SPEECH @ THE 18th EURASIAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT, ISTANBUL, APRIL 2015

WHERE DOES HUMANITY GO?

It helps to know where humanity comes from.

I will highlight the following instincts suggested by Darwin’s evolutionary theory -the Survival Instinct and the Art Instinct. (1)

War and Peace if you like.

And wıll focus on the roles of visual communication and education on our road to peace.

First Art: 

In protohistory, independently of ethnogeographic factors: we were defined by our belonging to one specie and not to different tribes. 

Our first ancestors, created the same art pieces (hand axes),pursuing the same skilled perfection,  all over the world.  One could talk of a Universal Art.   

Further studies by philosopher Dennis Dutton (2)

and neuroimaging confirmed that human beings today all over the world still find beauty in the same visual experiences, the so called Darwinian aesthetics.

 

After the pleistocene, Mystic Art gave way to different forms of Religious Art, relevant this time to ethnogeographic factors. Further on in time, Art divided itself in two spheres: Western Art and the so called Ethnic Arts. And it is only since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of China, that new artistic expression has exploded worldwide.(3)

Today, all over the world, Art has one language: 

we are in presence of Universal Art….again. 

We are one tribe again, 

and in more worlds that just the Art world: in science, humanities, business etc…as you well know.

The same culture exists wherever there is internet access. We can see the same images, hear the same music, from a Korean Gangnam style video, to a South African wildlife video battle at Kruger.

Neuroscience established that visualisation, experiences, exposure to other cultures modify the circuitry of our brains: our brains are “plastic”. 

Therefore an increased contact to our epoch's hyper-culture, as opposed to subcultures, will influence us all similarly epigenetically, meaning that our DNA, our heritable traits are modified by the same environmental influences.   We are becoming as a whole multi-cultural.

This will hopefully reduce this second instinct that we share: the survival instinct, which according to Darwin led to both legitimising the use of violence against an enemy and tribal loyalty.  In todays world: clash of civilisations and sectarianism. 

To the extreme this instinct dehumanizes human beings, as exemplified by Isis. 

We could also attempt to fight against Isis on the visual communication field. Think about this image: a row of beige Toyotas orderly topped by armed men, clad in black…  At first view, it purposely recalls Hollywood blockbusters, inviting acultured, purposeless and lonely youth to become valiant heroes if they join, under a flag that smartly marries the Kalashnikov to the Ancient Mujahideen sword and has the sacred book of Koran on the world.

Visualisation has a huge impact on the brain’s cortex, processing information at multiple levels, conscious and unconscious. 

Numeral studies are still being done, but in laymen term we all understand the expression “ a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Let us propose counter images linking Jihadists to the Nazis,  let us make of “Ubuntu” our rally word (4),let us promote multiculturalism as the Republic of Azerbaijan does it at both the National and the International levels,  let us make heroes of the blue peace corps.Our press only shows the bad, it should show some good.  We need not act like powerless children in front of Islamist’s mastery of social medias and visual communication.

Dehumanisation.... studies have been done to counter it in relation to Nazism.  They propose intergroup contact and communication.(5) 

UNO created in 1966 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. …In the 80’s it was extended in Europe to one week ( European-wide Action Week Against Racism). 

This proved to be insufficient.

A way that at least intergroup knowledge can be enforced effectively and easily is in schools,  educating kids about the world and our fellow humans via images, via movies.

This is done in some schools in the United Kingdom:Ms. Beeban Kidron, film maker, created the FILM CLUB(6),  an organisation that runs weekly film screenings followed by discussions. Confirming neurosciences findings, I quote Ms. Kidron:

“Movies have the power to create a shared narrative experience and to shape memories and world views…

Raiding the annals of 100 years of movie masterpieces, we build a narrative that would deliver meaning to the fragmented and restless world of the young ….

What became extraordinary was how the experience of critical and curious questioning translated into life. The films provided communality and communication across all manner of divide.”   On top of ıt...kids grades improved!

Another example: In some schools in Korea  France and South Africa, a class called “Teaching the Universe” (7)

by showing mesmerising images of our galaxy and of our unique, precious, and microscopic planet emphasises how precious Earth is and how much it is we share rather than what divides us.

The impact of visualisation is still being studied today:  some neuroscientists evoke the possibility of mirror neurons(8)neurons which respond with an equivalent force when for example I perform an action, such as yawning, as when I observe ...you performing the same action. 

