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  • Writer's pictureGuenter Koch

Art seen through the eyes of the heart

The central statement of the Little Prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's poetry novella of the same name is "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye". Essentially, he wants to express that, in addition to words that can be understood rationally, there are other, complementary forms of communication that people use to exchange information. As already explained in an earlier blog post in this series, Ludwig Wittgenstein's final dictum in his work "Tractatus Logoco-Philosophicus", namely that what cannot be talked about must be kept silent, is limited to the area of rational, language-based communication.

We know that all living beings, including humans, have a far greater repertoire than mere speech exchanging and gaining information. Scientists go so far as to claim that linguistic communication accounts for only 50% of the form of information transfer; the other 50% is conveyed in the way of speech melody, i.e. tonalities and intonations, and beyond that, through body language, facial expressions, possibly smell and taste, and much more. And these are only the external, if you like, physically recognizable ways of expression.

If everything could be conveyed through rational and "physically" measurable forms of communication, interpersonal coexistence would be very simple. But that is not the case. Even on a large scale, where social coexistence is concerned, people have agreed that non-rationally mediated exchange is also a dimension for shaping human coexistence and have subsumed this under "politics". Politics picks up on feelings, moods, and emotions and incorporates them into the decision-making process. For example, opinion polls are a means of recording what moves people and what preferences they would like to see in their social interaction, at least in the majority of cases.

There is a consensus that "art" and artistic forms of expression are recognized ways of expressing issues that defy purely rational descriptions. Whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a video installation, a piece of music, a theatre play, or an actionist performance, these forms, which are left to the interpretation of the viewer, reader, or listener, convey dimensions of experience that extend to a transcendental shift in consciousness and even a physical change in existence. In this, the heart plays a special role as an "organ of consciousness and sensation" in most cultures. According to the Little Prince, what is invisible to the eye is seen with the heart. And it is not unreasonable to assume that people see and understand more with their hearts than with their eyes.

The world's largest professional organization of scientists, technicians, and engineers, the IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Incorporated) with its more than 400,000 members worldwide, was motivated by the massive commitment of the world's population to save the planet to exploit the intellectual capital of its members and associates to address the question of how the goals for achieving sustainability and regeneration, as induced by the Paris Climate Agreement, can contribute to a reversal of negative climate development in a relatively short period through concrete and practical measures - precisely those that can be expected from technicians. IEEE, therefore, launched the project entitled "Planet Positive 2030" (https://globalpolicy.ieee.org/planet-positive-2030-initiative-seeks-to-drive-global-sustainability-by-design/) and structured it into twelve working areas, eight of which focused on specific topic compartments such as economic and regulatory measures, alternative energies, new agricultural methods, preservation of landscape and settlement forms, saving the world's oceans, etc. - all topics for which IEEE members and affiliates invited to contribute are usually able to offer constructive and optimistic ideas. However, once the catalog of themes had been defined and the working groups set up, it dawned on those managing the project that they had overlooked one thing, namely that tackling the climate crisis is not just an intellectual problem to be solved rationally, but will also involve winning over a majority of people with their hearts and feelings to the cause of saving the planet.

This realization prompted those responsible for the "Planet Positive 2030" project to look for ways of tackling this "non-rational" dimension of problem-solving and they agreed that "art" can provide the means, methods, and tools to communicate this "other" dimension of human understanding, i.e. to see the problems from the heart. In this situation, GRASPnetwork offered to recruit contributors for a new, thirteenth capital for the "Planet Positive 2030" project and to open the discussion on how artistic means can also be used to win over people who do not think in technical or scientific terms to get involved in the cause of concrete measures to save the climate and to support them emotionally and technically.

If, after reading this blog post, you are interested in the results of GRASPnetwork's involvement in the “Planet Positive 2030” project, we are happy to send everyone "our" chapter on the contribution of art and are still interested in discussing and disseminating communication about the challenges of saving the planet using artistic methods.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but: might the contribution to saving the climate based on sensations, emotions, and non-rational communication represent the other 50% of the solution to the challenge?


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