Wednesday, 27 May 2009

An Artistic Theory of Everything?

In our island's troubled, introverted times, it pays to look any direction but down. The US has always provided fertile terrain for innovative writing about politics and policy, but the recent stimulation of a new president and an economy in crisis is generating some brilliant thinking, even on cultural policy, an area the US mainstream often ignores.

Whatever your views on physics, you should check out Eric Booth's essay on
An Artistic Theory of Everything. Applying Einstein's 'unified field theory' to the arts world, his conclusions include:

"Practitioners of different art forms just don’t think of themselves as part of a larger functional entity. Even though multidisciplinary performances and presentations are increasingly common, the various artistic tribes compete more often than they cooperate, believing that the concerns they share are less significant than the ones they face on their own..."

"This fundamental act of art occurs when we find the right word in a poem or the dance move that captures what we know and cannot say. We spark the arts connection when we enter a "world" made by someone else (a work of art, a spoken image, a story, an eloquent gesture) and find a personally relevant connection inside it. We fire the art connection when we pick just the right song to play for a suffering friend and when we listen deeply to a friend's story and connect to its unspoken core. We slip into the physics of art when we resonate inside with the note just played, when we experience a sense of eternity under a night sky...

"What can we do, as believers in the power of the fundamental act of creation, to align our actions, our creations, our organizations, our intentions and interactions with everyone inside and outside the arts to maximize that power? How can we create environments that effectively, irresistibly support and nurture that power? What events can we devise that are dedicated to that power, not merely to the presentation of artworks that we hope will contain it for those few who pay to attend?"

I laid a similar challenge for the arts education sector in my 'culture change' article about the Find Your Talent programme. But, like Eric, I was better on the diagnosis than the prognosis. I have no other answers as yet, but in seeking them I will also remember another Einstein theory - "you can't count everything that counts".

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