnson develops his presentation from an example of a coffee shop as the meeting place of minds in the 1840’s. This brings me to a specific example of my own from my student days. One lunchtime in the local coffee shop we were all sat around, creative arts students studying across a wide range of fields of the arts eating lunch with the conversation roaming around the music people were listening to, which universities were being applied to for further studies and the joys of contemporary popular culture at the start of the 1980’s when there evolved a mutually in the discussion. several of my friends were talking about film making and their aspirations and shared ideas and before long they had formed the ‘big idea’ for a short film and others were joining in framing and reshaping the concept. Two weeks later the concept had evolved and nearly fourty people were stood on a disused railway station taking part in the filming on location. Several weeks later the completed film had been edited a work which had grown from shared knowledge and participation. At this time all those involved were creatively forming shaping evolving and recreating ideas through interaction.
In this world we make art and new forms ex- pressing resources and symbols from inner consciousness and the worlds that surround us matter being the domains where is created and recreated the souls concerns and the potential to transform. The arts have the potential to move between the thresholds of domains. All ways of knowing from emerging fields of complexity to evolving theories require a liquid creativity that flows in exchange and response through fibres that blend and fuse all worlds in intimate participation; virtual, real, technological and societal.
Text and Image © Robert Burton. Rob is an artist and writer on the arts and consciousness and is currently working on publishing critical and theoretical texts on the artist as the mediator of the transpersonal. Please contact Embodied.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.