Author: nabila

‘They’re so frightened of being wrong they have exempted themselves from being fashionable’ says British artist Grayson Perry in today’s headline in The Independent. He is referring to the personality-free trend in fashion which could be extrapolated to the fearful norm-driven world we live in.

Is being inoffensive, non-descript and safe serving the civilization? How does this transfer to style in the workplace?

Any workplace has its subcultures. Take a hospital, the doctors generally don’t mix with the nurses, and the technicians are a culture of their own. Some would attribute these divisions to hierarchy, but there is also an element of workstyle. Each subculture almost has its own language; there are types of people that prefer certain types of work. These differences are not inherently bad; they just are. If these types of people worked better together, understood one another’s language and yet had no expectation that one would begin to behave like the other, you might get a more interactive, dynamic work culture.

What if we had a cosmopolitan approach to dealing with different work styles? Instead of attempting to create a melting pot or a smoothie out of our diversity, how about fully imagining the potential of each person and appreciating that supporting unique style has more potential to create delicious possibility?

Cooperation is often confused with compliance or conformity. Perhaps because it’s easier for the mind to grasp, there is often a push in societies and workplaces for everyone to adhere to the same norms.

Collective potential is maximized when we steer away from conformity and more toward imaginative collaboration based on the appreciation of the potential of many independent and unique styles. In order to effectively mix different styles, it’s important to understand the distinct nature of your own style and that of others.

An understanding of aesthetic or taste can help identify different styles without them being seen as a source of conflict, but rather an appreciation of human possibility.

Realizing collective potential requires three types of action:

  1. Understand style/identity and have an encounter with oneself and then the other – Be able to self-assess style, beliefs, values and ideas as they change.
  2. Seek encounters that create engagement, dialogue and critical inquiry, practice the ability to communicate and perceive.
  3. Engage in different style types for active problem solving, invention or design!

For more from Grayson Perry on creativity, identity, war, refugees, check this out:

“From the ice age, they still made culture…. When we’re fighting wars part of the reason is for the freedom for us to express ourselves.”

Peter Kibunja (Kenyan, b. 1975). Face II, 2014. Acrylic on Canvas.

 

You don’t have to have experienced a terrorist attack to be prejudiced.  I’m sure those of us that consider ourselves pluralistic still in some way have visceral reactions to certain types of people.  A familiar narrative for me are our schools, faiths and families that teach us to be open and respectful of all, but ultimately are less accepting of us marrying ‘the other’ or inviting the other into our most sacred or familial spaces.   

Elaine Dang, an American now doing an MBA at the Yale School of Management has however survived terrorism. On September 21st 2013, while at a children’s cooking competition, she was caught in the siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya by terrorists that killed 67 people.  This woman, raised in a diverse community, all of a sudden became “anxious and suspicious of people who were visibly Muslim,” even though one the first people to come to her aid was a Muslim.  In her Op-Ed on CNN last month, Terror victim: Overcoming our fear of the other, she says “this shift in my thinking and response to others shocked me. My fear had narrowed my vision, and made me believe that good and evil were as easy to discern as black and white…. But I was wrong.”

In Elaine’s case, she had an understandable emotional reaction.  In the current state of the world, we are all directly or vicariously faced with fear. Right now, particularly in America, everyone is afraid, Muslims, black people, while people, Latin Americans; we’re all afraid.  

Our prejudice or our experience of prejudice is real and difficult to address. Our incapacity to accept the Other, to learn from the other and as the Aga Khan says “to see difference as an opportunity rather than a threat” is a pathology perpetuated by our lack of empathy. It’s subconscious, deeply ingrained and difficult to dislodge. As much as we read about the need for empathy and humanity and the true wonder of diversity in the world, fear trumps intellect. Emotions drive deep, history is remembered.

Intellectualizing pluralism only goes so far.  The discovery that humans are genetically 99.9% identical hasn’t helped us live respectfully. Developing admiration for ‘the other’ and not purely tolerating them will not happen within the isolated confines of our hearts. Unless an extension is made to that ‘other’ the exchange of love and learning cannot take place.  

After fifteen years of grappling with conflict transformation, I understand that pluralism is not an end state but a constant process of exchange, of gesture, and community solidarity.

Art and beauty have a way of not only providing that gesture and exchange but allowing for imagination to reconstruct our relationships between people, communities and nations.  It’s also an invitation to ‘the other’ to step into your shoes. It is a means through which we develop admiration and not just tolerance. A means through which you learn to appreciate different interpretations without imposing them, and participation in creating art is a way of having voice and extending a gesture to those that engage with it.

Elaine talks of her struggle to overcome her visceral reactions and her deliberate process to recognize individuality and diversity, to directly engage and learn from ‘the other.’  The alternative, which is to label the other “erases their humanity and historically has been used to justify heinous acts.”    Elaine and limeSHIFT are now working together to use art as means of reflecting on our collective leadership and custodianship in the world. A form of leadership that extends itself to those beyond our sight and brings them into the constellation of those that we see.

5.

I believe beauty is a basic service.

Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based  American Social Practice installation artist committed to the revitalization of poor neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices. One of the premises of limeSHIFT’s work is that beauty leads to participation and participation leads to collective action. Experiencing beauty is not only a coveted experience but an invitation to share that experience.

4.

“If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he chooses to learn, and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach him everything it has to teach…Get out of your head, into your space and await the invisible stranger”

Viola Spolin is considered a godmother of theatre games and her practice is known for its capacity in being able to reach across divisions of culture.  At limeSHIFT our method focuses on heightening sense of perception and reinventing an individual’s aesthetic and social relationship to their environment and cultural eco-system.

3.

