Considering the ‘listening forum’ and the layout of our upcoming exhibition, especially in context of ‘community art’ it becomes obvious that our work with Coming Visible shall become a participatory experience. But what does it mean for musicians or audio/sound artists to move from making Art, playing or composing, to borrowing their sophisticated ears to other people, preparing them for attentive listening, without determining what they shall hear?
In Alain de Botton’s book “Art as Therapy”, the author relates to this task through the eyes of the visual artists. How does their role shift from being creators of objects that are a representation of their own experiences to being facilitators of possibilities for others to immediately experience the phenomena of life themselves?
Here an extract from the chapter ‘The New Artist of Nature’:
Throughout the history of art, artists have seen it as their task represent their experience of nature. This has often taken the form and creating an image of some part of the natural world that has of especially moved them. Dürer, for example, went to immense trouble, and deployed great technical skill, to reproduce the visual details of stalks and leaves. One of the most welcome and interesting developments of twentieth-century art has been the broadening of our understanding of the term ‘artist’. Artists aren’t necessarily people who show us a work that represents nature, or anything else for that matter. They might also be people who create opportunities for you to see nature or anything else directly in a more immediate or meaningful way. This is an evolution, not a rejection, of Dürer’s ambition. For Dürer hoped that, having looked at his work, one would head outside and do what he had originally done: to look with great care and devotion at some significant aspect of the natural world. In this new way, the artist becomes the choreographer of an experience you might have, rather than a recorder of an experience they once had. We are still digesting the full implications of this interesting epochal shift, which moves artists away from the studio and the easel and gives them things in common with business leaders, politicians, religious figures, architects, town planners and circus managers.
Art is turning from creating memorials to, or representation of, nature towards creating opportunities for the closer or more meaningful perception of nature. Instead of looking at a picture, we are now looking at the real thing. The role of the Artist remains crucial, though: the experience is shaped and structured by the insight and imagination of a creative mind.
How might this choreography of experience work in relation to other good things? What might an equivalent choreography of ‘love’ look like? Might the job of the artist go beyond depicting love and evolve to taking steps to orchestrating opportunities across the globe for experiencing love more successfully? The ambition that underpins participatory art is just beginning to be understood and its consequences examined. There should be nothing strange at all about an artist helping you to relate more successfully to death, get on better with your children or manage problems with money. We need to move beyond thinking of an artist as someone at an easel. The artist of the future might be adept with brushes and paints, or with film; but they will also have the skills of an architect, a geologist, a public speaker, a politician or a scientist. What will identify him or her as an artist is an interest in art’s true, historic mission: the promotion of a sensory understanding of what matters most in life. He will create occasions, which might mean a tower, a crater, a dinner party or a kindergarten, for events that will promote the values to which art has always been devoted. We shouldn’t be surprised, or see it as a loss of what art has always been about, if many of the artists of the coming decades do not produce traditional objects, and instead head directly for the underlying mission of art: changing how we experience the world.
I find it fascinating how in this vision the Artist becomes much more active in community life, while assuming and sharing the roles and responsibilities of the professional people around them. This would mean a much stronger social engagement in everyday life – interdependency, mutual support, interest in each others circumstances – and in turn would make the concept of the Artist more approachable for self-proclaimed non-creatives and possibly fill disenchanted work with creativity and curiosity.
It’s not enough to create Art as objects, texts and music as ends in themselves. We have to be guides to help people widening their understanding, opening their senses to the places and situations they are inhabiting, since things that matter often hide in plain sight.
This is at least what I aspire.