Introducing My Art Philosophy

How do we deal with the multiplicity of perspectives in the art world? What is the relationship between artist psychology and singular aspects of artwork? How do art materials interact with formal traditions and modes of construction? How do venues and institutions play a role in contemporary art? What are the factors in the interpretive audience responses to artwork? And how do we usher in a new epoch of art, which entertains, educates, and enlightens in ways novel, fresh, and sans theoretical baggage?

Here I offer an introduction of my own philosophical model for just this task, a model for 'integral art'. The term 'integral' describes a philosophy that is inclusive and comprehensive of known human intelligences, behaviors, perspectives, and depth. For practical purposes, this philosophy sketches a worldview already extant in the world that transcends and includes the pluralist worldview, which itself transcends and includes all previous worldviews. Hence the term 'integral art' is a shorthand for 'the world art examined by an inclusive lens'. Through this philosophy, I aim to look at the world of art with the most non-marginalizing pair of glasses possible, and choose poetry and brevity whenever possible, because I consider the validity of my philosophy as forever tied to its ability to inspire, offer insight, and stir intuition to working artists.

This begs the definition of 'worldview'. I generally associate worldview with archetype, in the Jungian sense of the term. In both cases, I refer to the cultural background of our perceptions, moments of recognition, forms of meaning, our distinctions, and operates in human collective environments, through the individual. It involves the edges between the unconscious and the conscious, in an idealized manner which can be copied, reproduced, and patterned in endless variations. In The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser traces five large-scale worldviews operative in human cultures, as far back as history and evidence suggests. Influenced by that work, the heirarchical scale of worldviews that I prefer is archaic, magic, mythic, rational, and pluralistic. I prefer this scale because, while it is possible to create distinctions that lead to more particularity, the point is not to imitate previous worldviews, but to understand each's basic nature and contour, for the more immediate purposes that have to do with feeling ever so discreetly into the novelty of the unknown, for it is in such space that subsequent worldviews silently reside, awaiting activation. Gebser's five worldviews as a useful and grounded conception, and I believe form a solid basis to discuss what I believe is a sixth worldview, or archetype, which I call 'integral'.

The nature of integral is an enormous subject, but these are some of the basic qualities of an integral worldview, in general terms. As an emotional as well as cognitive lens, via integral one honors the existence and need of the previous worldviews; one attempts to learn and gain truth and knowledge from nearly any source; one respects the rights and responsibilities of all of the world's inhabitants and cultures; one experiences a reduction of personal fear in full engagement of the world; one places high value on distinctions and decisions that are informed by the multiplicity, depth, and span of perspectives, truths, and dichotomies present in the contemporary world, but it not paralyzed by analysis, self-absorption, or enmeshment. Or in basic terms, the integral worldview is one marked by inclusion, courage, and informed distinctions. To be an artist and be able operate in a manner that survives and thrives in the world, as well as to be able to channel divine beauty into the artwork, is the prime imperative of art philosophy.

Because of the many factors involved in an inclusive consideration of the art world en masse, the integral worldview values the holding of different perspectives in our mind, rather simultaneously. We see in the cybernetic networks of our day a technological capacity to handle and process different tracks, indeed different levels, of information and data, simultaneously. I suggest that our consciousness in today's world uses that as the general baseline metaphor for how we process the world.

For this reason, I call my model broadband. I choose 'broadband' because of the inherent multiplicity and numerous stories that populate the art world, which form not only a mosaic overall, but also a spectrum of depth and relevance that I believe it is vital to perceive. At the very least, we know that there is no one way, or one story, that is "the story" of the art world, at the level of particularity and details, and certainly not one single way to talk about it, even in the most general of terms. Our own thoughts and beliefs are challenged on a near daily basis by the new information, perspectives, and insights we perceive. This is not an argument for relativism, but rather to recognize the reality of the electronic/informational age, and what that means for people with their senses open, as much as possible, to the totality of the world. We have to reconcile a wide variety of different accounts. If a philosophy does not account for multiple perspectives, not to mention multiple experiences, and thus is not what I call 'broadband', then it is deficient, and thus unuseful.

We live in a generally electric world, where our experience of information often occurs sometimes sequentially but oftentimes 'all at once' -- McLuhan's 'total' experience, a metaphor operative at a deeply essential or spiritual level. A person who undertakes to learn about music will start with an ethnocentric, or sociocentric, education that covers the bases of their native tradition. But that student will soon realize, or be made to realize, that the boundaries in place between cultures the world over are, at least in the case of music, more transparent than ever, and thus "all at once", it seems, the interdependecy of music from culture to culture makes for a far more problematic education, at least as perceived on the surface. This apparent glut of information and perspectives on music, taken at the planet-centric level, is why some people recoil from this stance to the safe quarters of ethnocentrism, and a strict education in their own culture's music, and that alone. This is an increasingly ignorant approach to music, and one that, I suggest, misses much of what music and its discreet properties has to offer us, morally. All this is to say, that to think and act in broadband is to expect a lot of information to emerge, and to have the tools in place be able to respond in a healthy and informed manner. To be think and act in broadband is be able to freely access a deeper and wider perspectives, as well as a more local and particular one. The larger the expanse, the greater our capacity to focus on the particular, as well, as I will demonstrate through my philosophy.

