The invitation to participate in Artists Summit Kyoto. Can Artists Save The World? got me - IngridMwangiRobertHutter- thinking, reading and researching months before the event. What could I say about complex human problems and how to solve them?

The summit has been an inspiring opportunity for me to think about my role in the world, to

shed for a moment all skepticism, so-called ʻpractical-thinkingʼ and delve into unfettered

reflection. Trying to envision a better world, what arises in my mind? Open ideas, radical

impetuses, utopian visions, practical projects; stripping things down to the essential,

unmasking inadequacies, demystifying artistic practice, re-mystifying art, acknowledging

my path, all of the above.

Evasiveness of the artist

Artists make art to endure, to document, to share, to express, to confront. Some artists‘ work is political and deals with social issues, contesting the existing systems and/or concretely proposing other paths. Contrary to this approach, there are artists who demonstrate multiple views, presenting a diversity of ideas and life-styles, reflecting everything they come across like a magical, multifaceted mirror, so that in the end one can never guess what their personal opinion is. Other artists aim at exhuming dark sides of our existence, and their work can be uncomfortably revealing or even catalytic. Others deal with daily life: our banal, immediate, outrageous reality. Yet others who derive form from that which seem to lie beyond, such as impermanence, infinity, beauty, the unknown... 

The list of motivations, themes and artistic strategies can go on and on. Within the big debates about what art is, my own conclusion is, art is nothing in particular. This means art can be so many different things.

I find this to be very powerful. Usually, we need to know what is ʻgoodʼ and what is ʻbadʼ. We yearn for concrete answers to concrete questions. But artistic practice places itself beyond reach of our usual ʻgoodʼ and ʻbadʼ criteria. Actually, I myself have never seen works of an artist that I would describe as bad in the sense of the word as I understand it, which is to say harmful. The nature of artistic practice is the opposite: neither does it result in mass production of criminal objects such as weapons nor cause wars. It does not have the powerfully manipulative influence on societies like the mass producing and distributing entertainment and advertisement industries do. On the contrary, I think that art produces results on deeper levels of human consciousness that have intellectual, emotional, functional, philosophical and spiritual value. I am sometimes bewildered about the abundant energy spent within the art world in discussing and trying to label ʻbad artʼ. Artists are individuals who turn to themselves to create something that can be considered an offer to society. In my opinion this offer is magnanimous and constructive.

Many artists work (and play) with perception. Images evoke and remind us from deep within. Viewers could become aware of something they previously did not consider or realize. They could gain insight. They might be confronted with things they cannot immediately recognize and have the opportunity to experience the mind being thrown into active grappling. I think this is healthy exercise, which is why I like to encourage people to view and engage with art.

Artistic methods and strategies seem to be more individually decided upon by the artists with their different experiences and influences, than in other fields of endeavor that try to dictate standards with proof and control conventions. Artists must take responsibility, often quite alone, for what they produce as art. For me, the implicit message this carries is that each person is the final authority on his or her actions and output. Usually, we give up this authority, to our parents, teachers, to the government, to God, to the world market and so on. Consciously or unconsciously, we make that decision to rely on external opinions about how to live life. At the same time, we often feel powerless, as if others are deciding for us. In regard to changing things, it is often said, 'I canʼt change it, itʼs too complex' or ʻThey are too powerful', and so on. Art can help us to become aware that change starts with changing individual perception. It displays the capacity of imagination from which arises the unique human potential to conceive of a vision and actualize that vision. The practice of creating reveals our ability to cause materialization from an initial inspiration and mental conception through mediating processes.

I think that is what we are ultimately dreaming of - shaping the world to our deepest desires for happiness and peaceful stability in which we, our children and childrens‘ children can thrive and live happily ever after.

Art is practice

As an artist I consider that my work is about spending the greatest part of my time observing, reflecting and trying to understand the world. How it functions, how things relate, how do factors depend on other factors. I begin by departing from myself: my personal histories, experiences, thoughts, my bodies and the virtual reflection of these in video and digital photography. I try out different modes that express being, aiming at constantly expanding my awareness a little more and again some more. In on-going experimentation I put myself in relation to society and environment as an example. In some work I extend this strategy to other people, and have involved family members, friends or strangers to appear in video and digital photo imagery.  Working in this way with new media, my main focus is to develop a body of artwork that revolves around conditions of human existence. One of the recurring questions that surfaces is how to deal with violence, injustice and suffering in our world. 

