Digging for treasure – the art of conversation

This feels like an interim time in our WWDN project, so a good time for some more reflections on what we are doing. As we await the outcome of planning permission to site our promised portacabin, it strikes me that our project is still largely hidden, a promise of things not yet delivered. But, like the Galloway Hoard I saw recently in Kirkcudbright Galleries, it definitely exists! That had been hidden for over a thousand years, yet it came out of the ground almost as fresh as when hastily buried.

AV from the exhibition currently on in Kirkcudbright Galleries

But that was also after searching a certain spot in a single field for 9 months in 2014 and having no idea of what might be found anyway – the levels of blind faith are impressive. But so worth it.

Silver double arm-ring made from four intertwined pointed ear beasts, still wearable…come on!

You don’t have to be an expert to be blown away by this amazing hoard of Viking and Saxon wizardry, but you do have to respond as a fellow human being when seeing jewels from a previous culture, and you need some imagination. Plus, I would say, some belief in our reason for being in the world at all. I came out feeling (as I always do after seeing ancient art) elated and humbled at being able to share a moment of art as history, to be part of that connection which compresses time in front of your eyes – incredible! I hope the excitement lasts a long time.

My expertise is in knowing not to be an expert

This quote by Myles Horton from We Make the Road by Walking, 1990, seems a key component of where we are now with this midway point in the project. According to Pablo Helguera, “Conversation is conveniently placed between pedagogy and art; historically it has been seen not only as a key educational tool but also as a form of individual enrichment that requires as much expertise as any delicate craft. When people refer to the “lost art of conversation”, they are affirming that verbal exchange requires expertise, imagination, creativity, wit, and knowledge.” *

Thomas de Quincy in 1847 saw conversation as a “colloquial commerce of thought” that could complement the power created by the “great commerce”. It was clear to him therefore “that a great art must exist somewhere applicable to this power – not in the Pyramids, or in the tombs of Thebes, but in the unwrought quarries of men’s minds, so many and so dark”. So, the art of conversation can become a creative force for enrichment of all parties before we even start to condsider the world of material objects.

This is an element I really hope we can bring to the tent pop-up events we plan to have before the mobile studio arrives on site. The combination of baked spuds and simmering conversations between equals will hopefully become a process for gathering truth and insight. As well as building trust between us, conversation about art and other things can begin to bring back some genuine understanding about what our culture is saying about our lives right now.

Another aspect of conversation that comes to mind was an excellent time sharing community experiences with fellow artists from The Highland Culture Collective recently. Such different stories but all of us moving with a united goal in our own spaces.

The art of common sense

“The current dominant views of art are so far removed from what art ought to be, that the perfectly reasonable views that follow from the works and thoughts of Dewey, Beuys and Cage stand as marginalised minority viewpoints, rather than common sense accounts of art, creativity and their proper role in human lives and communitites.” The point that Adam Krause is making here is that an enlarged and better concept of art could go beyond a collection of disciplines called “the arts” to become “the practice of using creativity to transform the materials of the world into a new, more satisfactory form.”**

There is a strong social dimension to art in Joseph Beuys’ thinking. For him, capital is not money but human creativity – a circulation of new ideas can become the spread of capital in this anti-materialist view of what life is. As Beuys said in an interview: “Art is capital. This is not some pipe dream; it is reality. In other words, capital is what art is. Capital is human capacity and what flows from it. So there are only two organs involved here, or two polar relationships: creativity and human intention, from which a product arises. Thse are the real economic values, nothing else. Money is not.”**

What is human capital? An exhibition of art…with an audience

“If art is defined as the creative reshaping of the world, it can be expanded in scope beyond its ordinary boundaries, to yield the logical conclusion that the principles involved in art and creativity can be used to radically overahaul our very ill social organism.” Krause, 2011. I’ll take that as an inspiration and a challenge to be patient and expect great things. And to keep thinking and talking about it.

*Pablo Helguera – Education for Socially Engaged Art, 2011

**Adam Michael Krause – Art as Politics: the future of art and community, 2011

2 Comments Add yours

  1. cyberculdee says:

    I think it is great to read a post about discovering the value of conversation. Whether low tech with a drink and something to eat, or high tek online overcoming distance and physical separation, I think this treasure is something to invest in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aljbphoto says:

      Thanks Simon – defo there is treasure to be found in all aspects of conversation…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.