“Civic participation depends on creativity, an (aesthetic) knack for reframing experience, and on a corollary freedom to adjust laws and practices in light of ever-new challenges. Without art, citizenship would shrink to compliance, as if society were a closed text. Reading lessons would stop at the factual “what is,” rather than continue to the speculative “what if.”

Doris Sommer is the author of The Work of Art in the World and Bilingual Aesthetics and editor of Cultural Agency in the Americas. Sommer has been a mentor to limeSHIFT as it considers the role of art in leadership and democracy.  Like we do, she believes beauty is a form of participation.

2.

“Every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives.”

Joseph Beuys, performance artists, sculptor and art theorist believed that art is only possible in the context of society and that we are all co-creators of social architecture. limeSHIFT’s workshops from Lead to Shift, to Creative Workout to Collective Potential help groups discover their possibility as architects of transformation through creative processes.

1.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein believed that the greatest scientists were also artists.  He first described his intuitive thought processes at a physics conference in Kyoto in 1922, when he described how he used images to solve his problems and found words later.  He explained that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings and even musical architectures.  We believe that the regular practice of art stimulates creativity in all fields and that great achievements have their roots in intuition and inspiration.  For Einstein, the difference between art and science was in the language of expression, “if what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, then it is science. If it is communicated through forms whose construction are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively, then it is art.”

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Colour in Faith is a global project conceived by limeSHIFT artist Yazmany Arboleda. It begins in Kenya with the intention to speckle the planet with yellow houses of worship. The colour yellow symbolizes light and dispels darkness.

In recent years, Kenya has been in the limelight on the global experience of increasing fundamentalist voices and acts of terror justified on religious grounds. This state of despair has hit every corner of the world, from Nice, to Paris, to Istanbul, to America. Colour in Faith begins a movement that reclaims these cities from those who wish them ill and reinstalls them into the hands of those who create art, culture and beauty.

The concept was developed in response to a call for an intervention that would facilitate a form of inclusive communication, and that would allow those who believe in acceptance, love and harmony to express these values, and reinforce them within themselves and with others. The call was also for collective action and strengthening of community. The result was a combination of civic engagement and peacebuilding with art, where a movement reinforcing religious pluralism would be created, culminating in a visual expression of love and harmony, through painting participating houses of worship yellow.

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At the six-month mark, twenty houses of worship had committed to painting and the hosting organization, inCOMMONS (limeSHIFT partner) raised enough funds to paint three buildings. Colour in Faith received paint as a donation from Sadolin Paints. The East African Institute and Fatuma’s Voice (a forum that uses art, poetry and music as a tool for youth to express themselves) hosted five tweet chats on the relationship of faith with leadership, radicalization and patriotism one of which trended third in Kenya and reached 1.5 million people (#YellowKE).

The first three buildings were painted in June. Muslims and Christians came together and painted while entertained by poets.  Painting the buildings represented a symbolic gesture that expressed growing community unity, belief in love and an expression of inclusivity as a result of the project. Local TV stations featured the project and its importance in creating cohesion and mitigating conflict in advance of the upcoming 2017 presidential election.

As resources are mobilized for more buildings, a new partnership has been developed with Nairobi City Hall. The project’s first phase also unearthed the limitations and challenges of altering religious structures. Hierarchy, bureaucracy, and corruption encumber many religious institutions from responding quickly to social challenges. These challenges include prejudice, estrangement, fear, political fragility and a myriad of reasons that tear people apart instead of bringing them together. In response to this, we have decided to use the next phase of the project to design a space in the center of the city built by and for all faiths reflecting a new collective narrative outside of the walls of religion.
In addition to lifting the city’s consciousness of Nairobi’s historic cultural and religious pluralism, the space will use place-making to address safety and improve the pedestrian experience. The space will build community and cohesion and allow for conversation.

This is the first in a series of blogs featuring limeSHIFT artists.

In 2011, artist Lyn Godley filled a gallery in Cologne, Germany with 75 images of birds in flight with points of light along their wingtips and tails. Dimming the lights so that the fibre optics showed up more, the wingtips of the birds became like a constellation in the night sky and the dark magnificence of the room unexpectedly drew crowds that would come and sit quietly, sometimes for hours and often repeatedly, in an embrace of calm.

This is not a typical response; the average amount of time viewers spend in front of a piece of artwork is 30 seconds. Multiple hours is not the norm. For the next year, Godley talked to doctors and art historians and dug into research databases to understand why! She found that exposure to images of nature, natural fractals, and repeated pattern has healing capabilities, reducing stress and improving overall health in the viewer. She also found that particular wavelengths of light result in reduction of stress and calm the body on a physiological level.

 Read More…

Anish Kapoor is up in arms about his Chicago installation Cloud Gate, endearingly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ getting plagiarized in the Xinjiang oil town of Karamay in China. Why would China steal ‘the bean’? (If I could tell you who the alleged plagiarizing artist is I would, but their name is not being disclosed by Government authorities).

Installed in 2004, this big shiny public art installation is the icon of Chicago’s Millennium Park. The bean has become both an icon of the park and the city. Anish Kapoor argues that the sculpture has resulted in property prices going up in the area and has brought millions of dollars to the city through national and international visitors numbering more than 4.75 million people a year.

Public art is big business. It draws people.  Read More…

This script was branded on an over-sized T-Shirt hanging in the Carpenter Center at Harvard for exhibition ad usum “to be used” by Pedro Reyes.

Reading Doris Sommers, The Work of Art in the World, got me searching for examples of Pedro Reyes work, who is the epitome of an artist who disarms us with both the beauty of his work and his process which is often spiritually transformative. He is the type of artist limeSHIFT strives to engage in order to create change within organizations and in communities; his work is not just sculptural but also engaging and he strives for it to be participatory and useful for social and psychological transformation.  Read More…