For me experience cannot be simply narrated with words for it to effectively become a new experience for the viewer. This is why it is necessary to invest images, sounds, objects, materials and actions to create what is a basis for the experience of the viewer. Ideally, the viewersʼ experience and understanding could be similar or at least compatible to my own experience and understanding. Therefore it is justified, for example, to speak about pain by causing some kind of pain or disturbance within the mind of the viewer. But at the same time, there must be enough space within the viewerʼs perception to reflect on what he or she is experiencing. If possible, the viewer should experience in a way that opens the eyes and heart and reveals new aspects. Consequently, awareness grows. The door is open for the viewer to take this translated form of realization that is the artwork and its effects, and react to it, transforming his and her own understanding, allowing change to seep into daily life. For this reason, I am convinced that every society should recognize the need to make sure that its artists can do this work for the benefit and growth of that society and itʼs members.

Coming closer to the deeper meaning of IngridMwangiRobertHutter‘s mutation process, I refer to myself in first person singular. The “I” that I speak of encompasses two bodies, two minds, two histories and creative trajectories converging into one point: a body of artwork. I perceive my different parts as being interconnected, in constant dialog and exchange. Every person experiences a 'self' as having several parts that are in communication: the mind that tries to lead the body, while the body sets limits to the workings of the mind; emotion and intellect; conscientiousness versus impulsive nature (often portrayed in cartoons as a miniature devil and angel hovering over the head of the character, trying to influence the person by arguing the advantages of one course of action over another) etc. It suggested itself to realize a similar whole that is equal to the sum of it's parts of one masculine and one feminine corporeality, each with it's individual consciousness influenced by different experiences. Making this complex personality visible is what IngridMwangiRobertHutter is about. It is an artistic as well a life concept, an experiment to realize the 'self' of shared vision, depiction and action.

How to help the world? 

When one thinks abut helping the world, there are many ways to go about this, some are more obvious and others less so. My work does not directly influence peoples lives such as helping their economic situation or teaching them specific skills with which to improve their lives. Still, I feel that I am contributing to the development of human society. The main proposition that I think my work offers, the one thing of importance that I deeply hope viewers are able to glimpse in one work or another, is that ultimately the solution to all human-made problems, the avoidable causes of suffering such as war, destitution, diseases arising from poverty and lack of education, destruction of the environment etc. lies in the development of the individual. By development I mean specifically: gaining accurate and deep understanding of the workings of the world and one's influence in it, along with keen acceptance of the fact of interdependency. This gives rise to feelings of responsibility and a wish to contribute. When individuals become aware in this way, actions follow that ultimately lead to the shaping of a better future for all. Not the ideas of a single person will ʻsave the worldʼ, but every person has a role to play. We need to acknowledge the brilliant potential of each human being and treat each one as far as possible with this respect, including oneself. Sometimes one might feel powerless as a single person against the huge challenges that face us.  But by allowing ourselves to fall into hopelessness and skepticism, we ignore the fact that our actions and lives add, in whatever measure, to all that happens in the world.

Sometimes I have wished our connection with all people in the world was clearly visible and acutely tangible. We could then easily notice our impact in the world. Unfortunately, the results of what we do and what we omit doing are most often not apparent to us due to the webbed complexity of our joint existence. Interestingly, people who have had near-death experiences often report that they saw their whole life in a flash. Some testify that they were witnesses to the results of each and every one of their actions, words and thoughts and the resulting effects. They saw their impact on people, the following impact on other people, the impact on the surroundings, on the environment and so on. Imagine each detail of the effects your actions and non-actions was revealed in flash of illuminated clarity to you! Many of these people are reported to have changed their lives after this, becoming more responsible and less engaged in materialistic pursuit. Within a family you can observe interaction more clearly. How you treat your family members reflects back in the way they treat you. I think it is due to the overview of consequence that causes most people to work hard at being responsible, tolerating and caring to their family members, more so than to strangers and even more so than to others they are opposed to. Increasingly, we should aspire to treat the whole of humanity as our family, and the world as our very own home.

I think that when I perform and when I turn the camera on my bodies in many visual experiments, I am exposing myself in attempts to overcome my own obstacles. Having recognized my collective being, IngridMwangiRobertHutter, as something of an ideal, I am proposing that two people have succeeded in overcoming the specific barriers of gender, cultural and other differences and have now merged into one compatible identity, whose parts function for the ultimate benefit of the whole. This is the premise on which I propose change: I change my perception and therefore my experience in order to change the world. Of course it is art - the manifestation of ideas in an artistic concept and a collection of art works. My impression is simply that it is better not to loose energy in countless debates about what should be done (by governments, organizations and so on), or let skepticism take over, trying to find reasons why humans are not capable of this or that. It is decisively more constructive to turn full attention to the inherent power of our individual minds and actions within our own fields of work and life.

© Mwangi Hutter, 2007



A resume of personal thoughts about art and changing the world

by Mwangi Hutter