"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."
Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.
First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
What is Art Cloth, Anyway?
The question took me by surprise, and since being asked more than a year ago, I’ve had some rather startling realizations.
For instance, I ran this project I called the Art Cloth Challenge. I dyed twelve lengths of fabric more or less the same way – color and pattern, that is. Then I invited anyone who read the Complex Cloth list to put his or her name in the hat. I drew twelve names and sent each person a length of cloth, along with a few simple “rules”:
The cloth had to stay intact and could not be cut.
Any surface patterning technique was ok and layering was encouraged.
The pieces had to be returned to me so that I could share the results with my readers on the list.
You can see the results for yourself at http://artclothchallenge.blogspot.com.
The whole premise of the project was that any twelve artists could take the same length of cloth, work it, and produce twelve unique pieces of art. And the premise was absolutely right! The finished lengths were unique. Some of them weren’t even the same color anymore. It was fascinating.
BUT. I couldn’t believe it when I opened some of the packages upon the cloth’s return. Artists whose work I knew and admired had approached the challenge not from the perspective of what they did best, but from the perspective of what I do best. The use of imagery and layering looked more like me than it did like them.
Then it hit me. If any approach to an art form is too narrow, eventually the form will choke, wither and die. If artists in this field define art cloth as what I make, and carry the thought through to the logical conclusion that anyone’s art cloth must mimic what I make, then we’ve got trouble. We’re choking on the definition instead of making art.
My experience with the Mastery Program groups confirmed this narrow definition. My 2008 group was the first to struggle verbally with what art cloth should be as part of considering what it could be. I shared a conversation I’d had with Marie-Therese Wisniowski – Australian artist and curator of an art cloth exhibition. Marie-Therese suggested that while art cloth could be a length of cloth cascading down a wall, it didn’t necessarily have to be a specific length, width or format. The length of cloth was just one way of organizing visual information. Maybe, she suggested, art cloth was a term capable of replacing older, parochial terms, in an effort to move toward wider audience understanding and appreciation of art that begins as cloth.
The 2008 group eventually settled into a comfort zone where each artist refined the methods of working that felt most authentic to her. By the end of the program, we had twelve artists working in twelve authentic voices. I still considered it all art cloth.
One of the ironies of this whole thing is that twenty years ago fiber artists were embroiled in an ongoing discussion of what was art and what was craft. I felt sure we were going to talk that one to death, and I could hardly wait. Once we were worn out talking about it, maybe we’d be able to go back to the studio and make. But here it is again in a new, updated version – what is art cloth and what isn’t? Can’t be digitally printed? Can’t have sand on it? Can’t be square instead of one long panel? Can’t be backed? Has to be one length and not pieced?
We’re getting awfully close to choking on our own restrictions.
I’d love to know what you think.
And thoughts another time on the need for limits! Because as with all things, there’s a paradox to explore - unless we don’t use any words at all, we keep returning to the desire - may I suggest even a thirsty need - for definitions. We’re human. We can’t resist it.