Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink â€“ there needs to be more promiscuity across different disciplines if thereâ€™s to be more fruitful solutions to environmental change. On Earth Day, Seed magazine published a well-toned article about economist Ben Ho, and suggested a need for joined-up thinking on climate change between behavioral economics (hence the reference to â€˜Nudgeâ€™) and social sciences (ermâ€¦ â€˜winkingâ€™ is anthropological). And these latest understandings from the sciences about human behaviour bring big questions into focus for art practioners.
Do the arts understate their potential role in generating a more holistic understanding of contemporary life? And what are our expectations of art? What kind of insights do artists bring about in relation to social change and environmental changeâ€¦? (The most talked about art book on this is Bradley and Escheâ€™s â€˜Art and Social Changeâ€™, which is worth reading in conjunction with Mute magazineâ€™s in-depth discussion).
The idea that peopleâ€™s decisions are governed more by their subconscious emotional responses than by an impartial rationality is well argued by behavioural economics (and the RSA projects, Social Brain and Design & Behaviour). And that the social sciences grew from analysising how and why people behave they way they do, prompted Ho to reiterate the olâ€™ ecological adage: â€œThe only way to get anything done is a holistic approach,â€ but then he emphasises the need for productive argument â€œWeâ€™re all speaking different languages, and that leads to conflicts. But that has to be the way forward.â€
And this is surely the way forward for the arts too – art benefits hugely from engaging with other disciplines and there is real need for productive honest progressive debate about the â€˜useâ€™ of the art in relation to contemporary environmental change, without returning to the entrenched positions of instrumentalism v art for arts sake. Isnâ€™t it the case that speaking provocatively about personal ethics and politics enhances our understanding of artistsâ€™ work?
And if emotional appeal is now regarded, by the natural sciences, as a highly persuasive human resource, why has visual art appeared to move so far away from â€˜emotional expressionâ€™? And if it hasnâ€™t really moved away from emotional expression â€“ but has transposed it into provocative gestures , such as Jeremy Dellerâ€™s work (see Michaelaâ€™s blog) â€“ should artists feel any responsibility to make their own position explicit as part of a public debate? Art should still infuriate and delight us – so isnâ€™t it time for the arts, and the discussion that surrounds it, to get more overtly passionate, excitable and intellectually promiscuous again? Wink, wink â€¦
â€œHuman beingsâ€™ decision-making processes, as individuals and collectively, are probably at least as complicated as the climate system itself,â€ Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. From Â Seed.com