Imagine the possibilities of positive visualisations versus negative ones.

To implement worldwide film programs in school in view to teach that “ we all think we’re so different , when we’re painfully similar”(9) is of tremendous importance today. It would be a step in providing counter visualisation to the abysmal appeal of extremism on youngsters, a step on our road to peace. 

Thank you all and particularly, Mercı ınfınıment Dr. Suver.

References:

(1)Darwin: The Origin of Species;  The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.

(2)Dennis Dutton: “The Art Instinct”

(3ARTHUR C . DANTO : Philosophical disenfranchisement of art

(4)Ubuntu is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally "human-ness," and is often translated as "humanity toward others," but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". "About the Name". Official Ubuntu Documentation. Canonical. Retrieved 5 January 2013.

(5)  Wikipedia Dehumanisation, F. Albarello et M. Rubini, « Reducing dehumanization outcomes towards blacks: the role of multiple categorisation and of human identity », Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., vol. 42, 2012, p. 875-882 ,

(6)  https://www.ted.com/talks/beeban_kidron_the_shared_wonder_of_film/

(7) created by Professor George Smoot, Nobel Prize winner in Physics 2006 among others educative projects undertaken by his Center:  PCCP, Paris Center for Cosmological Physics

(8) Discovered in the 1980s and 1990s by Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team at the University of ParmaItaly.

(9) http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/yasmina-reza/happy-are-the-happy- A funny, caustic book about how we all think we’re so different – when we’re painfully similar" - Viv Groskop, Red.

International Day for Tolerance, Azerbaijan News, November 16th 2014

  1. On the main causes of intolerance in various parts of the world?

Intolerance is synonym to and leads as so often in history to fanaticism.  One can detect the roots of intolerance, and by extrapolation of fanaticism, in the hard wired cognitive patterns shared by humanity since the Pleistocene.

In Darwinian terms I’ll focus on two main factors :

1. if confronted with spare resources  the identification of an enemy as an obstacle to survival, its potential annihilation to assure survival brought intolerance and legitimised violence against it.

2. Survival also depended on our belonging to a community which led to tribal loyalty. Moreover being part of a group, of people adhering to an idea, the consequent emotional contagion (mob behaviour, bandwagon effect) gives communities a feeling of legitimacy whatever their respective behaviour might be.

 

Annihilation of the enemy happened in genocides throughout the centuries, throughout the world, a few notable examples are the well off Paris ‘s Catholic bourgeoisie who savagely murdered in the night of the St Barthélemy Protestants in 1572, Nazis and Jihadists. Their beliefs and  behaviours in terms of neuroscience are absolutely similar

 

Boualem Sansal, one of today’s most important Algerian writer, compares at length  in “The village of the German” life in some of the French suburbs to life under the Kapos in Nazi camps. 

 

According to the Freudo-Marxist philosopher Erich Fromm, in Hitlerian psychology, sadism was justified by being a defence against aggressions and anti-German conspiracy.  To be “a good German” you had to embrace the Nazis ideals otherwise you were “a bad German”, a social outcast: “the sadistic manifestations and the resource of an ideology gave them the feeling of being superior to the rest of humanity”. (1) 

The ideology, establishes that there is only one good, the adherence to this one “good”, an echo to nationalistic or religious pride is a simple means by which to manipulate the masses.  The herd mentality, the peer pressure, rooted in our evolutionary “comfort “of being part of a group, do the rest.

This is the problem, we have to raise Tolerance to the rank of an ideology.  In blunt and naïve terms this would translate in: to be a good human, you have to be a tolerant one.

 

Sartre wrote: “by treating the Jew as an inferior being, I assert that I am superior to him”. (2) This process is called in social psychology: dehumanization and Herbert Kelman, social psychologist, is one of the first who studied it in 1973 (3): he underlined three psycho-social processes which legitimise intolerance:

1st: the authorisation (makes reprehensible acts and or thoughts acceptable, even legitimates them, the individual is not responsible for his acts/thoughts.)

2nd: the power of habits legitimise actions (new habits as imposed by the Nazis and the Jihadists in celebration of an ideal or old ingrained thought patterns, often with historical roots, which are very often not even conscious and thus even more dangerous.)

3rd: the dehumanization: if one does not see the other as human, the principles of compassion do not apply. (4)

 

Studies on dehumanization only appeared in the 70’s and not much has been studied in view of the methods to counter it. 

