One of the good challenges today is that we often feel unaffected by other people’s problems and global issues like climate change, even when we could easily help. We don’t believe strongly enough that we are part of a larger web, a global community. People who have access to data are frequently overwhelmed and disconnected, rather than empowered and ready to act. This is where art may be able to help. Art does not tell people what they should do, but engaging with a good piece of art can help you connect with your senses, body, and mind. It has the potential to make the world feel.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve traveled to several countries around the world as an artist. Someday, I might speak in front of a room full of world leaders, exchange ideas with a distant minister, or discuss the creation of an artwork or exhibition with local artisans. Working as an artist has exposed me to a diverse range of perspectives on the world, as well as an infinite number of truly unique perceptions, feelings, and knowledge. Having the ability to participate in these local and global exchanges has had a significant impact on the artworks I create, inspiring me to create art that will touch people everywhere.
Most people have experienced being moved by art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a painting, or a spatial-temporal experiment. We are moved once we are touched; we are transported to a new location that is firmly rooted in our bodies during a physical experience. We become aware of a sense that is not unfamiliar to us but on which we have not previously focused. Art is always looking for this transformative experience.
Art also encourages us to value intuition, uncertainty, and creativity, as well as to constantly seek out brand new ideas; artists strive to break rules and find unconventional approaches to contemporary issues. For example, my friend Ai Weiwei, a lovely Chinese artist, is currently setting up a temporary studio on the Greek island of Lesbos to draw attention to the plight of the numerous migrants attempting to enter Europe as quickly as possible, as well as to establish a level of contact that moves us beyond an us-versus-them mentality to a broader understanding of what constitutes we. This is a method by which art can interact with the world to change it.