Archive for October, 2010

Art, craft and debate

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Reflections on an exhibition:

The distinction between art and craft is a funny one and open to debate: Are they really different or should they be different? Surely you can have both in the same piece, and you can have one without the other. Craft should be well made, art can be many things.

So when art galleries exhibit craft you risk being severely confused or even disappointed. The objects they put on display are art only – they can often not be used for anything, they are rough, ugly and generally speaking useless. The idea is that these objects  are not for practical use in everyday life, they have been elevated to a philosophical level. They are part of a debate about ideas, society, people, body and mind, politics, beauty – whatever the artist puts into them.

So objects called – pretentiously – art is intended as part of a debate, to form opinion and to make you think or to make a statement.

These artifacts are made through an artistic process, but the end-result is not intended for practical purposes. Form, colour, design, artistic value are not important for they are meant to convey an opinion about an important theme in society. They are not written in words, the meaning comes to you through an object conveying a message.

Everything is possible, for there are no limits or boundaries: Big art, small art, all kinds of cultural aspects, self made and factory made, pop and rock, modern and not so modern.

A lot of -isms and theories are out there, and it all is veering towards a theoretical and esoteric exercise. Very intellectual but hard to see, or too new to understand. The limits of art have always been criticized.

Has this art lost its meaning or is it a challenge to us all: You must see the new ways, you must accept new artistic methods.

Art must have an audience – if nobody sees it there is no art. Artistic limits have always been pushed forward. So let us be calm, reflect, and let the strong ideas come through. Eventually they will.

Galleri F15, Moss, Norway

New ways to drama

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We have all gone to see and hear plays on the stage, and recently the variation has been great in expression, techniques and themes. Some times the actors move into the audience, some times they engage the audience in debate and other action. Music, film and dance can be used – the diversity is great.

Street artists have recently added to diversity – painting, acting, playing music improvised in the streets. Artist’s books are also part of developments where the publication of a book, often as a single volume in huge format or as a scroll may be the production. Limits are being forced all over the place.

But the basic premise is often there: a house with a stage, actors, technicalities, audience. Tradition is that we want a fully produced show that we easily can understand. This may be changing now: Performance is coming to you.

The performance artists are different – they have no respect for what has been. Some started as actors, some are painters or authors, but they seek new dramaturgy: new ways to form and communicate the message. They use dialogue, provocation, disturbance, involvement, bizarre happenings, many techniques. They perform in the streets, in shopping centers, up in a tree. Language is mostly the main ingredient.

The staging is often minimalistic, just a bare stage, a street, a place, hardly any light, few words, more like hints.

There is no explanation: You see, hear and start thinking as a set of thoughts is introduced, it is up to you what you make of it – it is all in your own mind. The premise is that people are intelligent – they can think for themselves.

Maybe the performance made new thoughts start to spin in your mind? Or you went away disappointed – you did not fathom a thing?

We had Dada and surrealism, now we have performance with no limits. Put your mind to it – let it enrich your life – don’t be angry if you don’t understand – just think harder. Remember also that sometimes performance is great fun – if you will.

Try it in practice: Dramatikkens Hus, Oslo, Norway.

Have you been initiated into maturity?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

When we grow up we enter a phase of life where childhood and adolescence is over and a mature phase beckons.

This change is deep and should be taken seriously. We stopped doing that in the West a long time ago. Many cultures have tough ceremonies or rites that youngsters pass through, some are religious and some are nature based. Some are sent out to explore their own physical and mental limits or depths.

The process of entering maturity should entail moving into unknown terrain physically and spiritually so that your limits are tested, and maybe found. As part of the process you should learn to ask, find out, find both inner and outer resources, find your own way of expressing yourself, find self-reliance.

Survival technique is also involved – how will you earn a living for yourself? So find out what you want to do, the means to live from. This should be deep – what do you really want to do and  be – it should be accepted both by your body and your soul. You may have to fight hard to achieve your aims. There are tools to be found and people to talk to.

The challenge then is to make it happen the way you want – you are on a tour of discovery of both body and soul.

Your old identity will be left behind as you enter the mature phase of your life. It is also the start of ego growth – work to find your emotions satisfying, get into contact with nature, your own body, your images and dreams: start growing.

You will learn to live so that you follow what your body and soul wants – you will be authentic and your own manager. The crowd will not be for you you will be independent.

Western civilization should alter its processes of growing into adulthood along these lines – let the discussion start.

