Join us tomorrow evening for
Conversations on Beauty:
“Does Art Matter?”
For information about this panel discussion event, please check out the full posting here.
In preview of our upcoming discussion forum event, we are posting written contributions from some of the panelists slated to speak, below.
These follow no particular pattern, but serve as varied introductions to some of the diverse perspectives our esteemed panelists will bring to the table tomorrow evening!
Panelist, Jim Hubbell:
“Does art really matter? I know for myself it is essential, for art and nature guided me out of the uncertainty of youth. I am sure it matters for creative people. But I wonder when at a baseball game with thousands of cheering fans, does it really matter?
Would we have lost anything is art just went away?
My question to the panelists: can you put into words your passion for art and can you see in art where it tips the balance in how others see and confront life?
If art is that process in humans where we come to inner terms with change, with what we do not yet comprehend; if it is the place where we give to the new patterns and rhythms that lift us past those that no longer work; then it is important, and we the public and the artist do ourselves a disservice when we do not take it seriously.”
Panelist, Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel:
“… At present, a number of adaptationist theories posit that the human capacity for music is a product of natural selection, reflecting the survival value of musical behaviors in our species’ past (e.g., Wallin et al., 2000). In sharp contrast, a prominent nonadaptationist theory of music argues that music is a human invention and is biologically useless (Pinker, 1997).
I argue that research on music and the brain supports neither of these views. Contrary to adaptationist theories, neuroscientific research suggests that the existence of music can be explained without invoking any evolutionary-based brain specialization for musical abilities. And contrary to Pinker’s claim, neuroscience research suggests that music can be biologically powerful. By biologically powerful, I mean that musical behaviors (e.g., playing, listening) can have lasting effects on nonmusical brain functions, such as language and attention, within individual lifetimes. Music is thus theorized to be a biologically powerful human invention, or “transformative technology of the mind…”
Panelist, John Malashock:
“I envision Malashock Dance as a channel for personal expression on many levels. Not just expression for me as the Company’s primary choreographer, but for the dancers of the Company, the audiences to respond to our performances, and the thousands of children who participate in our creative programs. I feel that our style of emotion-based dance and theater offers people an opportunity to experience how their own emotions connect them to their surrounding world.
I see dance, when combined with the power of music, writing, acting, and visual art, as a beautiful invasion – one to be taken in through the eyes and ears – and reacted to with the whole body. Great performers creating characters to music that stirs the soul can take people out of themselves long enough to something else in. Something that adds to who they already are. In this way, I truly believe our work has the ability transform and offer people a view of a different reality.”
Panelist, Klaus Flouride:
“…At the age of 2 he got his first record player (a little acoustic snare drum thing that wouldplay little 78’s). By the time he was 4 he’d graduated to listening to his parents recordplayer. He was always fascinated by records and the music hidden in their grooves. Hewatched the records spin and heard the big sound come out of the big Zenith Consolerecord player. These were all 78 RPM big 10” singles The music was mostly swing andjazz from the 20’s to the 40’s. Louis Prima, Cab Calloway, Bix Biderbeck, EllaFitzgerald…. His dad had spent some time from right before the depression kicked in, in’29 thru the early 30’s playing Saxophone and Banjo in New Orleans speakeasys, Sothe record collection was wide ranging and exciting.
In the mid 50’s his older brother and sister started feeding him some of the stuff theywere listening to in middle school and high school. Then the family made a decision tobuy a record player that would handle lp’s and 45’s. Klaus was introduced to LittleRichard by his sister and Elvis by his brother and jerry Lee Lewis by both of them. Hewas sort of their little experiment. Getting the player that would crank out all of thisdemon music was a decision his father regretted for a bit as it opened the floodgates forrock and roll to pour into the house. He was afraid his son’s brain would turn into cheese.
