Reflections on art and leadership

I use my art to reflect an artist and a senior manager in the financial services industry. I notice that the deeper I understand myself the more I succeed to impact others; in both art and work.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reflections on a documentary on art in China

Documentary Project 798

You can see it on this site

I recently watched this documentary that is a sort of forum where several artists are expressing their views about art in China, the way to deal with the government, how to see the commercialisation of the artist site that has been embraced by the government and is coming more popular for visitors.

Interesting how Chinese government now supports the artists, but in return 'bans' the artists that make art about politics or religion. The artists however have a way around it:
- the shape itself does not create provocation
- but they create a reference to an observation or event they want to challenge, it becomes a symbol. Understanding the symbol can only be achieved when knowing the context around the object.

Example is where they make a statue of a woman in the air with her legs and arms up. It turns out to be an image of a woman that was arrested by the Chinese police.
You can see many artists actually being 'inspired' by the difficulties they face due to the communistic government. There are active taboos maintained by the government, and they provoke reaction by the artist. In a way that seems easy and difficult at the same time;
Difficult most obviously as it is clearly making the work of an artist a burdensome and dangerous journey, in order to challenge the governments behaviour it is required to be careful, accept setbacks and being hurt.
Easy in a way as it becomes the almost obvious 'direction' of artists, a natural way to go, and makes the artist very much focused on this outside 'enemy'. It is this shared enemy that unites the artists in 
their drive and goal. And it is the explicit taboo that creates focus on the subject, enlarges it and takes the attention away from other areas. In a way the struggle at some point even can become a 
cliche, an over-explored evident subject....

In western countries like where I live basically no real dangerous topics exist. Recently only expressions about Islam have raised some noise, but within countries often most topics can be explored and expressed by artists. There is no overall hostile force against artists or people that express their feelings. As a result you see artist more focusing on themselves, in several more or less positive ways.
First of all it is not a challenge to be an artist and everyone can call himself an artist...every person that throws some acrylic on a canvas can claim to have made a conceptual art piece...or not?
Next to this our taboos are implicit, and we are often less aware of the crazy situations around us. We are born in a world where we directly become part of the culture, and as a child we internalise the behaviours that fit with our examples and unwritten rules and taboos. As a way to find these taboos I would say from discussions with artists that the most common way is to reflect on oneself; by peeling off our layers we come deeper in understanding our self, and with it we reveal also the layers that have been added by our culture; the hidden rules, the priority of values, the invisible taboos. Another option is to work with other cultures and discover what in us is influenced by our own culture and different from other cultures.
Example of such taboos could be : the overvaluation of ratio and science, the 'problematisation' of nudity, the demystification of sexual intercourse, etc.

In the documentary it is nice to see also some artists in China that follow that same concept; they have left the direct and obvious themes, they do not make just what people want to buy, they focus on feeling and perception...which are symbols of our deeper self. It is not so much to create symbols representing the struggle with the government, but creating meaningful moments where we touch ourselves, and through these expression touching the viewers.

I recommend this documentary; it took me out of my patterns and inspired to continue focusing on meaningful art.

P.S. irony is that I watched the documentary on iTunes, maybe not the most pure way to experience such a deep documentary, but fortunately it was enough to be touched.

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