Treating the brain or changing the mind?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The functioning of the brain is not well understood – we try as best we can to help people with disorders – of which some are medical, some are mental “only”. Some times just a change of behaviour would be beneficial to people themselves or their associates. Researchers are working hard to understand mechanisms, find tools, find drugs or treatments to improve peoples lives.

Psychology is a science of thinking, feeling and maybe also an art. It deals with human mental activity and and our behaviour: perception, attention, personal choices, emotion, relationships, group action….

Psychology is found in all human activity: singles, groups, organizations. Humans are not stable and can change their behaviour or be made to change behaviour in many ways. There are many -isms in psychology and we are really striving to understand human behaviour – healthy or not is often a question in itself.

When we turn our attention to the medical side of brain functioning we are in the realm of psychiatry – we deal with the brains circuitry, tissues, connections.

This is obviously not easy terrain: Do you have a need for a good therapist or are your case about medicines or even surgery?

It all starts with the primary care doctors who need tools in the form of guidelines. Many countries have them, and the WHO has them: the Intervention Guide. In psychiatry the symptoms tell you what the disease is, but the understanding is not always good, and the resources are not always there. Research is heavy, and themes are genetics, mechanisms, side-effects, drugs.

Many people are not treated today – depression is rampant, many people with epilepsy are left on their own.

So good work is being done and we will gradually find out more and treat more people.

The drugged world

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

We all do it – we drug ourselves, and have done so for centuries and milleniums. We now use large amounts of neurochemicals or psychoactive substances, and people everywhere can now find and use substances that will alter their state of mind, or ordinary waking consciousness.

Behind it all is world trade, empire building, profit, power, distribution systems, taxation, restrictions – in many forms, erratic and not so erratic.

There are many drugs – as they are called – mild and strong, some medical or has been medical, some are just for fun. All can be abused, all can be made money from. They are globally available – the distribution system is efficient.

Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine are regulated and consumed most places, and used by billions of people. Income and taxes are huge. Opium, cannabis and coca are illegal in most places, but used by millions and in most countries. Income is huge, but the operation is mostly criminalised. Other substances are used too, but are not in the mainstream: kava, betel, qat, peyote.

The story of what has happened to humans in the history of drugs is not nice – many people have suffered.

Many drugs have gone from medicinal use to popular consumption, and methods of production and user interface have improved. As we were no longer physically hungry we used drugs to satisfy our increasing psychic hunger.

The power of drugs in an economic or political sense is clear: it has been and still is huge. Governments have depended upon them, and still do. The heavier stuff is now largely outlawed in most countries – and the consequences are large criminal incomes as the use perseveres.

New developments are under way – tobacco restrictions are increasing in many places. New chemical substances are entering the scene, more will come if there is profit and taxes to be had, and pleasure and food for the hungry psyche.

The story will go on – the kind of society we are building will be part of the future drug story. Those who need it can and will have it. The politics may change too. Cannabis is legalized in many countries/states, and more are legalizing it.

Cravings like these will always be met – legal or not.

Understanding economics – there is nobody there

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There is a Nobel prize for  economics. Many interesting subjects have been studied, developed and some of the results have been put into use.

But the world economy is weak, has been weak and who knows what next: When the crisis is there we try to fix it. That is what we are at now. Output must grow, but it does not, there are not enough jobs, poverty is present for many.

The economic systems of the world are clearly not fully understood by anybody. Economics is not a science, not even a dismal one, and we are not able to balance production and demand, there is money but no loans to be had, long term budget balance is not possible, money can’t be used, people are suffering.

It’s all a mess. The financial system, the production system, the consumer system, the distribution system, the ways we use to distribute income.

The big name economists have obviously only partially understood how the human system of economics works. Millions of people in the world call themselves economists – but all they do is sit watching as the economy breaks down. Afterwards they understand well why it broke down.

Politicians with little economic understanding are running the show, and our system of society management must surely be improved.

The money are clearly there – the governments (some) and the banks (some) have them and they are not put into proper use. They appear as crisis financing.

So we must go back to basic theory: how do we run a modern economy where production can be so efficient that we do not have enough old-fashioned jobs for everybody? Somebody else can do it much cheaper? The rate of change is so fast we can not keep up? The government is grossly overspending? Far too many people are just sitting there? How do we stop other people’s problem from entering our economy?

The answer is obviously new thinking: What is economically possible to have must be developed in new ways , understood and practized. Huge pools of money sitting with corporations and governments must be banished. Enough work must be done and can be done, and the proceeds must be shared differently from what we do today. Money must be taken from the pool – the common pool – and shared so that everybody has a basic living.

