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Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490

Paper for the session on Governance at the 11th World Conference (Budapest, May 1990) of the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF). Also published under the title The Aesthetics of the year 2491 (Futures, May 1991, pp. 426-436). Also published as Aesthetics Governance (UniS Institute Newsletter, 1, 3, March 1991)
  1. Introduction
  2. Clarification
  3. Movement of meaning
  4. Artistic vehicles for meaning
  5. Artistic discipline
  6. Music
  7. Poetry
  8. Painting
  9. Drama
  10. Dance
  11. Architecture
  12. Specific possibilities
  13. Conclusion
  14. References

In memory of the transition from Ronald Reagan (actor) to Vaclav Havel (playwright)

1. Introduction
The movement of meaning
Artistic vehicles for meaning
Artistic discipline
Specific possibilities

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1. Introduction

The last decades of the 20th century is a time when there is much talk of new paradigms, quantum leaps, new eras, social innovations and breakthroughs of many kinds. It is also a time of many challenges. There are questions as to whether the creative innovations we envisage will be adequate to these challenges.

One of the difficulties of these interesting times is the vast outpouring of information, insightful and otherwise. Even the most creative people with many helping hands have large piles of documents and periodicals in their offices labelled 'To Read' --where many remain unread. In an era of 'desktop-publishing' the 'desktop-reader' does not accomplish for us what its name implies. It is a mark of eminence for a person to be able to claim lack of time to read all the relevant documents in his or her field. This has serious implications for those with policy-making responsibilities and for the insightfulness of the innovations to which they subscribe. Our society seems to be decreasingly capable of channelling its best insights to the places where decisions are taken and interrelating them in such a way as to empower those capable of acting in terms of new paradigms -- although upbeat reporting might lead us to believe otherwise.

It is possible to write lengthy papers about these issues. But such papers are now part of the problem -- as noted above. Information specialists delight in describing what computers will be able to do for us to resolve such difficulties with new gadgets and fancy software. But they focus on fact shuffling -- at a time when many 'facts' have become questionable. The question of how creative, integrative insights emerge, are comprehended and rendered appealing to a wider audience is not addressed. How do we collectively sense and grasp a fragile new gestalt that is an emerging paradigm in embryonic form ?

What follows is an exercise in imagining how the creative imagination might be used some time in the future, possibly 500 years in the future -- unfettered and unconstrained by the obvious difficulties arising from our present priorities and understanding. The focus is on the contribution of the arts to more appropriate forms of policy-making and to the design of more appropriate forms of social and conceptual structure.

One stimulus for this exercise has been the poverty of imagination associated with fictional and dramatic scenarios of how executive councils function in the distant future -- as reflected in science fiction films and books. Even when entities gather from 'the 100 galaxies', thousands of years hence, their encounter (even through 'holographic projections') still seems to be modelled on the United Nations Security Council or its unfortunate imitations. This organizational archetype is no challenge to our imagination, especially when other styles might be more appropriate. The degree of innovation in such policy councils since classical Greek or Romantimes is laughable compared to that in any technology. High tech Pentagon-style 'war rooms' and corporate 'situation rooms' do not empower participants to interweave value-laden views that differ and cross-pollinate in realms beyond the quantifiable. It is sad indeed to see this same archetype impoverishing the gatherings of spiritual leaders of different faiths.

A second stimulus was the failure of artists to nourish our imaginations with better insights into the technicalities of governing our world -- and specifically the failure of the poet Robert Graves in endeavouring to describe a country ruled by poets (in 'Seven Days in New Crete') and of the author Doris Lessing in her, otherwise remarkable, 'Canopus' series.

in New Crete') and of the author Doris Lessing in her, otherwise remarkable, 'Canopus' series.

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