In the last blog post, I wrote about the incapacity of the human being to see and respond to large, important events that take place in our contemporary society. We seem paralysed facing the growing gap between rich and poor, ungrounded fear for migrants and the signs of global warming that we can see around us. On top of that, the recent Brexit-referendum made clear how seemingly solid structures in our society can change abruptly and unpredictably. The confused campaigns, outbursts of violence and voters seemingly ignorant of the actual issue show how incapable we are to control the force of irrational fears and emotions that can drive the behaviour of large groups of people.
There are good reasons to feel desperate, but disparity alone won’t change anything. I am dedicated to finding a concrete and active role that artists can play to fight misinformation, suspicion and fear. I see concrete possibilities to build bridges, break divisions and inspire large groups. We can do more than fighting misinformation or creating better propaganda. We must revert to the most fundamental thing: the way we respond when information enters our minds. The key to a better understanding of our world lies in our perception. When we see with clear eyes, when we hear with fresh ears, when our senses are refined and open, we can slow down our primary response (freeze, flight or fight) and instead take a moment to imagine, to visualize, to create a response that’s thoughtful, even beautiful.
Thoughtful behaviour is hard for us. People who slow down to listen, stand still and pay attention to their direct perception are rare. An evolutionary psychologist once told me: imagine how we had to survive in the stone age. We couldn’t afford to be a dreamer, to be fascinated by the appearance of a lion or bear. Instead we had to decide right away: freeze, flight or fight. The dreamers didn’t live to multiply. Only the fastest runners or strongest fighters survived. We are their ancestors: a breed made out of cowardice and aggression.
If you want to become successful today as a journalist, writer, or designer of “news” on radio, television or internet, you must tap into our most primitive fears and desires to grab attention. It’s a fight to get noticed at all, therefore smart people are put to work in politics and business to design information to be consumed like fast food—direct, without much thought or hesitation.
To slow down the way we perceive the world around us, to build a moment of reflection, we should feed our senses with something different than the usual “news”—something created slowly with curiosity, imagination and experimentation. Maybe something cooked up tenderly in this wonderful kitchen we call the artists studio?
Tell me, is there any work of art that made you slow down your judgement?