Sunday, November 16, 2008

Creativity Kills

Mark Masuoka, director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and recent juror for Art Saint Louis XXIV, gave an interesting lecture at the St. Louis Art Museum today. In his lecture, he explored the idea that art has become a strong means of making a difference in society. In his talk yesterday he stated how, in jurying the show, he was drawn to works that had a sense of time and place and seemed a little off kilter from what was otherwise expected (so as to make the viewer question what had happened or what was happening, but not in a manner that made the viewer doubt the validity of the experience). These ideas intersect in the ability of artists to redefine and to question boundaries through their work, to "think outside of the box" so to speak (or to ignore it completely).

An excerpt from Masuoka's juror's statement reads:

Art making is often the result of a search for a universal truth and a deeper understanding about how creativity can make a difference in society. Examining the creative process through the filter of civic engagement leads me to one inescapable conclusion. Creativity kills.

Creativity kills predetermined outcomes, social complacency, apathy and the lack of imagination within our society. Art is the 21st century weapon of choice for catalyzing cultural and economic development and initiating social change. Art is the bridge that connects people together and grants everyone permission to imagine the unimaginable.

I personally think that art has an amazing ability to transcend cultures, stereotypes, boundaries, taboos and other assumptions or rifts in communication and that it also allows us to voice our innermost thoughts, desires, grievances, fears, and to focus our energy, imagination and creativity. As a call to action, Masuoka's statement is quite lofty, though, and I only hope that the art world can measure up to the ideal. Are we ready? I would like to think so.

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