Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Role of Art

I've been reading Ian Lowe's A Voice of Reason. I got to the bit about the role of art in societal change - the questions bubble over - do we lead or follow? Give space to reflect or inspire to action? Is that so much wishful thinking or is it the reason that art of an overthrown regime is despised and destroyed? Following that - is vandalism of publicly accessible art an outright expression of alienation?

I remember talking to some school children - they were at the age when they are at their brightest and most inquiring: just before puberty hits and intellect takes a long ride in the back seat. I pointed out that we choose our purchases according to their "coolness" rather than optimal function - an iPod may not be the best functioning MP3 player but no cool kid would be seen with anything else - that we recognise the previous year's model by the line and shape and choose the latest. This is even though most of us couldn't say why the curve or the crisp line looks sooo well - 2007. The process of industrial design is on the cusp of form following function or form describing function or form enabling function or perhaps form camouflaging function and good old brand recognition. It certainly helps to sell stuff and can make or break a product. And sculpture is the precursor skill to defining those forms.

I discussed with the children the sculptures telling their story in form and giving clues with their titles (or lack of title).

Yes I build things to communicate ideas that are best conveyed with form - sometimes because they are funny, sometimes frightening, maybe beautiful or sometimes just because I can. Do I do this in a certain way because my perceptions and skills are part of the big matrix of right here, right now?

And what earthly use is it to make stuff that needs dusting or sits in the garden and provides a framework for spiders to spin their webs from? Why do people want it? And I guess that is where the answer lies - we exercise our capacity for empathy when we look at art and imagine: when we sense the changing light and shade that alters form and perception and takes us out of the narrow focus of getting from one minute to the next. A little bit like practising love.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I notice in the news online that there is a move to have states take out disaster insurance That should be an interesting exercise. I thought the state stepped in and indemnified when it came to the uninsurable - your taxes at work as the ultimate insurance. Still I don't have a problem with letting the cold hard actuarial facts drive some management decisions in the state: it was the Fire Underwriters Board who invented and funded the Fire Brigades. It's cheaper to fight fires than have them go to conflagrations and take out all the insured property at once. And I suspect that insurance companies didn't wait for the ultimate proof of the link between smoking and lung cancer - the risk of going broke makes a company wondrously aware of reasonable cause and effect and the balance of risk. So I suspect that the insurers are going to force whole countries to take steps on sustainability on the basis of scientific reason and the bottom line rather than wait to be absolutely 100% certain of the mechanism that is driving this uncontrolled experiment with climate.

Friday, February 4, 2011

All the rain for February...

The forecast said we'd get all the rain for February in one go.... now I believe them. I wonder what we'll have when the La Nina has finished?