Yet on a positive note, the combination of peer pressure submitted to an ideal under the leadership of a charismatic leader can led to a highly moral and wonderful result. This is, for example, how under the leadership of Martin Luther King segregation ended in the United States.

 

2.   Recently,discussions about the "Tolerance, multiculturalism, and interculturalism" have gained momentum. What is the reason for that in your opinion?

 

Economic integration and commercial as well as cultural globalisation have boomed leading to a fear of loss of cultural identity and thus political disintegration.  The unprecedented rise in nationalism worldwide, there are at to this date 64 countries involved in wars worldwide and 36 autonomous regions struggling for independence (5). 

If nationalism can be exacerbated by economic crises, sometimes it emerges anew, as in Asia where old historical feuds, buried for decades reappeared after years of prosperous economic cooperation. 

This rise in cultural claims explains the momentum that discussions about “tolerance, multiculturalism and interculturalism” have gained.

They are ways the main ways to fight intolerance: tolerance is accepting the other, without needing to agree with the other; multiculturalism, the respectful coexistence with the other, should reassert the legitimacy of all cultures, also, and very importantly so, within the family group. Interculturalism goes one step further:

only a few studies have been written on solutions to counter the dehumanization process.  One of this solution is “intergroup contact”, as only knowledge allows understanding.* Communication with the other is key.  The problems shared by most of the young recruits of ISIS

from Europe is that they feel culturally alienated in Europe.

 

3. The traditions of multiculturalism in multi-ethnic and multi confessional countries, such as Azerbaijan and Switzerland, represent historically proved realities. Would that offer a good practice for other countries as well?

Of course, Azerbaijan and its multicultural roots and its geopolitical situation: a European capital in an Islamic State as well as Switzerland, the country of peace and neutrality offer an excellent practice for other countries in promoting not just multiculturalism and the means to reach it  but the conscience of multiculturalism as a moral value.

Tanzania  would also offer good practice, its 44 millions inhabitants and…its 125 cultural groups. Moreover it is interesting to observe Tanzania as this country is less thriving economically then either Azerbaijan and Switzerland.

Martin Luther King had a dream. I presume the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre has one too.

 

SOURCES:

1. “Eric Fromm. “Fear of liberty”, chap.6 The psychology of Nazism.

2.J-P SARTRE Anti-Semite and Jew / Réflexions sur la question juive (wr. 1944, pub. 1946)

3. H. C. Kelman, « Violence without Moral Restraint : Reflections on the Dehumanization of Victims and Victimizers », Varieties of Psychohistory, vol. 29,no 4,‎ 1976, p. 25-61

4. A. Bandura, « Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities », Personnality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 3, no 3,‎ 1999, p. 193-209

5. warsintheworld.com/?page=static1258254223

 

*For the record: another solution is “multiple categorisation“: it has been demonstrated that coloured people if categorised by age, gender , religion etc… reduced the dehumanizing perceptions in Italy. (6)   The last is the promotion of a common destiny (7) this …in view of the ecological disaster our planet is facing, is doable.

(6) F. Albarello et M. Rubini, « Reducing dehumanization outcomes towards blacks: the role of multiple categorisation and of human identity », Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.vol. 42,‎ 2012, p. 875-882 

(7) Wikipedia Deshumanization

 

Speech given at the IV. Baku Humanitarian Forum, November 2014

TRANSCENDING CULTURAL PARADIGMS, ONE PATH TOWARDS HUMANE MULTICULTURALISM.

In the history of humane evolution as well as in neuroscience one can find traits of character, behaviour innate to our specie that transcend cultural paradigms.

The goal of this essay will be to portray how to attempt to get these traits, these neurons common to all humanity to gain more momentum and thus have a positive impact on the paradigm shift that globalisation and technological revolution bring with them. 

To escape the conflict of paradigms, this burden for humanity, we need a mutual shift in all cultural religious and national paradigms worldwide that would whilst enabling awareness and pride in one’s own culture also convey open mindedness and acceptance of all other cultures.  

OR

To escape these burden for humanity:  the conflicts of religious, national , cultural paradigms,  this essay proposes the following

 Transcending cultures, and all evolutionary theorists agree about this, is the pleasure of narration, story telling.

Intrinsic to human nature since the Pleistocene, the world of fiction allowed humanity to survive and evolve, our ability to tell stories and thus to create our history, sharing our experiences, transmitting our knowledge, tales of wisdom.  This ability to project and recall in words differentiate us from the animal kingdom. This art of narration is predated by the innate capacity to pretend play which all children do starting with two years of age.

