By Avalon Kalin and D.K. Brainard
If 2020 has made one thing abundantly clear, it’s that we need a new paradigm. The response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus – including unprecedented global lockdowns, draconian restrictions on people’s basic freedoms, and an all-consuming tsunami of fear programming unleashed by global media empires – has transformed human society in ways that do not appear sustainable for most people.
People seem both more polarized and less able to think clearly than ever before. It’s clear to most of us that business as usual is no longer a viable option. The politicians and their patrons in Big Tech, Big Pharma and on Wall Street are either incapable of envisioning a world that works for all, or else have no real interest in doing so. But what is viable?
If we, as a species, are going to not only survive, but learn to live in harmony with one another and with our planet, we need to radically re-imagine who we can be and what we can create together.
In this series of articles, videos and podcasts, we want to show you that Universal Art is a remedy for the world’s ills, a set of perspectives and practices we can use right now to start creating an enlightened world society.
We’re going to start by explaining what “Universal Art” means to us and by showing you examples of how this paradigm can reinvigorate people and communities and, eventually, the whole world.
The impulse to make things, mark things, and otherwise imprint, alter, or record one’s reality may well be the defining characteristic of our species. We think there couldn’t be a more convincing argument for placing it centrally in our move into a new life-supporting paradigm worth embracing.
The Creative Age
We cannot ignore that we are entering a new stage in global awareness. We have all manifested here to be a part of this experience. There are a lot of ways to look at this, but one way is to simply acknowledge that humanity right now is being shown evidence that it has to let go of a learned focus on separation and division.
In this paradigm, which is characterized by what Eckhart Tolle calls the global egoic consciousness, we see ourselves as separate from everyone and everything else – “the other.” We learn that resources are scarce and we must make ourselves attractive or clever enough to seduce others to give us our fair share. Or we must become strong and aggressive enough to go out and take what we need – and also to defend our stuff from those “bad people” who certainly will steal it from us as soon as we drop our guard.
Key commonalities among all humans trained to see through the lens of the global egoic consciousness include a sense of being alone and being limited in our power to change things, an (often unconscious) obsession with time and death, and a keen awareness of scarcity and the need to win, earn, and protect the little scraps we can get our hands on.
In this paradigm, each of us is a separate self characterized by lack: in order to get what we really need or want, we must find it outside the Self.
The rulers of the current society have developed global control structures to keep the great masses of people trapped in a continual state of fear, worry, poverty and ill health. Right now they are throwing all of their considerable resources into expanding and tightening these control structures and keeping people trapped in this old consciousness.
Because they depend on the people remaining consumers and not realizing our own creative power, they are continuing to push agendas of division and separation and learned helplessness.
We have seen a great global contraction in 2020. But the wonderful news you won’t see on the news is that an equally powerful expansion is happening worldwide: art everywhere is becoming centered in everyday life again, and in the unique and universal spirit of each person who makes it.
We know this will be a cultural era because we know that this is a consciousness age and not simply an “information age”.
We know that humanity can only thrive when in an era that centers being, and not simply technology and profit. This is why it is easy for us to acknowledge this presencing of a new age of creativity, because creativity is the basis of culture.
What if we are becoming more cultural and creative because our life depends on it? What if a cultural humanity centered on the abundance of being was the only thing people were actually evolving FOR?
Is Art Universal?
Art: “The use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”
Universal: “Present or occurring everywhere. Including all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception...especially available equitably to all members of a society.”
What do tattoos, knitting, cat memes, skateboarding, and petroglyphs have in common?
They are all examples of universal art. This creativity comes from the source of being and uses universal materials and forms.
Watch people from around the world expressing themselves in diverse
but recognizable ways in this short video collage.
Each of these art forms comes into the world through a unique individual expressing their imagination, in their creative flow, and doing something in their everyday life that is a natural and wonder-giving part of that life.
The fact is, art is universal to all humanity and it is everywhere made pretty much the same way and pretty much by everyone. From the shadow-puppet folk theater and gamelan music of rural Java, to the elaborate Minecraft worlds created by my daughter and her middle school friends, to textiles and rugs made on hand looms in the Atlas Mountains, expressing our imagination through creative expression is a cornerstone of our lives.
“Imagination is not a state. It is human existence itself.” - William Blake
Creativity Culture or Consumer Culture?
Today we are finding we need to reconnect with nature, the source of being. We find so much beauty there. We long to connect so we can thrive, or just to stay sane. This is where looking at art as universal gets really interesting and fun.
The words that resonate, the art that comes out naturally, the creativity that is fun and engaging, the songs we keep coming back to, all come from the flow of universal energy within and around us. Artists call it intuition or “the flow”:
● When Jay-Z goes into “Rain-Man mode” writing a lyric for The Black Album.
● The dancer’s eyes roll back a little during a ritual of music and movement.
● Two strangers at the skate park start admiring each other’s moves and spontaneously create a choreography of gravity-defying twists and turns to a soundtrack of squeaking trucks and whirring wheels.
We are awakening to a form of creativity that has existed for thousands of years in unbroken cultural traditions, and it is the secret foundation of modern creative forms. The secret is entering what behavioral scientist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “the flow state” – a realm outside of ego characterized by feelings of intense pleasure and focus. When we are in flow, time becomes fluid and we feel powerful and energized and relaxed. We feel abundantly supported by life and in harmony with the world.
This timeless sense of being is the product of living in the moment; the medium is the now and the expressions come from our very being. It is only in this state of present moment awareness that we can truly return to our universal nature and connection with all that is.
So, why would we ever think this readily available experience of the universal creative consciousness was not universal in the first place? Why would we not see everyone on earth doing this all of the time?
Gesamkunstwerk or “universal artwork” is a word used at the turn of the 19th century to describe a house where everything in it from the rug to the light fixtures was designed by an artist. Where the architect might even design the chairs and wall hangings. Even the cups, plates, and forks would compliment the building’s style! It was this kind of thinking of art everywhere that informed the Bauhaus and other (what we could describe today as design-build) movements like The Arts and Crafts Movement.
But why is there a word for gesamkunstwerk? Hasn’t everything in traditional cultures been made that way for thousands of years now? Why do we today seem to think that art is separate from us, over there and made by others? When did art become that thing over there? Why do we ignore or underrate how much we humans love to alter our world and take time to build things that make us happy?
Is it because we are living in an age of consumer culture and industrialization? Have we lost our connection or agency sometime in the past and are just now starting to get it back?
Would seeing art everywhere mean that we had the power to use our energy everywhere? Let’s look at this in the next post and talk about how “persistent imagining” can empower humanity to take back our agency and create more joy, freedom, abundance and sustainable community.
Avalon Kalin makes documentary and social art connected to everyday life. In addition to creating playful and mindful children’s books, he also writes about art, spirituality, philosophy, and the aesthetics of subjectivity in everyday life.
Avalon studied under Jen Delos Reyes and Harrell Fletcher in the first Social Practice MFA program at Portland State University. He is the co-author of Matt McCormick’s film The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal. Along with his wife, Posie Kalin, he publishes the creative magazine ViD: Journal of Visual Divination. Avalon and Posie have two children and live in Spokane, Washington.
DK Brainard is the co-founder of the Cosmic Fire organization. DK is a consulting astrologer and certified hypnotherapist who helps people heal from trauma and reclaim their personal mastery and agency. He writes about astrology, culture, and society and makes healing music in the rural mid-South with his love, Tatiana Phoenix, and his dog, Kobi.