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Designing and Curating Perceptions of Vodou (Part Deux)

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2014

At the end of my last post on the Vodou Exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum, (you might want to click the link and give it a read if you want to come up to speed,) I mentioned that I’d visit the exhibition again  and see if my thoughts changed.

I did.

They didn’t.

Friday night was an event in which Chicago’s Haitian community welcomed the new exhibit with delicious verve (See Figure 1 below).  It was a great opportunity to speak with artists and others about the exhibit, to get their opinions.

Many of theirs were similar to mine.

However, I did do something different this time. I spent more time looking up at the banners, and I spent more time on the artifacts that didn’t appear to be from secret societies.  (I didn’t just look, I studied, read, worked at really trying to understand.) In the end, this lightened the experience considerably, but did it dispel the overall dark vibe of the exhibit?

No.

What will help?

My suggestions for event would be the following.

  1. Change the banners that are used for publicity.  They contain Secret Society Lwa.  Do something lighter.
  2. Tell a story with the exhibition.  Start with the misconceptions you want to dispel, the points you want to get across. Then start dispelling and telling the story of Haiti and Vodou. Explain the day to day in Haiti and where Vodou fits.  Show how it interacts with other religions – perhaps even how families often practice Catholicism and Vodou simultaneously.
  3. Build an elevated area that is behind a red curtain (or make the curtain look like a forest covered mountainside. )  Entitle that section: “Inside Vodou’s Secret Societies”.  Maybe put a small disclaimer at the beginning saying small children might be disturbed by what’s inside.  Put those Secret Society artifacts (an example of which is in Figure 2 below), behind the curtain and out of the main stream of the exhibit.  Make sure it’s not somewhere in the middle of the exhibit.  The Secret Societies are not mainstream and mixing these artifacts in with the everyday artifacts mischaracterizes what many people experience in everday Vodou.  However, Secret Societies need to be referenced in the everyday exhibits- after all, they did indeed impact Haitian life. I also believe that ‘hiding’ the Secret Society artifacts will do another thing: people will slow down.  When people are in fearful situations, they tend to move more quickly. If you want people to move slowly and observe – hide the dark stuff.
  4. Children are noticeably absent from many of the videos and explanations.  Of the Haitians I spoke with, all of them had non-intimidating memories of Vodou as a child.  They remember the brightness, the music, the activity on Holidays.  If a child can feel it, adults will too.
  5. Move explanations closer to artifacts and make them readable without having to bend neck or body.  Bring banners closer to eye level.  Create exhibits that allow the most visitors to stand straight and tall.  Haitians wanted this (and still do!) and Vodou helped them.
  6. Include more ways for people to interact and touch.  Granted, the artifacts at the exhibition are were used in Vodou and as such, are not open to touching.  But, there are other ways to help people to hear, taste, feel, smell, touch.  Drumming is key to Vodou.  Let people make virtual drums (or real ones!) Get innovative!
  7. Provide more of the beauty of Haiti! More green, more color, breezes, salt water aroma, music, you get the idea.  Vodou is about the interconnectedness of all things, life, death, sky, earth, plants, water, etc.  Set more of the context, not just socio-politically (which incidentally, this exhibition did a better job of doing.)
  8. End the exhibition showing how Haiti is growing (albeit slowly and painfully at times) and what challenges lie ahead.  Reiterate how Vodou has been a misunderstood part of the process, that Vodou comes from the heart of the Haitian culture and it’s been responsible for establishing a spirit of  (and physical!) freedom in a nation.  Show bright artwork that comes from Haitian artists, even those works from those mounted by spirits.

With the above changes, I believe the exhibit would better accomplish its goal of dispelling misconceptions of Vodou.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’d do!

Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Figure 1. Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Secret Society Lwa

Figure 2. Secret Society Lwa

Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrots

Figure 3  Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrors.  This was one of the more mellow looking mirrors

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Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Conveying Information, creativity, curation, Design, Education, Experience, Information Visualization, Politics, prayer, Religion, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Art, Lent(?), and Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2013

artlentinnovationmichaelplishka

“Art, after all, is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, flight paths to the eternal.”   – from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin, and Rosamund Stone, Zander.