Fiction stories or pretend play function according to some plot, a certain dynamism of action.  All over the world the basic skeleton of the plots are similar for the emotions they depict: love, fear, envy…gluttony, etc.. are similar.  It is the contextual differences, the embellishments, the “je ne sais quoi” in the stories that provide a sense of identity to the humans, the shared narrative that give a sense of belonging.

 An Identity…what an artist strives for the most is in his work, reflecting on his time with timelessness, to create an IDENTITY.  Yet, the march of our global world, with its politics, its commercial empires, similar experiences and tool of communication threaten like a gigantic iron to flatten off the surface of earth all our respective sense of identity, cultures and history.  

The reaction to this threat is clear…exemplified by the Bretons, the Catalans and others, who, to reclaim their national identity, reinforce conflicting cultural paradigms.

 

Yet…in terms of pluralism and multiculturalism, the United States remain at the vanguard: they are the country which harbours the most immigrant population in the world (statistically, Asians recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States.) 

One can observe this recipient of multiple cultural ethnicities.  They are less entrenched in America, country of adoption, by a sense of national identity then they would be in a more mature country of origin, where similar mnemonics, collective and cultural memory bind the citizens.  Moreover, impregnated with its ideals: “Freedom” and “Dream”, the United States are more dynamic in their adaptation to current political and economical realities.  

Today, one assists in America how -among other factors- the joys and rewards of consumerism, also restrained by the recession, gave emergence to something else: more intellect driven subcultures, coexisting  and respectful of each other.  

The American artist Rip Cronx wrote an essay: “Changing the cultural paradigm” In which he states that

“America is no longer the ‘melting pot’: it no longer assimilates minority groups into the majority culture. Instead of a homogeneous cultural majority imposing Western values on ethnic minorities, we now have heterogeneous cultural pluralism developing through acculturation. Minority groups participate in majority culture without fear of forfeiting their identity as a subculture. Religious groups, ethnic minorities and ideological subcultures coexist and tolerate the customs of other groups. A new dynamic is at work in America today. A democratic, non-hierarchical pluralism empowered by communication technologies”. He concludes:” Pluralism in America is not a source of division. The expression of cultural diversity is tempered by the need for national unity.”

If this social trend in America could be precursory to a global extrapolation, it would mean that the expression of cultural diversity is subdued by our need for a united world.  And our world is threatened, pollution, trans-humanism are not the only culprits.  Professor George Smoot, eminent Nobel Prize winner and distinguished guest of this Forum created the PCCP, Paris Center for Cosmological Physics which runs many projects, among them: teaching the Universe in schools in France, Africa, Korea with the specific aim to impregnate these students , their teachers, with love, curiosity and knowledge of this one, unique cosmos we all share.

At this stage of this…narrative, I introduced as transcending factors  1.the shared love by our species for narration and narration with similar plots because our specie functions with the same triggers: love, hate, greed,   2.the fact that we are citizens of the world and the possibility as exemplified by America  therefore of multiple cultural identities coexisting respectful of each other in regards to preserving Earth.   To these factors transcending our cultural paradigms I add Art.

To Visual and Plastic Art, sometimes verging on conceptualism (and even though they are now a tool of marketing for international corporations and as such great communicator are still to subjective for them to transcend cultures.

Human nature at rest, relaxing is most appreciative of … the Seventh Art

 

In it, I see a way towards reaching human multiculturalism.

 

Operating on the premise that “Cinema is arguably the 20th century's most influential art form and that movies have the power to create a shared narrative experience and to shape memories and worldviews. “ Beeban Kidron, film maker, created, in the UK, the FILM CLUB an organization that runs weekly film screenings in schools followed by discussions. The outcome in all terms was incommensurably more transformative than they had anticipated.  I quote Ms. Kidron “raiding the annals of 100 years of film, to build a narrative that would deliver meaning to the fragmented and restless world of the young ….What became extraordinary was how the experience of critical and curious questioning translated into life.  The films provided communality and communication across all manner of divide. What we could not have foreseen was the measurable improvements in behaviour, confidence and academic achievement. “ 

 

So why , why these unforeseeable improvements in all terms as well as open-mindedness towards all cultures.

