Conflict and Peace Forum: Taplow Court, UK

organised by Indra Adnan


The Power of the Arts

4-day conference commenced on 25th November 2000 with a launch event in the Tate Modern, London.

Paul Robertson Semir Zeki Patrick Guinand -Tom Bentley Mary Ward Roystoon Maldoom

Pat Kane

This was to be a place where private ideas were to come into the public arena for hot debate. Galleries and museums have a social and cultural responsibility and it's almost as if the quest for public welfare lies not (just) with the politicians but with curators. However, we would also hope to move away from debate and into the wider cultural domain, after all we're talking about the power of the arts- not the power of institutions. Education, the role of government, competition for our time, art and spirituality, technology, inclusiveness or exclusiveness of art...The arts can contribute significantly to the development of the Play Ethic, the creative ethic! Pat Kane has written and talked extensively about a new social and cultural order, the play ethic. There is a struggle right now over our cultural capital. The play, playing, boundary crossing and creativity are intrinsic elements to complex mammals, that is, us, humans. The play ethic comes into sharp contrast with the work ethic in a bid to change our social structure. Poeisis comes from Greek, which means to make a lasting mark on the world, and one of the roots of poeisis is poetry. The power of the arts is the power of humans to act meaningfully in life. The artist has the power to turn everything upside down,that is, people's meaning boundaries. We could benefit from social de-engineering and social turbo-charging but to do this, does the government need to be involved or can artists just do it by themselves? Mainstream society can learn a lot from artists and creativity but how do you create freedom without imposing it? Art needs to be defined in a different way so as to make it less elitist and more part of everyday society. Art needs to connect to the world around us especially on an ecological level with all the suffering, pollution etc. The key process which makes artists what they are is the ability to picture things. What is the role of the aesthetic in this transformative social process? Does including everything or everyone make the power of the arts lose focus?

Neurobiology Why do we make art? We have needs which aren't satisfied and that's why we create art and spend money on art etc.Works of art are strictly confined by the capacity of the artist's brain and it is also subject to the laws of the brain. Question: Why do we need to see? Answer: To find knowledge about the world and vision is the most effective and efficient way. A third of the brain is visual. The world is continually changing and so we need to extract what is constant. The brain forms concepts, concepts like sadness, happiness etc.Art is a product of the brain. Art is the process of seeking knowledge and presenting knowledge on canvas, theatre, music, dance and so on. When we look at works of art we can say quite a lot as there is a centre in the brain which creates colours. Also there is a lot we can't say. The visual brain has been developing over millions of years whereas the language brain has been developing over 1 million years. Visualisation of the world is a strong aspect of human nature. The role of art is to unmanage a managed life. Social de-engineering yes, social destruction no. The arts open up our body, senses and mind. They connect us to our non-verbal intelligence. We all have the innate creative capacity but many of us fear being creative maybe because it costs time and is an inefficient way to cost effectiveness in our society. However, the mystery of creativity is also part of its fascination. Creativity is sacrosanct. Art communicates a deep truth ( consciously or otherwise) which the audience resonates with. Emotions. Ikea is the commodification of the creative spirit. The TV programme "Changing Rooms" is a cry for poetry in people's living rooms. Art is emotional, intellectual, conceptual.

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summarized by Pamela Pirie


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