ForYourArt is a wonderful organization that I love to bring to people’s attention. Founded in 2006, it is known for its weekly publication, Plan ForYourArt, a great resource for discovering art across Los Angeles, and you can sign up at www.ForYourArt.com. They are also producers of intellectual and inspiring forums and on August 14 presented The Extreme Present, with Hans Ulrich Obrist, well known writer, curator, and Co-Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London; Shuman Basar, a cultural critic who is the Director of the Global Art Forum in Dubai; and Douglas Coupland, an author and visual artist. The three led a panel with guests David Lynch, Miranda July, and Amalia Ulman. The Extreme Present was coupled with a book launching, and it is concerned with what the internet is doing to our brains and how it is altering the society and the planet. Well, for those who look at their cell phone 110 times a day as the panelists admit they do, there is a concern. And so they propose that the causes of this transformation are not going away, perhaps instead will accelerate, will lead to huge textural life changes, such as the sensation life is no longer a narrative, that we are losing our own, we dislike inactivity, we are addicted to speed, and all our needs must be met on demand. In the book on sale at the event, The Age of Earthquakes, they propose the future is now, the internet is not to be shaped to resemble humans, humans are being shaped to resemble the internet. And I agree there is a huge international audience glued and addicted to social media for all kinds of reasons and its affects are still being understood, and so this panel was taking a crack at it.
I love artists, because as soon as an assumption like the panel was laying out to the sold out crowd could even get going an artist will completely explode it. In a recent post, “Letting the Creative Practice Inform the Design of Cultural Exchange and Artist Residency Programming”, I wrote, ” a fundamental characteristic of contemporary artists is their use of ‘divergent thinking’ as a cornerstone of creativity. Divergent thinking is the process of always re-thinking any question and refusing to accept at face value whatever proposition has stimulated the question.” And so the first guest David Lynch came on stage and launched into a passionate advocacy and explanation of transcendental meditation, refused to talk about anything else that related to any of the academic assumptions that the Extreme Present panel was trying out on him. Each effort to bring David back to some discourse about our wired selves being melded into a simulacra of the internet was met with his insistence that we don’t have to be that way at all, that TM “has given me effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within. This level of life is sometimes called “pure consciousness”—it is a treasury. And this level of life is deep within us all.” Hardly the stuff of being turned into a social media replicant. The panel, left rather defenseless, was happier to bring on the guests who had not spent years developing their spiritual consciousness (as David has) and were more willing to chat about the panel’s general topics, which while interesting before had now been somewhat punctured like a balloon by Lynch’s refusal to go near a discussion that had a glib kind of negativity wrapping its intellectual packaging. Perhaps the one parallel to Lynch that made sense was guest musician Patrick Belaga, who played the cello beautifully before and after the verbiage. The music seemed to reach a depth that the superficiality of the rest of the chatting could not. However, I always leave with a few new ideas, and that is the great value of any panel I’ve ever been to that is sponsored by ForYourArt.
The point is, ForYourArt brings us these kinds of events which delight and surprise, and they are another model organization promoting cultural exchange of all kinds. Led by Bettina Korek, their work is extremely important both in Los Angeles and nationally, and deserving of wider recognition and support.