Neuroscience has I think the answer:

Professor Rizzolati in Parma was first to identify these mirror neurons, neurons which have been further called the empathy neurons or even “Gandhi” neurons by Professor Ramachandran as they fire, they act in us just by seeing an action happening to someone else, to the point that if my arm was anaesthetized, sensory neurons removed, and I watch you being touch on your arm I will have the feeling that I am being touched, my consciousness connect with yours.

This links vision and empathy.

 

The seventh Art can be the tool by which mirror neurons, these feelings and understanding for others can penetrate, swim their ways through different cultural paradigms.  Brain plasticity can do the rest.  Film Schools and Clubs worldwide would be a step towards achieving this pluralistic cultural paradigm.

We could do more than just reaching school children, we need to reach the rest of 3.5 billion people under 30, 90%  living in Africa and the Middle East.  In some parts of the world, we have at every street corners cameras filming us, we should project films too.   Technology today allows it, for example they have screens projecting news in all petrol stations in the most remote roads in Turkey.  Let these screens show us and share glimpse of humanity. Make a movie of Yasmina Reza short stories about “how we all think we’re so different – when we’re painfully similar".  Make a movie of “The Uncomplete Manuscript” of Professor Kamal Abullayev , its hero ,Dada Gorgud, in whom I can see a brother in spirit of Ulysse and whose existence I had never even imagined.

We must share these collective narratives which are in the words of Ms. Kiidron” an essential component of our cultural identity” and grasps within all of them this quintessence of humanness which unites us all through time and lands on this unique planet of ours. OR Have a greater scope in our perception of ourselves and our belonging in something bigger than our countries, but in our belonging in this unique planet of ours. Ultimately, a pluralistic paradigm would entail for all of us to be me more open in our perception of others: for secular people not to question whether the abaya is worn as a cultural traditional statement or whether it expresses a religious devotion, but to accept it and for religious zealots to accept freedom of expression.  

I shall conclude by a Unesco census in regards to the most viewed movie worldwide in 2010: Avatar, a film which hero’s skin colour is blue.  I leave it to you ladies and gentlemen to interpret this. 

RESSOURCES:

List of countries by immigrant population, based on the United Nations report Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2013 Revision

Country

Number of immigrants

Percentage of total number of immigrants in the world

 United States

45,785,090

19.8

 

CENSUS of Unesco 2012

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/19/the-rise-of-asian-americans/

Source: The World’s Youngest Populations, Euromonitor International, 2012, UNESCO

At the beginning of 2012, the world population surpassed 7 billion with people under the age of 30 accounting for more than half of this number (50.5%). According to the survey, 89.7% of people under 30 lived in emerging and developing economies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

http://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization/

https://www.ted.com/talks/beeban_kidron_the_shared_wonder_of_film/

http://www.culturewars.org.uk/index.php/site/article/changing_cultural_paradigm/"

http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/yasmina-reza/happy-are-the-happy- A funny, caustic book about how we all think we’re so different – when we’re painfully similar" - Viv Groskop, Red.

Speech given at the III. Baku Humanitarian Forum, october 2013

  

How can Art unframe your mind ? or The Quest for an Original Global Art

At the mention of multiculturalism, two things come to mind : first, multiculturalism impact on Art and second, Baku, historical capital of multiculturalism.

I shall stress in this paper the beneficial impact of Art on multiculturalism and will talk about the emergence of Global Art in the last 30 years.  Then explain Why Art ? since the dawn of humanity. How brains scans, neuro imagery explain Art.  How different cultures’s art histories,  their merger  and our multiculturalism create new pathways in the brain leading to the creation of original Art.

 The Art world was historically divided between Western Art and Ethnic Arts. But, in 1984, Arthur Danto the famous American art critic and philosopher condemned Western Art in his article “The End of Art “, Art was killed by its self-referentialism: That is Art just talking about Art. 

Yet, a few years later, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of China, an explosion of Art emerged from all the cultures worldwide, insufflating new winds in the Art World globally, revoking the possibilty that Art was dead…  Arthur Danto wrote a new book “What Art is “.  He proclaims the existence of “Universal Art”:  Art that has meaning, Art that embodies an idea. Global Art was born.

 But in an Newsweek article on the 2013 Venice Biennale entitled “Modern Art’s Last Gasp“ , its author, Blake Gopnik, melancholically states “that there is no real way forward for Art, because Art in all its permutation seems to have exhausted itself.  Whatever ambitions a work of Art may have it ends up being more of the same.“ He asks us, “Has all the Art in the world been made?“

 In this essay, I answer …no! and ask : How can we be original again? How can humanity today, with its vast multi-cultural influences, create a new paradigm in Art?