At age 8 after seeing Buddy Holly on the Sullivan Show Klaus begged his folks for a guitar (hoping for a Strat). They got him a Stella acoustic. Klaus learned to read music but the guitar was unmanageable for small hands. The frustrated guitar teacher told his parents he’ll never play guitar…
… In ’77 he moved to San Francisco and bummed around for a year figuring out what to do next. He was taken to happy places listening to bands like The Ramones and Devo and the Sex Pistols and started hanging out at the Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco’s equivalent to CBGB’s. He was totally knocked over by the Zero’s and decided to try to go back to what made him want to play guitar in the first place. Hard, loud, crazy rock’n’roll rising up again as punk rock.
Moderator, Dirk Sutro:
“My own experience:
My career has been devoted to raising public awareness of art and artists. In 30 years as a journalist, arts columnist, book author, radio host, and music department PR person, I have interviewed hundreds of musicians, architects, authors, filmmakers and other creative types whose work goes largely unappreciated by the general public. I’m thinking of people like filmmaker Budd Boetticher, painter Harry Sternberg, and architect Morris Lapidus, designer of Miami’s famed Fountainebleau Hotel.
While there is ego gratification from spending time with these important artists, my career has mostly been motivated by my desire to share their work and ideas with a world that is mostly unaware of them. I have never been interested in artists who already have a mass audience. They don’t need more attention.
I do not believe that Americans are uninterested in art and artists. Instead, I attribute this lack of appreciation in our society to the lack of attention accorded the arts by schools, media, government, and corporate America. Passion for the arts must be cultivated the same as mathematical ability or writing skill. Studies have shown that arts training boosts performance in math. Yet when school budgets are sliced, arts and artists are first to go.
When decisions are made in our institutions, artists are seldom part of the dialog, even though they frequently offer the most inventive ideas. By contrast, in many European, Latin, and Asian countries, artists are accorded similar status to politicians and career professionals. Mario Vargas Llosa, the novelist, mounted a credible campaign to become Peru’s president. Playwright and poet Vaclav Havel was also Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic president for 14 years. Artists are largely responsible for the identity of many world cities, yet are very under-appreciated. Landscape architect Robert Burle Marx designed the black/white wavy boardwalk paving that defines Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach. Architect Jorn Utzen is the architect responsible for Sydney’s opera house. Few tourists have heard of these men. Also, our society as a whole seems afraid of art that is outside the familiar.
Foreign cities bristle with rich visual experiences: Tokyo, Shanghai, Barcelona. Diverse, experimental architecture, a tremendous variety of colors and materials, neon signage even more intense than Las Vegas or Times Square. San Diego’s monotonous tract housing, lack of color, and plain shrubbery landscapes are bland, and our downtown, by comparison with foreign cities, is sleepy at night.
Public ignorance of art in our country is getting worse. With the demise of daily newspapers, America’s pool of devoted arts journalists is steadily shrinking. In San Diego less than 20 years ago, we had three daily newspapers, each with full staffs of arts journalists–there were at least 25 full-time writers and editors devoted to the arts. Today, we have one daily newspaper with three or four arts writers. Word has it that the Union-Tribune has done away with the important position of arts editor.
Few people other than architecture groupies have visited the Salk Institute, or know that it is one of genius architect Louis Kahn’s masterpieces. How many people who attend events at the Neurosciences Institute are aware that the complex was designed by Todd Williams and Billie Tsien and was honored as Time magazine’s “Best Design of 1996”. It was acclaimed a “magnificent piece of work” by the New York Times. Yet most people who have visited this building can attest to its profound impact. How many people in San Diego have heard the music of saxophonist Charles McPherson, who performed for 11 years with famed bassist and composer Charles Mingus, who attracts hundreds to concerts in Europe, and who performed saxophone parts on Clint Eastwood’s movie “Bird,” about the life of legendary saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker.
Perhaps social media, over the next 5 or 10 years, will build larger followings than ever for artists. We can help by expanding our Facebook friends lists, and by frequently posting news about art and artists who don’t get their share of attention.
Artists, many of whom are media-shy, or skeptical of journalists, or paranoid that media attention will somehow compromise their art — need to step out of their bubbles and let the world know about their work.”