The aim is to foster fullness in the art world, in each of its fundamental aspects. Far too much, in intellectual circles, is made of the "fragmentary" nature of the world. As McLuhan reminds, the idea that we have to fear "fragmentary" culture is less a product of the reality of our current age, but a leftover fear from the previous technological age of pre-electric mechanization, where in fact specialism was the order of the day, through strict delegating of roles and tasks. This is not our age anymore. The instantaneous nature of electricity has forever changed our patterns of consciousness, individually and collectively. Now, information comes at us so quickly that the real task is informed distinctions, of being able to assess the source, and deem the information's relevance. It is also the age when we, simulataneously, must fear the too fast and too slow decision.

The method I employ and will demonstrate through my work is to illustrate known perspectives anchored in a model that hopes to allow new truths and intuitions to emerge. By naming what we know acccurately, the "new" is liberated and given a stage to shine. I hope to create the proper conditions where new inquiries emerge, which, if followed through upon, lead to new artistic experiments, and thus new art. Through the results of our experiments, our temporary states of consciousness are flushed with new experience, which over time can lead to growth and development. Or if not,then we retool our inquiries and experiments to more efficiently foster fullness, given our experience and ever-growing maturity. To use inquiries, then experiments, and then state changes as a way to to navigate a philosophy turns the philosophy into a touchstone, my exact aim.

We have to choose our inquiries wisely. My single advice to artists and art lovers is to get out there in the world, experience the juices of culture, and then along that road, see if this art philosophy can make aware perspectives that you can consider, contemplative, question, and even incorporate into your behavior in fits and spurts over time. To paraphrase Rilke, in his advice to a young poet, the more we live into our questions (in my terms, our "inquiries"), the more we can find that, intuitively, we have lived into our answers. Hegel called every artwork a "question". To the extent I leave open areas which you might question, it might be that I haven't had the chance to cover that territory, or it might be that you have come upon territory that only you can really negotiate. In either case, may your inquiries be your guide. Follow your bliss; or, better, follow your curiousity. That both are first informed makes the adventure all the more palpable.

My published, online essays cover a variety of topics, anchored through the overall template of integral art still in-development (see below, "The Conceptual Underpinning of My Model"). In brief, I cover topics of psychology, production, institutions, and interpretation. The following abstracts detail how these bases come to life in my various philosophical works.

The Integral Stories of Art (PDF)
In this essay, I forward a simplified version of my model for the purposes of being able to process the world of art at a planet-centric level, most inclusive of basically everything out there that has to do with art. There is no one story, or mono-narrative, that can truly tell the "single" account of the art world. There are of course many stories, if we include books, articles, treatises, manifestos, analyses, interpretations, interviews, first-person acecdotes, research studies, conversations, theories, methodologies, arguments, and so on -- basically, stuff we hear, read, or sense. Any account from anywhere falls into this general term of 'story'. Anything anyone has ever written, spoken, or related publically about art is a story. If you put all possible stories in one place, all the stories put together form the "world's art literature". To navigate this literature, in ways that make sense and enhance the world of art sustainably, is the main aim of this essay.

The Artist's Mind
In this extended essay, I provide a general overview of matters of structural psychology as relates to artists and artistry. I suggest a "tripartite dynamic for art"—to experience intuition, to convey concretized intuition, and to reflect upon the concretized intuition with others. This model is consonant with historical whole-artist approaches to development, and is a simple yet elegant set of points of departure, or touchstone, to both contemplate past knowledge as well as set the stage for new kinds of experience. This is a treatise that operates at the transdisciplinary root, he suggests, of any medium of art, and is intended for working artists.

The Artist's Breath
In this essay I introduce a practical approach and flexible template for artist practice, one that is deemed full, integral and thus "kosmic" according to various aknowledged conceptions of human awareness and psychology. Through a description of modules as the interplay of holonic consciousness, induced states, and multiple intelligences, I offer a philosophical view of the artist's day-to-day activities, or "breath", as well as rubber-meets-road concrete examples. I suggest that these can point artists of any discipline towards explicit realization of their integral, kosmic canvas -- creative consciousness, full, vivified, and prone to expression as lively aesthetic objects. The premise is that at the most discreet level of every artist, consciousness in the medium, and that the dynamic of modules within an integral artist practice over time will enrich artist's work, and thus the entire field of art.

Artwork, broadly defined as ongoing and evolving form of communication and expression, preserves and evokes "signs" that are perceived by viewers. It is impossible for artwork to have no meanings. Multiple planes of perception, in both artists and audiences, means that artworks exude "polysemy", or "many signs", which means many personae, many truths, many perspectives, and many meanings channeled by artwork. This essay also contains the first-of-its-kind diagram of polysemy as, I suggest, it functions within the artwork experience:

Drawing on insights from Mark Rothko, Marshall McLuhan, Camille Paglia, Arthur Schopenhauer, Abigail Housen, and Ken Wilber, I argue for a template of polysemy for working artists, a useful definition and path towards "post-conventional art", and support for the discreet "essential death" that is, I believe, fundamental to the artistic process, and artistic creation.

