On Art, Telepathy and Storytelling
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
A few years back I was at this art exhibition that had attracted hundreds of people. The main artwork was a big block of simple perplex wood that was painted white. That was it. Must have costed somewhere between 20 and 30 euros. Maybe close to an hour to built, including the painting. The price? Five thousand euros. And in front of all of those visitors, I exploded.
When someone asks me why storytelling is important my standard answer is that good stories are remembered. Sometimes though, my answer is a bit more sarcastic: 'cause none of us are psychic. There seems to be this weird human condition where people assume you understand them without the need to convey information. They assume you are telepathic.
Telepathy. It does not exist. Maybe somehow it will someday. Or by some fluke of nature someone's brain has evolved into the unknown. Could be. Would be a great story... Yet just like me, you must have had countless of moments with people who seem to assume that their art, policies and products are immediately understood. Because it makes sense to them, it should also make sense to you.
It's called 'projection' and it is one the most annoying and insulting defects of the human psyche. The inability to empathize with the fact that other people cannot actually look into your mind. Plus, it makes for incredibly bad communication. Which brings us back to our art exhibition...
Being a writer and musician I know how incredibly hard it is to make a work of art that connects with people. Essentially what you do is communicate emotionally through your art... without having the ability to beam those emotions into someone's brain! If another artist has the audacity to fumble together a block and asks five thousand euros for it, you just explode.
And that's exactly what I did. Boom. In front of all of those people, I loudly questioned the validity of his 'art'. I was angry as hell. So of course, the guy came to me. He explained to me that it represented the canvas of infinite possibilities. And that he wanted today's society to be confronted with that. So he made it into the simplest of forms he could: a little wood and some white paint.
Ok sure... but how the fuck was I supposed to know? How do I translate your white wood into societies' infinite potential? If you don't convey any information to me through your art... should I become telepathic then? So that in my psychic trip I'd be so emotionally overwhelmed that I'd fork out 5 grand for your little Home Depot visit?
So why is storytelling important again? Well, because our species has not found our telepathic powers yet. So put in a little effort, thank you. Oh and the artist? He didn't sell anything.
(Check out these quick lessons on friction, vulnerability, audience, emotions and the journey and these 14 laws of storytelling too and why everyone has a story to tell)
Rogier van Kralingen