So WHY ART? Why humans are lifted when perceiving original art?There is a similarity between the immediate effects of art on humans in every evolutional state. Our Pleistocene forebears evolved in a universal manner, independently of ethnographic location. We can understand our common ancestors relationship with art with the philosopher Dennis Dutton who declares in his book entitled “The Art Instinct”: “There is a universality of artistic tastes, which is cross cultural: the so called Darwinian aesthetics. While natural selection results from the struggle to survive, sexual selection emerges from the struggle to reproduce and thus the need to seduce with enticing qualities such as particular skills or beauty (the most famous example are a  peacock’s feathers). Skills and beauty are adaptive effects which we extend and intensify in the creation and enjoyment of works of Art.“ It is for this reason that we are lifted when perceiving Art.

 Later on, were the Greeks… the Greek ! Plato divided the world in two spheres of ideas which he called forms . He saw Art as a minor form :a modest imitation of nature, nevertheless… Plato also conventionalised the desire for beauty as one of the highest forms, I make a parrallel between his desire of beauty and Darwin’s attraction to beauty.

 During the Renaissance, the Western World adopted its Greek forefathers’ ideals : the perception of art as a mere imitation of nature. And it was not until 1790, with Kant ‘s “The Critique of Judgement“ that a new idea of Art evolved: the idea that Art contributes to beauty.  The modern notion of aesthetics was thus formed as well the idea of its capacity to be uplifting for the mind. This idea of aesthetic prevailed until 1917, when a paradigm in the Art world happened with Duchamp‘s famous “Fountain“. Duchamp accompanied it by the declaration: "Aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided.” So no more aesthetics, just thoughts… Conceptual Art was born.  Yet… if one equates an original, an intelligent thought with a “skill” , one can make  of it, along with beauty, one of the praised qualities of the Darwinian sexual selection theory.

 We can prove this uplifting effect of skills…of original Art, on the  brain by the studies in neurobiology and neuro-aesthetics.  These studies illustrate the conscious and unconscious processing of the brain when presented with different visual stimulants.

Professor Zeki of UCL published a ground-breaking paper on beauty and the brain5 ,his research graphically illustrates the variations in viewer brain activity when exposed to diverse works of art. Basically : two things happen conjointly in the brain when confronted to a particular visual stimuli. The first one is this impact of æsthetics: the objective appreciation of beauty. This æsthetic judgement is processed in the outer cortex and the insula.

 The second one is the subjective impact of a work of art on the brain.. It is visceral, splanchnic, activating the amygdale and the deep emotional circuitry made by personal emotional experiences.  The idea of what religious belief might activate in the brain is a good example. Art history starts with the first universal animist religions who believed that spirits inhabited their sculptures.  Viewers of their art perceive the sacred and magical context in the intricacies of the visual symbols

  

With respective ethno-graphic evolution on different areas of the globe, this Mystic Art gave way to different forms of Religious Art, all related to deep inward feelings rather than intellect.

 The West saw the advent of Christianity with Medieval Art, where humans believed in “the redemptive capacity of images to help us live and die,“.  Christian paintings obviously and ostentatiously depicted sorrow with “Crying Madonnas”and delight with… “Madonnas“.

In Islamic Art, display of emotion is somewhat more dignified.   Arabesque motifs are “often used to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of God.  

Crying Madonnas and Arabesque motifs have something in common.  Both Christian and Islam religious traditions share Art as a means to an end.

In the Far East though, with Confucianists, “Art is to be treated as an end, never as a means“.

This artistic perception is the biggest dichotomy between East and West.
To explain it more clearly, I can employ the example that Danto used in his book “Disenfranchisement of Art”.  In the representation of a Buddhist spiritual itinerary the eighth picture is an empty circle:  in the neoplatonic tradition it could represent a moon in the sky, in Zen art, it represents the impending enlightenment.

Insofar as there is an analogy between cultures and works of art, I shall address the question: what is the impact of all this in a Global Art World?

Thomas McEvilly says today that“Art has more to do with clarifying cultural identity than with aesthetic feeling“.  

In an article published in May 2013 in Social Psychological and Personality Science, psychologists evoke “today’s diverse society which includes culturally rich environments that contain cues pertaining more than one culture. The bicultural experience shapes and enhances cognitive processes, such as creativity. This effect is particularly evident among bi-cultures who blend their two identities. “7.

