It's fantasy, stupid!
GRASP's mission statement says that it is “to bring forth new forms of generation of meaning and knowledge in the ever-changing contemporary context through artful thinking and artistic expression”.
The result of artistic expression can be well accounted for on the visible and tangible side: it is the picture, sculpture, or composition presented to the beholder. Our expectation is that the viewer and / or listener receives some impulses which make him or her feel and think about what the sender of the expression intended to tell us or to make us feel. Masterpieces of art usually have the characteristics of being an object which can be viewed, perceived, and handled, and if so, becoming a “tradeable product”. Thus, its quality may be converted into an economic value potentially traded in the art market. We all have heard about sums in the three-digit millions of Euros paid in auctions for historic or classic artwork, and even modern art is valued at large sums. Investors consider art as a currency which, although subordinated to market rules that may not behave as logically and dispassionately as in the so-called “real financial markets”, nevertheless in the art portfolios of their owners often plays the role of a value reserve.
The discussion on the relationship between art and business is being conducted with high intellectual competence by experts like Giovanni Schiuma, a supporter of GRASPnetwork, in his famous book “The Value of Arts for Business”. In the knowledge science community, from which the majority of GRASP’s founding team originate, the debate on the role of art has been conducted in a very logical manner, giving the impression that the role of art in society could be determined by means of rational arguments. As for me, I was part of this discussion, collecting the arguments for what art is good for - see the matrix picture accompanying this blog.
However, the more I dig into our discussion, I ask myself what GRASP's mission statement on “artful thinking” could mean. We will immediately admit that each of us has a different way of thinking. Neuronal research confirms that individuals master different individual thinking strategies to come to conclusions. (A famous experiment proved that taxi drivers apply different approaches to find their routes; they may consult a map burned in their brains, or get orientated by landmarks, or may follow an Ariadne's thread, and so on and so forth ...).
In recent years I was struck by insights published in the German intellectual scene by highly respected personalities such as Wolfgang Herrmann, the President of Germany's leading Technical (!) University in Munich (TUM), David Precht, a kind of national philosopher, Harald Lesch, a well-known physicist who teaches modern physics in TV or Gerald Hüther, a leading expert in education and learning sciences – to mention a few. They are united in one common denominator: the most important ability and competence any learner, especially young and lifelong learners, need to develop is in art and creativity. One of the mantras of our time is that we have to aim at change, and the key mantra for technological and societal progress is invention and innovation. What are the driving factors in this? It is definitely fantasy seducing us to find unconventional solutions. Substantial progress either in science, or society, or economics, or politics has always been driven by new ideas, which, in practical terms, would mean finding new combinations in creating new pictures for the future. What could be a better demonstration for this claim than processes in artful thinking, which – that’s my thesis - are triggered by fantasies? The original definition of “fantasy” stems from Greek phantazein, meaning to make something visible. Here we are back to the roots of the GRASP project expressed by the mission statement: make the invisible visible.
Wikipedia provides the reference which I chose for the headline of this blog: "It's the economy, stupid" is a slight variation of the phrase "The economy, stupid", which James Carville as a campaign strategist in Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campain
had coined…. Carville's original phrase was meant for the internal audience of Clinton's campaign workers as one of three messages to focus on, one other message e.g. being "Change versus more of the same". All such slogans confirm what the message of this blog is: It is not art and artworks we are interested in, it is rather the process of making art and perceiving art in its capacity to trigger new ideas for change.