art + love + ethics of care
bell hooks' wonderful almost 20 year old text all about love offers a powerful critique of the loss of love in contemporary culture and feels all the more apt today in the context of flourishing hate speech in our capital, online and in so many day to day interactions. She places the blame squarely at the foot of patriarchy and re-reading her work all these years later, I find it still relevant and perhaps even more so. In her text hooks calls for "living a love ethic" and the aspiration of this call describes the heart of the humane technologies network and our concern for a radically inclusive approach to notions of livability and wellbeing. This permeates our work in small personal ways as well as more public. I was moved when our visiting artist animator Chris Landreth described his own softening transformation once amidst our community of faculty and students. When I first interviewed him about the compassionate thread I see in his work he was uncomfortable with this idea and in his words "I was crass about it. But since being here and watching all these films of mine together I'm realizing there really is a theme of empathy in my storytelling" and in a conversation with our students he identified the reason for making his most famous, Oscar award winning film Ryan was love. In recounting this to me afterward, he opened his arms wide and admitted he'd never really completely owned up to the fact that love was at the heart of that work. I think watching the film it is clear but I was even more warmed to see how Chris felt the freedom to live into and express love, an ethics of care and empathy in our community. It tells me that it does create change when we place priority on love in our professional contexts as well as personal, when we pursue compassion as a serious and measurable goal, when we seek out and draw together artists, scientists and scholars in whose work is demonstrated a clear ethics of care even as their intent may have been elsewhere, their actions and the results of their labors create love and resist the loss of love in our culture.
"Cultures of domination rely on the cultivation of fear as a way to ensure obedience. In our society we make much of love and say little about fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. As a culture we are obsessed with the notion of safety. Yet we do not question why we live in states of extreme anxiety and dread. Fear the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then differences, of any kind, will appear as a threat. When we choose to love we choose to move against fear — against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect — to find ourselves in the other." - from bell hooks' "all about love" pg. 93.
Image credit: mijente