A friend of mine read the above quote and said, “Sounds like the purpose of Lenten Services.”

Brilliant!

She juxtaposed art and spirituality in a wonderful manner.

I’m taking it one step further.

The purpose of being rearranged is so that people can improve their relationships with each other, with the Eternal and with themselves.

So, if we become open and have flight paths to the eternal, are emotionally vulnerable, become aware of others and their needs, what types innovations would we bring into the world?

“Every good painter paints what he is.” -Jackson Pollock

I would say that every person creates from what she is.  If we become rearranged as mentioned above, our creations naturally reflect that which we are realizing in our lives.

Try this thought experiment:

What would a doctor’s office look like if it were designed by the Dalai Lama? How would people be treated? What would waiting rooms look like? Would people feel more nervous or less than they do now? What would it sound like? What would the air taste like?

Every good painter paints what he is.

And that’s the key.  Whether in art or spirituality (and many would say there is no dichotomy in art/spirituality) we have to be willing to be rearranged.  If we aren’t willing to be open to going in new directions, to explore, to feel the discomfort of stepping off precipices and trusting we will fly, then we won’t be rearranged, and not only will we not be elevated from glory to glory, but the world will not experience light which only we can share.

So what does that mean?

Listen to music…go to the theater…meditate…pray…taste fruit you just picked off a tree and write a haiku of the experience…sculpt…sing a song…

…Paint the world with what you are…Show the world that being rearranged isn’t a singular exercise in destruction, but an empowering act of creation…

Think of what the world would be if each person lived as a surprising juxtaposition, an emotional opening, a startling presence, a flight path to the eternal…

…Start becoming rearranged…

…now…

 

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, meditation, prayer, Religion, Service Design, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Spirituality, Sustainability, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Transformative, Sustainable Design Starts With An Embrace

Posted by Plish on October 18, 2010

For the majority of a 24 hour day, we take in sensory information, process and ignore it as we go about our daily routines.  We do our jobs and interact with people, objects and systems,  only really paying attention when something:

A) Causes us problems or pain

B) Brings us delight, joy, peace or any such feeling of wellness.

Everything else falls into the realm of being grey, background noise.  

That’s not necessarily bad. There’s something positive to be said for that which inhabits the grey.

Which is:

We don’t notice things in the grey because things function as they are expected to.   And, when things function like they’re supposed to, we can accomplish tasks and live our lives in relative peace and security.

But, what is that grey???

It’s comprised of people and relationships between people, nature, objects, rules, systems and constraints.    People who love  and experience joy, anger,  pain; who reflect on things of nature and things super/supra-natural.  All of us together interact to make the grey stable, predictable and livable.

What does this mean for design and innovation?  How do we innovate in the grey? How do we impact the grey and create moments in which people are elevated out of the grey – preferably into moments of delight as opposed to the depths of frustration and anger?

In some ways this seems like it should be simple – after all, we are all a part of this.  However, being a part of this makes it that much more difficult because the temptation is to contribute to the system in non-obtrusive ways, to not make waves, to not make our own lives difficult but yet do our jobs, to play our parts.

However, if  we dare to descend into the depths of who we are, to understand our nature, our fears, our  frustrations, our desires and dreams; if in this uncomfortable place we are able to embrace the messiness of our lives, it is then that  we are able to embrace others, embrace the world, embrace all.

It is in this embrace that understanding shines, innovation blooms in the light, and dare I say, love empowers us to design for the good, to design beauty, to give people experiences of  joy and happiness amidst the grey.

And it is in this milieu that design and innovations sustainably transform the grey to light, all the while elevating the awareness of what is possible – of what we are called to be, on this planet called Earth. 

Once we taste this sweetness, we will not, nor should we, ever settle for  less…

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, love, meditation, nature, Philosophy, prayer, Social Responsibility, Society, Spirituality, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity in the Silence…

Posted by Plish on August 4, 2009

leaves1 michaelplishka2009

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the need to quiet one’s self…

to center

to be present in the moment with who you are

Not who you want to become

Not with what you were

But with who you are

It’s the you of the Now that is brilliantly creative

It’s the you of the Now that has the solution to your problems

The river of information flows incessantly

We draw from the river with feverish pitch

As if drought were impending

 Fear of being without…

Creativity does not flow in the din of that river of eddies and vortices!

