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  • There are moments in our lives, there are
    moments in a day, when we seem to see
    beyond the usual- become clairvoyant. We
    reach then into reality. Such are the moments
    of our greatest happiness. Such are the
    moments of our greatest wisdom. It is in the
    nature of all people to have these experiences;
    but in our time and under the conditions of our
    lives, it is only a rare few who are able to
    continue in the experience and find expression for it.

    ― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

    EXCERPT: Consider, if you will, that our Cowbird Community is a new kind of Muse-eum, in cyberspace, yes, but a Muse-eum nevertheless, ...a home for us as artists and storytellers, where we can carve unifying information sculptures in digital media to inform, inspire, and ignite creative imagination.


    What is the key role that art and museums can to play in this time of evolution and transformation?

    Art can provide the leading edge of visionary thinking - it is the art spirit, evoked, educated, and nurtured in each of us which will provide dynamic metaphors for the immense planetary metamorphosis now underway.

    When art helps each of us feel deeply attuned to the processes of creation, when art provides vital links between the past and the future, we discover our unique personhood, and see ourselves not as victims of history, but as voyagers on an adventure of cosmic discovery.

    Art, at its best touches and transforms each of us where we live, in a private, personal, immediate way. There has never been a greater need for the vision and connectedness art offers.

    Theodore Roszak writes that "We live in a time when the very private experience of having a personal identity to discover, a personal destiny to fulfill, has become a subversive political force of major proportions."

    He continues:

    “What more do we need? Something that can arise only from within us as the outgrowth of intimate instruction and disciplined inner development: a sense of identity which makes each of us a unique event in the universe, a once-created-never-to-be-repeated center of originality.

    Only such a culture of the person will teach us that we are not mere fractions of an anonymous mass whose every need and response can be collectively anticipated. From that sense of uniqueness we draw the sensitivity to detect, and the strength to resist the insistent pressures of mystification…We open spaces for self expression and participation...”

    Isn't this the role of the arts, artists, and museums, to nurture individual originality and creativity, to help us connect up to the wholeness of life?

    I believe that it is, and that at this time in our evolutionary history, when there is a profound demand for new institutions equal to the task of giving us vision commensurate to our potentials, the museum can become a meta-forum, where the best of the past finds its place alongside the fluid cultural synergies of the emerging future.

    Consider, for a moment, the notion that "performances" are now being joined to more traditional art experiences. What are we to make of this? Perhaps there is a helpful insight or two in the following excerpt from an interview with Director Peter Brook in PARABOLA Magazine:

    Peter Brook: The ancient theater clearly was, and theater must always be, a religious action; and its action is very clear; it is that by which fragments are made whole. It is too much to expect at any point in history that an entire society can heal itself, or be healed by one person or a group of people; it doesn't happen that way. The great force of artistic events is that they are temporary glimpses of what might be, and there is a healing process attached to these glimpses. In the ancient world, things were true to the same laws as today; you had a community that by its very nature was fragmented and divided.

    A ceremony was a temporary, perhaps two-hour, reintegration, in which each person tasted unity. The basis for this reintegration could be one of many. It could be the ceremony - the religious ceremony expressing itself in certain movements, for instance; or (and this has become more or less the basis of theater) it could be through a form of storytelling - maybe a story about the gods, by the end of which everybody in it has actually, for a short time, experienced and tasted unity. And then they go back into a society which re-fragments itself immediately, but the periodic returns to this moment of reintegration save the day; they keep the world from falling asunder.”

    If we keep in mind that the word theater itself comes from a root that connotes sacredness - "the hall of the God" - I do not find it at all surprising that a sense of theater is finding its way into the museum, or "hall of the muses." As humankind's hunger for sense of uniqueness, originality, and creativity increases, it seems only logical that people will look increasingly to the arts, in their fullest spectrum, to provide experiences in visionary leadership.

    It is clearly not enough that a museum serve as a treasure-house of cultural artifacts. As we move away from a material sense of values to more inclusive, spiritual values, it is not surprising to see a corresponding shift from emphasis on objects to an appreciation of process: process of dialogue, process of communion, process of community itself.

    Physicist Fritjof Capra writes:

    Modern physics has had a profound influence on general philosophical thought because it has revealed a surprising limitation of classical ideas and has led to a radical revision of many of our basic concepts about reality. Concepts like matter, object, space, time, cause and effect, etc., are totally different in atomic and subatomic physics from the corresponding classical ideas, and with their radical transformation our whole world view has begun to change.

    Out of these changes, a new world view is now emerging which turns out to be closely related to the views of mystics of all ages and traditions.”

    As we move away from an object-centered view of art, to a dynamic-process-centered view, museums will increasingly find themselves serving as "theaters" of the future, meta-forums for community art interactions, homes for the metaphors of radical vision and innovation.

    As individuals experience deeper and deeper levels of creative awakening, there will be a desire to link up and share. Just as it is getting harder and harder to paste convenient labels on "art" as music, drama, poetry, sculpture, graphics, performance, etc. arrange and rearrange in ever new combinations of creative energy, it is getting harder and harder to distinguish between "art" and philosophy, politics, ecology, and social action.

    Social networks, while still in their largely incoherent infancy, are nevertheless emergent systems for greater sharing and connectivity.

    What could be a confusing picture clarifies at once when we realize that nothing is going on in art that isn't going on everywhere else, as patterns of greater and greater inclusiveness emerge, and the emphasis shifts to a dynamic concept, rather than a static one. The artist of the future, in his role as cultural visionary, can give us metaphors and experiences to accommodate the vast changes going on all around us. Indeed, he can provide us with perceptual tools for pioneering the new worlds of possibility that lie before us.

    Our museums have a tremendous opportunity to become pioneers in the new kind of education, - pro-active education that has its roots in the deepest visions of this Universal Age in which we live.

    More than ever before, there is a hunger for images of hope and wholeness. There is a need to sit around our campfires in a new sense of community and sharing, and warm ourselves by the fires of active, poetic imagination with our stories, poems and sagas.

    What better place to do this than in the "hall of the muses" - the museum? And now, of course, digital communications technologies are giving us new ways to create a museum experience, online and in cyberspace, places to gather that are unprecedented in human history.

    Consider, if you will, that the Cowbird Community is a new kind of Muse-eum, in cyberspace, yes, but a Muse-eum nevertheless, as a home for artists and storytellers, carving information sculptures in digital media to inform, inspire, and ignite creative imagination.

    There is no question that the arts are playing, and will play, an increasingly central role in the shaping of our future. The only question, I suppose, is how willing we will be to adapt our present institutions, including museums, to the new, synergistic, holistic art spirit that is emerging with astonishing speed;

    The very process of creativity is the process of universal creation - to understand and participate in works of art and the imagination is to align with the best and highest evolutionary impetus.

    I find religion and education, psychology and physics, theater and politics, communication and ecology, technology and spirituality converging and resonating in a pattern that speaks to the oneness and interrelatedness of all things.

    Clearly the art of the future, as we are beginning to experience it even now, involves community and conscience, reason and revelation, interaction and integration, celebration and synergy.

    This art of the future, which also binds us back to the most primal elements of culture in its purest sense, is the art of telling stories which make connections to the very heart of life, to the pulse and harmonies of pure creative process.

    I suspect that the art of the future will require of us all more living and being, and less talking and theorizing, and that the museums of the future will become the new cathedrals for ceremonies which provide healing, hope and continuity as we unfold our Great Story together.

    The opportunities are at hand, and we are invited to see with new eyes and hearts. The Dialogue is underway...
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