To mark the North Carolina Humanities Council's 40th anniversary, every month in 2012 we'll ask our friends to respond, within the context of the humanities, to these three words: THINK. SEE. FEEL. So far, their responses are as individual as they are.
George Scheer is co-founder and Collaborative Director of Elsewhere, a living museum and international residency program set within a former thrift store in Greensboro, NC. He is also a co-curator of Kulturpark, a project to animate an abandoned amusement park in East Berlin. His theoretical and artistic projects take place at the intersection of aesthetics and social change.
George holds an MA in Critical Theory and Visual Culture from Duke University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Communications. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Communication Studies and Performance at UNC-Chapel Hill. George's currents projects can be found online at elsewhereelsewhere.org and kulturpark.org.
THINK. SEE. FEEL.
“Ego cogito ergo sum,” Descartes famously said, "I think, therefore I am." In a single, undoubtable flourish he proved human existence in an act of rational thought. Almost 300 years later the German mathematician and philosopher Husserl made a slight variation to this famous formula: Ego cogito cogitatum, simply "I think thoughts." Husserl reasoned that thought perceptions are the primary experience of a thinking mind, not existence as Descartes had once postulated. Husserl argued that thinking isn't derived from human reason, but a gift of sensing. In my artistic and intellectual practices, a heightened attention to the senses allows me to think critically about the way our world is constructed.
Elsewhere's museum is a sensory explosion. There is more stuff per square inch than is really imaginable. When artists first arrive they are overwhelmed by what they see. It is like walking into an unfolding artwork, and as they acclimate to this vast impressionist landscape of cultural materials, the colors and shapes begin to differentiate and become clear. Meanings pop out, arrangement's make sense, and small collections can be identified among the piles of stuff. At about day three you begin to hear artists exclaim, "there is order to this madness!" At Elsewhere, we want art to be fully immersive, visually and sensorially, in a way that challenges the mind to seek relationships in composition, meaning, and experience. That way, art isn't simply an addendum to our experience but can be found everywhere in our everyday lives.
My first transformative art experience was in a museum in Zurich. I was no more than seven years old and I remember coming upon a classical painting of a school teacher scolding rows of students. The teacher's staff was raised in the air, poised to strike the nearest desk. I was so moved by what I saw, and at such a loss of words to describe what I felt, that like Elliot to ET, I reached out toward the place where the stick was set to strike and touched the painting! Everything was thrown into commotion! Guards appeared and my family pulled me out of the museum. Even I was mortified by my own inexplicable compulsion! It is no wonder that today I run a museum that encourages people to touch the art.
Elsewhere and the Humanities Council
Elsewhere Collaborative recently received a Humanities Council grant for their project “Living Room Lectures,” a series of critical and reflective conversations investigating issues of social, political, artistic, and cultural import, with monthly lectures staged in a store-front window that opens on a downtown sidewalk. Community curators selected speakers to address such topics as the history of street theater, food and urban permaculture, and the museum’s place in civic life.