The Artistic Mind in ActionPosted: October 19, 2011
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication —Leonardo da Vinci
There has been a desire in me to go off topic lately. There is so much going on, that it feels to me, that my desire to see innovation in the education of children, is as important as my desire to see innovation in life. Much of this diversion has been centered around my main focus in life, which is art.
A project that my son and I have initiated is to keep a sketchbook of ideas. I have been thinking about Leonard da Vinci lately and how he scribbled out dozens of ideas for inventions. Some of which have manifested in our century, and others not. But in thinking about his work, I realized that as an artist, we all tend to see these unusual connections in the world. Great invention comes from seeing what is, and coming up with a new relationship.
On our trips to school, my son and I have many conversations. This is exactly why he still wants me to escort him everyday. We look at the world around us, and try to see what could be better. What would be a healthier solution? For instance, we used to walk to school down the streets of Park Slope and I was always impressed at the quality of stuff people discarded. Old TVs, computers, appliances. Waste. Couldn’t these be used for another purpose other than filling up our landfills? Another thing that bothered us is that our streets are filled with cars. Cars have been given predominance over the needs of people. They line all our streets and we constantly have to be vigilant so as not to be hit by any of them. There is noise and pollution produced from this congestion and Noah and I often discuss how our public transportation could be better, in order to eradicate this dilemma. And from this, our collected idea for the Hover Bus came into being.
In our rough conception for the Hover Bus, it would have almost no impact on the environment. It would operate without wheels, with a geothermal, or super conductor technology yet to be invented. It would essentially float a foot above the ground, and the road, instead of being made from asphalt or concrete, would be made from grass. It would allow our urban environment to be more of a natural habitat. No one would take their own car to work. The need for car ownership needs to pass away. There should be no need to go to work outside of our immediate environment. Our work should be right in our community. But given the fact that we need to move around an urban setting, the Hover Bus would be the free and clean alternative to the filthy transportation system we have now.
This has led my son and I to start a sketch book project where either of us can enter some of our craziest solutions to current day issues. This is part of his education. It will help him to feel empowered to think freely without being told that what he thinks is impossible. The sketch project will be our legacy as free thinkers. Ideas need to be fertilized. But first, one needs to get them on paper so they don’t just roll uselessly around inside our heads. I believe we may be entering a time where great innovation is possible.
The idea for this article started from a video I viewed the other day. It is a talk by artist Jae Rhim Lee about her mushroom burial suit. I will let her do the talking, but I want to add that the reason I am posting this is that it represents some real “out-of-the-box” thinking.
Another example of unique, abstract thinking is a design by Tiago Barros which was submitted to the competition Life at the Speed of Rail. The intent was to seek design ideas on how we see high speed rail in the United States in the future. Barros’s design is a completely different take on how we see transportation and cross country travel in the near future. It is quiet, and the most interesting aspect of this is that time is not a factor in travel. The idea of moving quicker and quicker has been replaced by the Zeitgeist idea that societal life may indeed evolve to become more leisurely. Transportation should support this need to have more time for thought, and discovery. Given this type of thinking, innovation and creativity could actually be used to further how mankind occupies the planet, making it more sustainable. Or am I just being ridiculous?
As an artist, I work constantly. If I am not writing on this blog, I am working on one drawing or another. Or I am practicing music. Non of this earns any income currently other than the occasional sale of a piece of art, or the design projects that land on my desk. But my mind is creating in many other ways. Because of the economic situation, I have been set free to engage my creativity to focus on new solutions to old problems. Things that we have become so used to seeing on a daily basis, we have become numb to. As I ride the bus every morning, my eyes fall on the real situation of my community. I see ugly auto related businesses that line Coney Island Avenue. But worse than that, I see shuttered real estate, abandoned construction sites, and vacant lots. And I see that if I can gather my neighbors, we can find new creative solutions to how we can redesign our world. Not in the way that is coerced by corporate interest, but something that meets a real need and will enrich our surroundings and make us feel good about living where we are.
I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. —Albert Einstein
Sometimes I am challenged as to “What is Art?” For me, I feel a void at the center of myself. A void that needs to be filled. Not by distraction. Not by reaction. Not by food. But by questioning what the purpose of my existence is, and a search for what a real relationship to the world and myself can be. My own work may be personal, but it is also a window into the subconscious river that is guiding me, guiding all of us. By exposing this mystery, it opens me to another mystery. A greater one. And with that experience comes the possibility to think differently. To see the world, not as a terrible situation, but as a work-in-progress. One in which my son, my neighbors, my friends and all those I have not yet met, can take part in recreating. From urban gardens, neighborhood beautification projects, bike lanes, food coops and alternative education, art is the great hope for the 21st century. But it must be employed in a way that is shown to walk hand in hand with science and spirituality. Money can not be the motive. It is rather a destroyer of good things. We must look at the world, and see new relationships in the things we take for granted. A way that serves the greater good.
The late Steve Jobs was associated with the slogan “Think Different.” We need to recognize now that it is not only the advantaged, or the outliers we need to pay attention to. The innovators are all around us. And most are not motivated by the mighty dollar. That ship is passing.