Art is not a zero-sum game

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 30, 2013

Francois Matarasso offers an excellent articulation of the importance of art as “a way of knowing unlike others” and of the passion associated with that. He goes on to make an important point – other ways of knowing are also distinctive and equally valuable, “I believe that art is a way of knowing unlike others, but that doesn’t make it more important than the others.” His conclusion seemed to me to highlight something fundamental to collaboration and working with other ways of knowing, which we sometimes call ‘interdisciplinarity’. He says “To value one kind of experience, one glimpse beyond the selfish and material, does not require a rejection of all others. Life is not a zero-sum game. The heart is capacious.” When he says “The heart is capacious” he implies the critical thing, which is that to collaborate or work across disciplines requires acknowledging that the other way of knowing that you are engaging with is equally valid, and moreover, that you need to make space in your heart as well as your mind to love the other way of knowing as well. This is so evident in the practices of artists working in social and ecological contexts. It is absolutely obvious when you think about it that Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison for instance love and value the ways of knowing of ecological scientists.

Regular Marvels

‘If you love it here, you love the bleakness and the vast flat sky and landscape.’

A few weeks ago, I listened to someone explain why Norfolk meant so much to him both as an artist and as a place to live. The conversation came back to me this week at a meeting of French cultural managers, at which I heard many participants speak of art’s transcendence. I had the impression of an almost sacred practice that gave access to an experience of universal meaning, beyond the material world. Kant’s legacy remains very influential in Western art, and its servants.

Having spent my working life in this field, I’m also convinced of art’s importance, while recognising what the French call a ‘déformation professionnelle’—the distortion that comes from seeing the world through the lens of one’s daily occupation. I believe that art is a way of knowing unlike others…

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