But even if “Art production today is turning into culture production“8. we also and paradoxically partake in a unity of worldwide multiculturalism. For example, due to the broad influence of the urban way of life, Australia’s aborigine artists as supported by The New Museum of Contemporary Art are required to be city-based…

I witness the metamodernist bridge between Western and Eastern Art in my artist practice with artworks that transcend and refute the traditional Western duality morphing it soothingly into the yin-yang of the East.  

But what is the real impact of multiculturalism on the originality of our thoughts?

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich there is growing evidence which point to brain plasticity.  “Our individual skills and abilities are very much shaped by our environments. That environment extends into the contemporary culture our brain is constantly challenged with. What we've done in our personal evolutions has built up a large repertoire of specific skills and abilities that are specific to our own individual histories. The brain refines its machinery under behavioural control, that is what you pay attention to, what is rewarding to you, It's all about cortical processing and forebrain specialization. And that underlies your specialization which is the basis of our real differentiation, one individual from another.“ 9

If you take into account the brain plasticity and the ideational fluency – that is, the new pathways, inspired by biculturalism - there are grounds for increased originality in the production of Artworks.

Nevertheless, due to urbanisation, one also cannot escape what sociologists call the “McDonaldization” of society. I’d rather coin the term “Vuittonization” of society today, in reference to the Vuitton shops worldwide who deploy their vitrines with Art installations.  In the spirit of embodied cognition, and in an anthropological remembrance of the caveman who wore the furs of the animals they painted, some wear the  artist KUSUMA white on red dots that Vuitton launched in its 2012 spring- summer collection. Art & fashion just like in the old cavemen days.

The global fashion and entertainment powerhouses choose to globally distinguish themselves from one other with Art. Art is going out of the Museums and in the streets worldwide. This increasingly universal exposure to Art will influence us all epigenetically and thus enhance our creativity.  

Considering the question how can Global Art lift the mind, I shall answer that the “Why” and the “How” are not absolutely important. To quote Korean author Young-Ha-Kim,  “Art is the ultimate goal“. 10

So where will Art go from now? We do not know.  Art responds to the Now.  It is the ultimate expression of merger between emotional and historical existentialism. That is the beauty of it.

That said, if something must point to a new direction,  I would talk about one the most current paradigmal Artist…Jonathan Harris. His Artwork “we feel fine” scans the world's newly posted blog entries searching for the phrase "I feel". The feelings from the last few hours of the English-speaking world's are presented as blinking dots.   Worldwide feelings as Global Art. 11

I wanted to conclude this paper with the forays of neuropsychology who brought out the discovery – by Professor Vittorio Gallese from University of Parma –  of the mirror neurons between two individuals. This heightens the role of empathy and of communication rooted in humanity.  Art is communication. This opens a bigger window to the future of Art’s role in the ongoing evolution of a multicutural Humanity and Original Civilisation. 

But I was given  the chef d’œuvre “Ali and Nino“ by Kurban Said alias Lev Nussibaum.  Citizen of Baku, a man known as “the Orientalist“ who extended the boundaries of multiculturalism so far that he could not content himself  with even one identity. Evoking Lev’s Baku before the 1st Wold War : “this fantastic world of the highest cultural and human aspirations –the hope of the total merger of East and West into something new and modern-which existed but for a moment in time. Can you imagine it ? “12

And this my friends is what we aspire to.

 

Letizia Reuss

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 Newsweek June 17 2013“MODERN ART’S LAST GASP “ by Blake Gopnik

2  DENNIS DUTTON, The Art Instinct

3 The Blind Man # 2, May 1917.

4.  & 11ARTHUR C . DANTO : Philosophical disenfranchisement of art

5 Human World Feb 03, 2012 Semir Zeki: Beauty is in the brain of the beholder

6.ARTHUR C . DANTO : Philosophical disenfranchisement of art ref : Munataka

7. Social Psychological and Personality Science May 2013 vol. 4 no. 3 369-375:  Multiculturalism and Creativity, Effects of Cultural Context, Bicultural Identity, and Ideational Fluency

8.  HANS BELTING , The Global Art World

9.  Dr. Michael MERZENICH « Growing evidence of brain plasticity » TED CONFERENCE

10. YOUNG-HA-KIM Be an artist, right now!  TED CONFERENCE

11.   Jonathan HARRIS “The web as art“  TED CONFERENCE

12.  Tom Reiss “The Orientalist”