text extract from Hans Dieleman's proposal for ASSiST 2010 (was read to the participants in his absence...)
About the Keynote Speech that did not occur, extract from a text by Prof. Dr. Hans Dieleman (Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM), Colegio de Ciencias y Humanidades, Centro de Estudios sobre la
„Artistic Rationality in Sustainability Projects: theory and practice“
Bringing sustainability from the realm of ideas, dreams and visions to the material world of action, consumption and production will depend on the ongoing
realization of series of numerous concrete projects, such as Local
Agenda projects, Global Action Plan projects, Cultura21 projects,
Cultural Centers projects, action philosophy projects, and so on AND
so on. Also, and even more so, realizing sustainability will depend
on freeing creativity, developing vision and liberating people. So
eventually realizing sustainability is about the question if we can
really all become artists in the way Joseph Beuys looked at artists:
free and creative individuals, armed with visionary and imaginary
powers, creative abilities and the will to realize their own dreams
and create their own destinies.
¡Art is the key! ¿Is art the key?
In the last decade art and artists are more and more involved in sustainability projects. In some cases art serves in a traditional sense as an exhibition of
artworks that is organized along the realization of the project with
the aim to illustrate the theme and to enrich the project (recycle
art, climate change art). In other cases art is equally used in a
traditional sense as a way to free creativity and/or to create an
element of fun and leisure within the project. ´Freeing creativity´
is often materialized in the form of a painting workshop or sculpture
workshop or any other sort of art-based workshop, for children
usually but not exclusively. And finally and more recently we can
find many projects, all over the world, that are different and less
traditional. I think of social sculpture like projects, and
socio-artistic interventions of various sorts. In these projects the
main ‘material’ of the artist are social or environmental
problems along with the ideas and dreams and discussions of the
people in relation to these problems. It is not creating a
traditional work of art to illustrate, enrich or empower. Here
solving a social or environmental problem has become the work of art.
Looking at art as solving social and environmental problems is what
interests me. Yet still something is missing. I don’t like art
projects that can be separated and ARE separated from, let us say,
no-art-project. Community projects, whatever. Our world is still very
much divided along the good old modernistic schemes and borderlines.
ART IS A SPHERE OF CREATIVITY, NO MORE! NO MORE?
But in the traditional modernistic world artists create their art in special places (ateliers, workshops etc) and art remains a separate sphere of life.
It is the sphere of creativity all right and we can watch and admire
the results in museums, cinemas and-the-like. In the contemporary
modernistic world we invite artists to do “their creative thing”
among us, as part of sustainability projects. It is more sympathetic
and yes, maybe these artists help others to envision, imagine and
eventually live their dreams. And they can even help create concrete
solutions now and then. But my dream is to not be dependent on people
that we have come to label artists. And certainly I do not want to be
dependent on what we call artists within projects that otherwise
still use pretty standard planning scheme. Here is the challenge. Not
to work with artists but to become artists ourselves (again).
The keynote speech will present the idea of artistic rationality and its application in sustainability projects. The key questions the speech will address
What is the ‘rationality’ artists use or, what is this ‘artistic rationality’ that lies behind the ways of working of the artist.
What is it that artists do when they do “their creative thing”. What is their secret?
How can we use this rationality in sustainability projects?
Will it be possible to turn this new ‘rationality’ into a new “methodology” or better, into a new way or a new practice?
Exploring these questions is a major part of the speech. First I will give my answer that is, in as far as the first question is concerned, based on Donald Schön’s
work complemented with my own knowing of art and the art creating
process. And in as far as the second question is concerned I will
present an alternative to the standard planning scheme incorporating
what is in my opinion ‘artistic rationality’. The two
introductions I will give will, I hope, be the starting points for
discussion and from there on I hope we can collectively explore the
idea further, during the summer school. It is very much a work in
I worked with different notions of rationality throughout my PhD period and always had Donald Schön‘s book “The Reflective Practitioner” in the back of my
mind. Mainly because I liked so much the title and strangely enough I
never really used the book. After I finished my PhD I engaged myself
in “Art and Sustainability” with an epistemological interest
without really diving too deep into it. A few years ago I was driven
to the idea of ‘artistic rationality’ and all of a sudden Donald
Schön‘s Reflective Practitioner started to make sense. Schön
discusses in the book that professionals are not merely using formal
knowledge and solid data in their decision making processes, as they
usually claim they do. This key idea of Schön was very consistent
with the findings in my research throughout the nineties and in my
own PhD research on managers not taking ‘rational’ decisions in
matters of Cleaner Production. They pretended they were but really
they did not. Schön labeled the ways of working of the professional
‘art’, and explained why it has all the characteristics of how
the artist works. Or how we usually think the artist works. So what
Schön is implying and what I was seeing in my PhD research is that
professionals and managers are ‘artists in disguise’, pretending
to be ‘rational’ in the shallow sense of the word but in reality
not following these rational schemes. I think we are all artists,
most of us in disguise, trying to force ourselves in scientific
schemes to look ‘scholarly’, ‘professional’ or
‘knowledgeable’. Victims of modernity, Deprived of half of our
abilities (emotions, intuitions, etc.) and poorly prepared to create.
And what is true for us as persons is also true for many
WHAT DO THE ARTISTS DO?
