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Artist as Game Changer

The End of the Information Age

Artists reflect our times, but in a more complex way than mere mirroring. We are in the moment while holding the past as a reference point and the future as a vast What If… horizon. In each moment, we choose how to balance or topple those three points depending on our message.

This is powerful stuff.

And yet, from the edges of our community, we try to convince others—with surveys and graphs—that the arts are vital. We’ve even watered our power for the sake of inclusion. Look at all the creativity labs popping up in business and higher education models from Google to MIT.

We are at the end of an era with a new age forming. And I’m telling you point-blank, the artist will be the game changer.

But this route of pleading and diluting is not working. It is not sustainable. Every time an article comes out saying the arts are needed in schools to elevate math and reading scores, it is also saying art on its own is not enough.

It is enough. It is an essential tool—on its own—to understand and create the world around us.

I’ve stopped posting those pie-chart articles, because I realized: I cannot empower myself by demeaning my worth. It is a two-steps forward, one-step back dance towards a dimming horizon.

What’s the Alternative?

three performers posing with chairs
Self-Observation with devisers: Lara Segura, Misty Muesing, and Christina May. Written and directed by Creatively Independent. Photo by DewinAnguas Barnette.

Lead as yourself.
Lead as an unfiltered, risk-taking, vulnerable artist who plays with the unknown on a daily basis.
Lead. Artfully.

We are at the end of an era with a new age forming. And I’m telling you point-blank, the artist will be the game changer.

The world is breaking down the efficient machines of the Industrial Revolution. As we immerse ourselves deeper into the Information Age, we are still experiencing the destructive aspects of framing our community as an industry. The implication is the machine was working great before you got here, and it will chug right along with or without you. No wonder so many young artists and educators are crafting themselves into industry-approved forms, rather than individual artists that may not fit in altogether.

It’s high time this vision of product by production line was disassembled, and the Information Age is doing just that. Access to a myriad of different processes, products, opinions, and research allows you to be influenced by a global community of artists and educators. Your artistic community and arts education are no longer isolated to your personal experience and limited exposure. The access to plays, reviews, videos, photos, journals, behind-the-scenes documentation…it’s mind-boggling.

The Information Age is becoming an avalanche of words, numbers, images, and sounds that may or may not be accurate streaming into your smart phone 24/7 in vivid sound and color, and in some cases 3-D! So much inspiration, so many models, so many ways to create, and so many ways to become overwhelmed.

This is the blurry world of fair use and copyright. This the rumble before the volcano blows.

In 2011, a SXSW Interactive panel felt the tremors and asked: “Now that we have all this data at our fingertips… how can we be better about displaying more complex material?… Quantity now exceeds quality. We need a better context for all this content.”

London Business School’s 2014 Global Leadership Summit focused on defining the breaking point of the Information Age to predict the next one. Julian Birkinshaw spoke to four key signs:

  1. Paralysis through Analysis

  2. Easy access to data makes us intellectually lazy

  3. Impulsive and Flighty Consumers

  4. A little learning is a dangerous thing

The signs are there.

This is Your Cue, Artist

students in a movement exercise
Creatively Independent Art of Now residency at Lavilla School of the Arts. Photo by Aimee Danielle Barusch.

An active search is happening to find or invent an essential tool to dramatically alter the way we live and create. The business world is already sniffing around, looking for the answers. Why do you think Silicon Valley is investing so much into alternative education?

They are looking at creativity. They are looking at hacking. They are looking at design thinking. They are getting closer. Last year’s London Business School’s summit theme was the tried and true theatre prompt: What If? And yet business has not found the key, yet…because all those clues are pointing to cutting-edge artists’ little trade secret: devising.

We devise—as in “to form in the mind by new combinations or applications of ideas or principles” (Merriam-Webster’s definition).

We devise as individuals and as ensembles, creating temporary spaces to hold the group mind in order to play with new combinations of processes, ideas, and theories in order to see them in a new light.

We, artists, do this. It is a powerful, intuitive, and adaptive tool for distilling, connecting, and creating new understanding from this information and sensory overload, but…

We will not get an engraved invitation.

I’m writing this as a direct plea for you, my fabulous rock star of an individual, to stop following and start leading by example.

We must own what we’ve been shouting for centuries: the arts are integral to life.

If we do… If you do… Then I believe we can welcome in the Devising Age.

Devise your horizon.
Devise your education.
Devise your process.
Devise your ensemble.
Devise your audience.
Allow them to devise a new future with you.
Tap into why you dream and live artfully, and find the pieces of the puzzle for that identity.

This is not easy. In order to break open a new era that will affect all aspects of our life, not just our profession, you must fully embrace the gifts you have as an artist. Those gifts will shape the next technological era to focus on not only product but process, not only craft but community.

The age of curiosity.
The age of connecting the seemingly disparate dots.
The age of synthesizing information and experience with imagination.
The age of vision.
The age of perspective.
The age of collaboration.
The age of empathy.
The age of play.
The Devising Age.

Thoughts from the curator

Jess Pilmore explores sustainable artistry by breaking down the starving artist myths and giving mindful support for blazing your own, flexible, dependable path.

Sustainable Artistry by Jess Pillmore


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