The Silent River of Beauty…

Drink from Her…

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, meditation, nature, Nature of Creativity, prayer, problem solving, Spirituality, The Human Person, The Senses, Twitter, Web 2.0, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Meditating/Praying Your Way to Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2009

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management

College…

Learning, living, partying, studying, depression, socializing….

…meditating?

Researchers have shown that college students who meditated on a regular basis for 10 weeks had more integrated brains, were less jumpy,  and less sleepy. 

“The pressures of college can be overwhelming-44% of college students binge drink, 37% report use of illegal drugs, 19% report clinical depression, and 13% report high levels of anxiety,” said Fred Travis, lead author and director of the MUM brain research center.

Travis said the data from the non-meditating control group showed the detrimental effects of college life on the students. “The control group had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, indicating their brain functioning was more fragmented-which can lead to more scattered and disorganized thinking and planning. The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry and irritability” he said.

The lesson?

When in high stress situations humans need to find their centers, get in touch with peace and quiet, become a monk for 20 minutes or so.

The ability to think clearly is key to the success of athletes, businessmen; all people who have to make good decisions and/or perform certain tasks flawlessly.

To be creative/innovative means being able to see relationships where seemingly none exist, to ponder new realities. 

Try watching two bubbles of foam on the waves of a churning sea. 

CHAOS!

Drop a pebble in a still pond and observe…

What do you do to find your center?

How does clarity of mind impact your creative endeavors?

How can industry improve creativity in light of this research?

Posted in Authenticity, Brain Stimulation Tools, cognitive studies, Health Concerns, innovation, meditation, Nature of Creativity, prayer, problem solving, Research, Spirituality, stress, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Zen of Creativity – Book Summary

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2009

zencreativity 

There is a book out entitled: The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life .

This blog entry has a summary of the book that is well worth reading. Regardless of your religious/spiritual/philosophical groundings there is some good information to glean here.  The first one I found particularly powerful so I’ll share it with you as well:

1. The role of the ‘still point’ in the creative process
The still point is at the heart of the creative process.
In Zen we access it through zazen meditation.
To be still is to create a state of consciousness that is open and receptive. It is very natural and uncomplicated. It’s not ‘esoteric’ in any way. Yet it’s incredibly profound.
The first step to access the still point is through single-pointedness of mind which builds our concentration (in Japanese Zen called ‘joriki’, the power of concentration). Joriki taps into our physical, mental and emotional reserves and opens our spiritual capacities. One way that our spiritual power begins to manifest is through the emergence of the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. (Electromagnetic waves in the hemispheres of the brain show nowadays the different patterns in different activities)
Single-pointed concentration develops our intuition. We become more directly aware of the world. It’s a fruition that comes after discipline and repetitive practice just like any other learning process. It’s a way of being. All our senses become open, alert, free of tension and receptive.
If this state can be cultivated in your being and in your life, then it will be present in your art!

Exercise: zazen
Try ‘just sitting’ and concentrating on your inward and outward breath for 15’ every day and also for 15’ before creating art.

In order for the creative juices to start flowing, we need to be able to relax our minds and bodies.  But, in order to go back to that relaxing peaceful place, we need to know what it’s like in the first place.   By practicing meditation or prayer, we teach our bodies and minds to focus and relax, almost ‘on demand’ as it were.  When we’re relaxed our subconscious can do a better job of solving problems and percolating these ideas to the surface (that’s why showers are such great places for idea generation and problem solving-there is a single-minded enjoyment of the water and seldom are we consciously running problems through our minds.)

Give meditation/prayer a try.  You might not only get more creative but you may start reaping other benefits as well!

What do you do to stimulate creativity?

What do you think of these Zen guidelines?

Posted in Authenticity, Books, Creative Environments, Design, meditation, Nature of Creativity, prayer, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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