Francis Whitehead

Francis Whitehead is a brilliant thinker.

This interview focuses on environmentalism and art primarily, but she speaks volumes about how to operate as an artist in the contemporary cultural landscape. One of the things I found most striking that she talked about was this idea of “incommensurability.” This problem of over specialized individuals (most people today) do not have the ability to translate information when it is measured/considered using different metrics. This breeds ignorance and discourages mixing as well as development of fields and mediums.

She also talks about the issues of elitist within the academy of art, and the issues that is poses by disengaging with the public. She offers discourse on how to remain a fine artist, but begin to engage with the world.

I’m incredibly receptive to her manner of speaking and discourse. This talk addressed several frustrations I’ve had with my own current and future directions. I struggle with societal pressure (even in the art world-primarily by institutions) to specialize as a means of self-marketing. Every time I begin engaging primarily in one type of practice, I experience heavy regret that I am not active in others, particularly ones that I have had previous interest or skill in.

She describes a very complex idea (that is not able to be fully fleshed out here) about the current conflict between Aesthetics and Ethics, that we prioritize aesthetics because we cannot feel certain ethical issues. Will research more into this. Reminds me of Heidegger.

This document outlines one of the most well stated primers on what it is to be a contemporary artist. These are not “social responsibilities,” but rather abilities trained by the practices of being an artist. I wish this list was shared with me years ago, and I believe it would (with proper unpacking) aid many young people struggling to understand how to have this sort of dialogue.



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