STEAM TEAM INSIGHTS
Does art reflect our reality or does our reality reflect our art?
The human imagination has kindled a plethora of ideas that have manifested into real structures – buildings, bridges, cars, and new technology. In addition, humans simulate realities that are akin to desires, wants, needs by producing music, fine art and literature. Does the reception of our thought patterns elucidate our visual pictures? Or does the perception of those visual pictures that surround us in our daily lives create the thought waves that then signal the internal screen for playback in the imagination? However we choose to describe it, we must try to grasp the fact that we are attempting to dissect a process that is in a constant state of flux.
Psychosclerosis, a “hardening of the attitudes” has certainly infected a major portion of the American culture. As we welcome the 21st century, its resulting side-effects include a physique so grotesque that the wasting of human life has become more than a past-time. The once repulsive compulsion to kill fellow humans has evolved into a sport via video gaming. Civilization is becoming its own endangered species because we have allowed our media to become mediocre… Villains are glamorized as heroes for taking potshots at a passersby. This scenario not only makes the top story on the nightly news, but also somehow disguises itself as dramatic possibility and is often sold for a high price as tempting contraband. Actually, aesthetics tells us that these “true-life dramas” are not dramatic by content or nature, nor do they represent the truth of life in any way. Not to mention that they are hardly charming or interesting. Yet, the “hardened attitudes” of the modern audience seem to really lap this up. Theses stories are stained with real human blood. They are spoiled, curdled to an unhealthy point. In truth, they are poisonous and can be fatal to the mind, the body and the spirit.
Like scientists examining a culture of bacteria in a petri dish, we need to scrutinize how the first cells of art and culture start to form. A thought drifts into the human mind. As each thought enters the body it vibrates into a “feeling.” As the thought passes through its feeling stage, it collects the energy to move into action. However, psychology tends to reverse this pattern, looking at behavior from the action stage, back to the feeling, and then to the thought stage. I propose that through examination of the creative process (tracking forward from thoughts into actions) we might be able to avoid much of societal despair. What I am suggesting is that by learning how to engineer the process that creates the art, we can then begin examining the process that constructs the social formations that create our realities. We realize that the disaster stories in the nightly news can document our reality into fiction – and our fears into a potential for even more disasters. Perhaps we need to find an approach that will be able to transcend the limits of ordinary reality, one that lets us break through the barriers of time and space. It is then possible to bridge the gap between the real and imaginary, between sociology and art, with a new set of blueprints and patterns of words? We know that words affect us; they make us think and they make us feel certain ways in certain situations. We have seen how the media is using this to its own advantage. And often our media images depict humanity in a somewhat bleak and dismal setting. Yet, could it be that art might be the best deliverance from that possible eventuality?
My particular response to this question is a new approach to pedagogy called “Formative Stages” that explores the purpose, scope and nature of the creative process. The creator arrives upon the art “form, and begins the “form”ative creative process – re”forming”, con”forming”, de”forming” the work until he or she finds just the correct formula that works as the creative solution. Above all, the theatrical setting forms words into living realities, allowing audiences to think and feel simultaneously, breaking the bonds of alienation and communicating the transformative power of the creative process.
I hope to gain further insight on the primordial picture of art by studying the process that weaves words and other elements artistically into a fabric transparent to the “either/or” mentality – until imagination and reality are at last synthesized. Upon completion of my academic / creative research, I plan building a network of new art that will create a brighter reality by the formation of words into living realities. The formation of words in literature employs an unencumbered process. Through the very core of its structure, it permits us to delve into alternative models of human experience. It enables us to be in two realities at once, one real, one imagined. In literature we may find the roots to the same cultural processes used in the development of social structures. I’d like to suggest that the initial link between art and sociology is the movement between. It is thus actualized by the very essence of the conjunction “and” which allows the process of vacillation between them. If cultivated properly, art just might be a deliverance from division. If we can use the ampersand to sculpt society through the artistic process, the divisions will eventually fade. But first, the artistic approach must be accepted into mainstream reality. The business departments, the industrialists must look to the way of the artist, and accept the artist’s way as more than frivolous, recognizing the tremendous transformative power in art. Looking back to the beginning surge of the Industrial Revolution, society started to automate and expand its physical strength through mechanical transformers. Now it must expand its imagination. We need to take a revised look at art as a science, and see the science of life, in its rawest formations breed into art.
Maybe the creation of a society that questions the reality of its fiction and the fiction of its reality is only a page turn away. Conceivably it is no longer a question of controlling what is real; instead, is it a question of controlling the market analysis that controls what the individual assumes to be real? Perhaps then, we will able to give birth to the new science that is no longer bipolar in its relations of the art and the social – a new science that is born out of a culture that was modified to be the perfect blend of both fact and fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a research fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute at CUNY. She sits on THE STEAM ACADEMY’s Curriculum and Programs Development Committee and Executive Board of Directors. Currently, Coni is also working in collaboration with composers Joe Izen and Joe Kelly on a socially significant theatre project that explores the potential of man’s creative interaction with technology in the aftermath of singularity.