Hairballs, Gingerbread, and Heart Rate Monitors

To jump-start this project’s discussions in Durham and Raleigh before leaving the country, we offered “Dinner Dates” for local groups of artists and creative thinkers to discuss the impact that visual art has on our communities.  This past weekend, another three “Dinner Dates” were held, and once again, great ideas were sparking like crazy!

(A HUGE THANK YOU to Heather Gordon and the artists at Golden Belt, Christiane Voisin, and Jessica Kemp for hosting!)

In these discussions about the commercial art market, audience expectations, the role of “the artist”, and logistics of travelling, we stumbled across a way to diagram how the arts link us to one another – yes, involving hairballs, gingerbread, and heart rate monitors.

Cute dust bunnies from “The Big Insane Happy” rather than really gross cat vomit

I think of our connections as all these little hairballs.  Every individual ball connects to form one nice big one, but along the way, there are going to be these orphaned ones.  There will be people who have never heard about us [artists who work at Golden Belt], hairballs who don’t know we exist even though they live just right around the corner.  And I wonder about how to get those people into the network, how to connect to those voices who aren’t being served… How do you deal with identifying those people and then pulling them into the network somehow? – Heather Gordon

Heather brings up a great point that “community” is not a whole unit, and neither is “art.”  Sweeping generalizations about groups of people should be broken down into individual experiences and about how these individuals connect to one another.


Gingerbread from The Biscuit Mill in Cape Town

Your perception of the world — as well as mine, his, and hers — boils down to a single brain inside a single human being.  We can’t authentically know anyone else’s experience.  You are a gingerbread person, and even if you look like all the other ones on the table, your icing and size and shape just can’t be the same.

But if we are all individual gingerbread figures, how do we connect to everyone else on the table?  After all, without a group, a single gingerbread person is open prey for any hungry person walking around.

We go through these lives where everything is flat, and then something special happens.  We view a piece of art or hear a piece of music or experience a great meal, and that creates a peak.  Art creates a texture in this otherwise flat, homogeneous day-to-day.

If a piece of art creates a spike, a variance in someone’s life, then we’ve done something. – Heather Gordon

When in front of a powerful work of art, we tap into a heightened sense of consciousness, of engagement with the present moment.  These creative “spikes” shake us into engaging with the present world around us, e.g. all those hairballs and slightly different gingerbread persons.

By using art to create “spikes” of experience for everyone around us, for a moment we can satisfy that innate urge to connect to another gingerbread person.

What do you think?  How do you think art can connect people to one another?  If you could draw a diagram or create a metaphor about the relationship between “art” and “community”, what would yours be?  Do you think I’m full of crap?  Come on, share your thoughts!


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