Artists are an essential part of the creation of sustainable clothing and accessories, but in this article Kim Hastreiter argues that artists’ creative thinking skills are being undervalued as assets in the political world.
Earlier this year, Paper magazine’s co-founder Kim Hastreiter attended a White House briefing and symposium on cultural activism. The Obama administration made an outreach to over 60 influential artists and cultural activists left out in the cold during the last eight years. But the speakers — incoming political deputies with law degrees — did not particularly impress our favorite gatekeeper as taking artists and the artistic process seriously. Artists, unfortunately, are not thought of as strategic assets in our country’s national security portfolio. Artists at the White House are instruments of soft power — charming cultural diversions, soundtracks and background music to the American Presidency, like those famous Pablo Casals concerts at Camelot. Kim Hastreiter argues, however, that artists are “true-blue American workers who deserve to be treated with the same respect as any other American worker.” Further, artists — by virtue of the fact that their craft is intuitive — can contribute to the struggle against terrorism. From Papermag:
I kept thinking about how after September 11th, every artist I knew agreed that the horror we had witnessed was actually a major piece of performance art that could not possibly have been conceived by a lawyer or a politician, but more likely by a jihadist with a wild imagination and an artist’s mind. Even our government’s official “9-11 Commission” summarized the attacks as a failure of imagination, and reportedly included a section on “Institutionalizing Imagination,: which called for making imagination a skill in the service of the nation. What many people also don’t realize is that within two weeks of the attacks, the Department of Defense actually brought together a large group of American artists and progressive thinkers (including someone I know) to consult in a series of top-secret meetings, at which they were asked to imagine how this (super-creative) enemy of ours might attack us next.
Following our lunch break, we were asked to gather into small groups and ideate about what we had just heard and how art could integrate with and help promote the Obama agenda. Five of us — myself, Aaron, Duffy, Anne Pasternak (Creative Time), Jonathan Wells (Flux/RESFEST) and Liz Manne (Work in Progress) — decided to develop the idea of establishing a Department of Alternative Thinking: a think-tank and brain trust made up of the most creative minds in the country, including artists, inventors and visionaries. The DoAT would formally integrate creative brain consultation (performed gratis as a national service) as a required aspect into every detail of governmental decision-making, whether about arts education, the economy, health care, energy and environmental policy, national security, the country’s infrastructure or international policy.
The asymmetrical warfare practiced by terrorists is designed to confound traditional strategic planning. Their approach relies heavily on secrecy, stealth and speed, and the avoidance of direct combat (think: cyberwar). Can the unconventional thought-processes of the creative class anticipate and strategically counter threats from fourth generation tactics? It is certainly worth a try, especially considering that Kim’s proposal won’t cost the taxpayer. Linear and technology-centric thinking did not anticipate the September 11th attacks. Radical groups and weak state actors, for lack of a better phrase, think different. Perhaps the American government should think closely about utilizing the underused natural resource that is its own creatives.