Some parts of this new thinking is already there: Common pool resource practices, basic wage systems, firmer and more long term budgets (50 years), moving parts of economics out of politics, shifting and balancing the economic power between countries: so why not plan for this, why must we have development through crises?

Why do we use the word power at all – at some point we will be producing enough for everybody, let us have a planned process for that. Productivity can be increased, what do we do when it is high enough, and manpower is not needed. The basic premise is we don’t need you because production is so efficient that you don’t have to work. So where do you get your income?

The developing countries should clearly grow, but the developed countries should start thinking about product transfer, balances, ecology. We were not born to consume, and economics is about choices and constant renewal. The basis for all human activity can surely not be never-ending growth?

Today’s economic thinking is clearly at a loss, divergent and needs consolidation. The models are old-fashioned and not suited for the modern world. So economists of the world: pull yourself together – get a grip.

Knowledge and science – a constantly moving target

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Science is full of areas where we know precious little: models of climate, human health, the working of the human brain, the nature and source of life….

What happens when we see revolutionary discoveries or thinking?

Humans are constantly seeking out what is there – how does it work, how are things connected, what can we use knowledge for… Can we make money from it, can we use it to do well?

The development of knowledge is erratic, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes like an epiphany.

The processes of developing knowledge are also tightly controlled and hotly debated:

  • active intervention
  • regimes of knowledge will try to tell you what is right
  • static knowledge – it has been like this for a long time
  • orthodox knowledge – this is right you know
  • accepted truth – this is so
  • economic interests – making money is a big controlling force
  • lack of understanding and acceptance
  • creation of artificial science: studies of social phenomena, ideology, religion, economics
  • research silos: you don’t see the connection
  • academic freedom, free research
  • speculation and hypothesizing is not considered scientific

Opinions and economic, formal power matter. And there are methods as well: Objective, logical, scientific, measurable, repeatable, peer reviewed, guesswork, conjecture. Are scientific – our kind of – methods the only ones allowed?

Methods will evolve, knowledge will be found, understanding will be built, gradually and all the time. And the systems we are part of will evolve too – so there will be no end to what we will find. New curiosities will also arise, as well as new ways of thinking and associating concepts and systems.

This can become very complicated, and developing true knowledge is not a sure thing or straightforward. We have second thoughts about Darwin and Einstein, science searching for God and not finding anything, the thinking of the past coming back, looking for all-pervasive science, searching for spirit and soul, nano-materials – many things are still unknown to us.

Science is structured unpredictability. It is what we know now and by using scientific methods we will gradually know more, changing science. Don’t be angry when we change science, this is how it is.

Surely progress will continue – we will know more and more – science will uncover what there is and if it is there – truly – it has to be accepted. And when we have found out we must try to understand.

The indigenous world: diversity acknowledged

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Cultural innovation and diversity comes together: We meet other people, we exchange ideas, goods, culture, learn languages, eat new foods, play new tunes, interbreed. Diversity grows, and we are all richer for it.

But culture is becoming one and the same – there is pressure from the big cultures with the power and money to make others succumb. A lot of people don’t like this, they like what they have and want it to stay, even developing it as part of a natural process in the community or in interaction with others. So the question of  cultural diversity is heating up, and many factors are debated, among them the question of indigenous people all over the world. Indigenous people came first to an area and have often been there for a long time, creating fine and simple ways to live, often living very close to the natural world, and often considered primitive by others. But indigenous culture is diverse, often with truly original sophisticated  content.

History shows us that indigenous people have been hit hard all over the world: The US, Africa, Asia, South America. Recently the question of Roma and Travellers people have had a lot of attention. Empire building and colonialism have been part of it. Today we still see forms of imperialism, colonialism, globalization, wars, revengeful action putting pressure on the few and small.

Newly evolving indigenous perspectives of language, culture, economic exchange show us that the richness of all people can be useful to all in a process of  being yourself and meeting others on their own ground. The western world should learn to respect, adapt, interact, leave people alone to do their own living, and at the same time look for good ideas for innovation and improvement.

There are 6-7000 spoken languages in the world, many indigenous people have a mobile lifestyle, there are human rights and property rights involved, and there are contentions coming up in many places, while others have agreements, deals, sharing in their own – centrally governed – countries. They often have deep knowledge about nature and how to interact with it beneficially.

The impact of what we do to mineral resources, forest, water, land is felt by many indigenous people, and should be handled considerately and respectfully – and ecologically too.

Nobody should force other peoples into change. Cultural richness and personal diversity go together and are sources of enrichment in peoples’ lives. The world is better off with diversity.

So differences must be perpetuated – it is good for everybody – and life becomes richer and more fun. See?