May 12, 2010

Whole University

Filed under: Uncategorized — dhi @ 12:43 pm

by Matthias Geiger, Assistant Professor of Art

We are at a critical juncture, a place where crisis is forcing important questions on us as human beings. Which organizational structures can we maintain and which structures do we need to alter and adapt to a rapidly changing world? What are our needs and what are our values? Crisis is a tremendous opportunity to initiate change and let go of systems and patterns which no longer work. For me, change means transformation and art is an amazing tool to initiate transformation towards cooperation within a culture of reverent ingenuity. Participating in art is whole: it engages both our minds and bodies in actions that transform esthetics into meaning. When we participate in art, our experience has the potential to be one of meaningful transformation.

I hold the conviction that we can transform ourselves and the world through play. Play is a form of cooperation and it is at the heart of any experimentation. When we experiment we can’t predict particular outcomes. Scientific experimentation requires the application of creativity and imagination. Art provides this space for playful activity and learning, free of the expectation of specific results and formulaic processes. We can engage with art to transform rather than express ourselves and we can alter ourselves to become more open and more engaged in the world. That requires a willingness to accept experimentation, play and transformation as an inevitable part of art making and life. It implies surrendering control and shifting the meaning of success. For John Dewey, the essence and value of art are not in the artifacts, but in the dynamic experiential activity through which they are created and perceived. Art is a meaningful process of ritual and experimentation and has the potential to blur the boundaries between the self and the world. Art is then brought into the world and nature, assuming all the moral responsibilities of life. It is based not on scientific reason and logic, and the pretense of objectivity, but on presence and subjective experience. The artistic endeavor is to alter consciousness by evoking mystical states. “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths” (Bruce Nauman).

It is at the university where we have the public mandate and responsibility to find new ways to prolong humanity’s existence with the inclusion of all life forms on this planet. It is at the university, a place where rationality, the mind and the sciences are celebrated, where we are in need of a good dose of enchantment, play, free creativity and self-exploration. It is at the university as a place of higher education where we should be able to learn and teach how to bring balance to our minds and bodies. I see art as a vehicle to transport academic research into these territories. Art is the creative impulse that glues experimentation to play. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create” (Albert Einstein). Magic, wonder and enchantment are here and are accessible, but need to be discovered, learned, studied and brought into our lives to make them whole.

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