When we think of ´art´ it is pretty standard to distinguish among processes and works of art. The works we all know and range from visual objects (paintings,
photo's, sculptures), linguistic objects (metaphors, literature,
poetry) until music and performance-based and multi-media objects
(theatre, dance, websites and the like). Of course the real
interesting part of art is the process behind the making of the
works. This process is best characterized as an activity that aims to
explore our reality. Art as enquiry. This is all pretty common
knowledge. But then, what is happening during these processes of
enquiry? Here is where ‘the secret’ can be found. In presenting
my ideas I will talk about ‘the artist’ and of course this is a
stylized imaginary artist. And yes of course, I generalize. But don’t
worry, I am merely exploring. Trying to help to get to a common
understanding. This artist while creating art and thus enquiring in
the nature of reality first of all opens up SPACES TO EXPERIMENT. In
these spaces the artist explores, shapes, challenges and tests
reality and images, thoughts and definitions of reality by means of
giving form, changing form, mimicking, manipulating, constructing,
deconstructing, etc. This is irrespective of the type of artist,
painter, writer, performer or a social sculpture artist working in a
community. All these activities can be seen as the creation of
experiments with the aim to understand reality and sometime to change
it. It is enquiry.
And, and this is my second point, this process of enquiry is very INTUITIVE AND OPEN. What will happen, what will happen to me, what will it tell me about the
reality outside of me? Knowing and exploring is a principally open
process, without hardly any rules. Maybe the basic rule is to be
open. The artist allows himself to experiment surprise, confusion,
disappointment while none of the unexpected is really ‘wrong’.
While adding a color to the canvas may not produce the expected
result, various options are open. Remove the paint, mix it, leave it
there for a while, etc. How to continue after an initial step and
after experiencing surprise or disappointment is principally open. It
is up to the moment and the gut feeling of the artist. He can use
formal logic, analysis, lateral thinking, emotions, induction,
deduction, etc., etc. No hypotheses are confirmed or rejected or
maybe they are, but not in the traditional scientific way.
And, and this is my third point, in all of this the art producing process is ultimately PERSONAL. It is working with all that is inside of the artist:
knowledge and wisdom and emotional experiences. It is a huge
repertoire of experiences that the artist gained throughout his life.
It is like a collection of images and emotions and knowledge and
skills and ideas and memories of practices and conversations that the
artist stored in his memory. All of that is to be used without
knowing out front how.
Fourthly the process is ultimately ITERATIVE. The artist is in constantly dialogue with what he or she is creating. He is not first making a plan and then
executing it. The artist is creating while executing or executing
while creating. Doing is not following ´knowing´ (diagnosis,
analysis and then action) but knowing and doing are inherently
integrated. The process is ultimately reflective.
Finally the artist INTEGRATES FORM AND CONTENT, WHILE LEAVING ROOM FOR INTERPRETATION. Artists form and deform and construct and deconstruct use literarily
a language of forms and images as in painting and drawings,
sculptures and installations, and a language forms, images and
metaphors using interventions, music, literature, theatre and the
like. In most cases ideas are presented using forms and forms
represent ideas. Here as well is openness, and freedom to interpret.
I think what artist do is close to what art students learn in their
first year at the academy. They are told: forget what you learned and
forget how you think you should paint, or draw, or sculpture. Try to
be closer to yourself, try to discover what is inside of you and
don’t think about techniques. Not to start off, at least.
ARTISTIC RATIONALITY IN SUSTAINABILITY PROJECTS
What I want to do in my intervention is to confront and compare the above mentioned rationality with the traditional Local Agenda 21 planning scheme. This is a very basic and
universal scheme that we find almost anywhere. It is equally used in
industry (and where not?) in ISO planning cycles and is based on a
traditional Cartesian way of thinking. Separate the world around you
in clearly definable elements. Separate emotions from facts. Think
first and act later:
• Formulate a vision,
• Diagnose the problems,
• Develop alternatives,
• Seek consensus,
• Take decisions,
• Implement and execute.
One of the key features that unite all the elements of what I call artistic rationality is that they do NOT separate emotions from fact, they do NOT start by
first thinking and then acting and they do NOT separate the world in
clearly definable elements. One very important aspect is that the are
based on a reflective way of working: doing – reflecting –doing
again - reflecting, etc. What I like to explore with the participants
of the summer school is the idea that the above mentioned elements
can be used as part of a methodology. This methodology then could
have the following elements:
• Creating spaces to experiment
• Use an iterative idea of planning; remain in constant dialogue with proposed solutions
• Integrate form and content
• Engage in processes of enquiry that are intuitive and open
• Use all the personal experience of life
My dream is for people not to loose the natural capacity present in each of them to dream, to formulate visions, to integrate emotions and analyses and to ‘see’
using all the human senses. And is it because people lost this
capacity they need to rely on artists now to do the work for them? It
is almost like the impotent man needing a potent one to give his wife
a child. No longer capable of creating! I think this man can be
cured. And that is what my intervention is all about.
In presenting my ideas I will use many examples of artistic projects I know and I will focus especially on projects that depart from an alternative methodology or
way of working. Three examples I like to give now are (1) the project
“Walk on the Wild side” by David Haley, focusing on using all the
senses and all the media we have to see and analyze a problem; (2)
Organic management as developed by the Dutch artist Rini Biemans,
focusing on the iterative aspects of working. Biemans works basically
with what he can find and is open to change solutions when there is a
reason to do so, and (3) the projects on ‘Gambiarra’ as developed
by the Brazilian artist Chelpa Ferro. Ferro, like Biemans works with
what he can have and formulates his work within the context of what
is available. In a way related to the concept of ‘bricolage’.
These are three examples but surely there will be more.