"This is an old building. This is an old chair from the 1700s. There's a pit of sand..." Without listening any further you might think this was some conceptual nonsense, but speaking to John Maeda -- the president of the Rhode Island School of Design -- at his new exhibition: John Maeda Is The Fortune Cookie, Crane.tv gets a little insight into what it means to be an artist, especially during an economic downturn that sees resources steadily being deflected from creative industries.
Sitting around his recent works at the The Riflemaker Gallery, London, Maeda -- himself a celebrated artist -- talks of how he spends long lengths of time answering questions in discussions, always searching and aiding others in their search, "when I listen I try to draw in the sand." Despite the confounding nature of his words and actions, he describes himself as interested in demystifying art, focusing on people's unique relationship with it. To him, being an artist refers to one's ability to re-figure and re-imagine. Which is why his focus today is on raising funds for scholarships, as well as promoting the arts to corporations and government bodies: how art can be integrated further into wider society. With changes in the UK's fiscal policy enforcing massive cuts in education, it results in the arts being the most wounded of all. Maeda persists, explaining that a reduction in the arts is fundamentally damaging for the UK -- and other countries -- as it reduces the possibility of innovation.
Reminding us of the fact that discovery itself is linked to artists and the way they think, it is important that we continue to bear this is mind. His fight for creativity, coupled with a firm belief that in essence creativity is a natural and normal process anyway, finds one answer in the form of a school that represents change, innovation and possibility. "I see so many countries trying to remove creativity from their agenda, the arts from their agenda. It'll mean a loss of innovation worldwide. Someone has to stick up for it." To just be curious and not stop the search for how seemingly disparate things connect is a basis for creativity; being free to discover and form these connections, is a lesson learned for us in general before it's too late.
Text by Carmen Ho for Crane.tv