In The Artist's Idiolect, I describe why I believe an authentic artist voice is within reach of every artist. In The Flows of Art & Fear (PDF), I suggest that a relationship with fear is something the artist must manage in order to foster fullness in their artwork. I summarize the important work by Abigail Housen here, Howard Gardner here (PDF), and Victor Lowenfeld here, each which serve to provide useful developmental spectrums which I incorporate into my larger model.

In terms of music, and "integral music", I have several essays, several of which I'll mention here. A Planet-centric iPod makes the case that the composer's ears can be exposed fuller and wider than ever before. In The Animated Essence, I address the question "from where does music come?" with my own observations on this source. I forward my own musical yoga, called Tone Yoga (PDF) which is a union of body, mind, and spirit through engaged singing of long tones, further described in To Sing A World. I describe a manner of planet-centric common practice for composers in Daily Bread, and I examine the styles and stages involved with both improvising music and composing music in Notes On Two Levels. How intuition operates in music composition is described in Two Modes Of Flow. My own contemplative practice, or "sadhana", which involves tone yoga is described in Attention, Music, & Witness.

A fundamental part of my model is the "concept of the quadrants". I adopt this concept from the work of spiritual philosopher Ken Wilber, whom I associate with the American New Age movement, but who nonetheless offers a number of important insights. I honor the generic manner that he used this "concept of the quadrants" in his own work, but I apply the quadrants in different and streamlined ways, at least for the art world. As I will show, the "concept of the quadrants" (my term) opens an inclusive and comprehensive view of that world. And it allows the important stories of the art world -- artist consciousness, artwork production, art institutions, and artwork interpretation -- to reside peacefully and distinctly in a model that aims to be practical, and allow for inquiries and experiments in a useful way.

One goal is this: to be inclusive of perspectives. To view and think via the quadrants is, metaphorically, to wear a pair of glasses. Its lenses orient the wearer to indigenous perspectives, or windows of thought. And as you start to see these basic perspectives that are bundled together, you also can see the basic systems and schools of thought particular to each perspective. Humans have emphasized various systems and schools of thought over time, and through various cultures. With the quadrants, you can at once see nearly all of them, at least in basic form. Both perspectives and systems of thought appear in your mind, through careful use of the quadrants. Sound powerful? Well, actually it is.

So here, in abstract diagram, is a simple diagram what the quadrants look like. Draw a vertical line, then a horizontal line that intersects in the middle. You get a cross. Now look the four white spaces. Each illuminates a perspective. In turn, these spaces represent 1) Subjective Singular, 2) Objective Singular, 3) Subjective Plural, and 4) Objective Plural. It looks like this:

Each space has a name, which (after Wilber) comes from its relative position to the others. Because, obviously, there are upper and lower halves, as well as left and right halves, the spaces are names as the upper-left quadrant, the upper-right quadrant, the lower-right quadrant, and the lower-left quadrant. But the usefulness of the concept of the quadrants is found solely in its application as a lens.

I use the concept of the quadrants to fashion a very general view of the art world, in its largest span. Doing brings into focus what are thus the primary stories of the art world -- those of artist consciousness (upper left), artwork production (upper right), art institutions/curatorship (lower right), and artwork interpretation (lower left). These four aspects form a comprehensive grouping that, in general fashion, gives basic outline to what we mean when we say 'the art world'.

This is the most general outline possible of the art world that can still be useful. From this distance, artists and art lovers can use this view to create a system of organization (of books, articles, interviews, instruction methodology, and accounts of any kind about art) in a way that is open to a planet-centric moral embrace where we look for information and truth from any source and from any tradition. Also, this diagram functions as a simply diagnostic measure, for if one or more of these stories is a subject you haven't much explored, then a desire for a fuller account of the art world dictates that you best get exploring.

To use the concept of the quadrants in a more localized and intimate manner is to examine each of these four aspects of the art world with a fresh and unique quadratic lens, of its own. A single quadrant diagram becomes four. Now each story at the subject of a new quadrant diagram. The perpectives particular to artist consciousness, artwork production, art institutions/curatorship, and artwork interpretation are given more clarity.

With this sense of the primary perspectives that we know populate the art world, a rich territory for inquiries and experiments emerges for everyone who cares about art. In this way, this map can act as a guide to artists, and art lovers, so as each seeks knowledge and truth about the art world, one can self-diagnose towards fullness and inclusion of the major perspectives. And when we operate with access to more and more perspectives, and from that space, allow our intuition to guide us, we are more mature and able to feel more beauty, as well as the salvation that artwork provides artists and art lovers alike. Finding peace within multiperspectivity is a space in which we can both create and absorb art, in a mysterious exchange with souls, our humanity, and our traditions that, always and forever, has defied real description, as best we nonetheless must still try to frame.

Chicago, Illinois
December 2005

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