Crystal Bridges Museum and the Dazzling Effect
On being widened by kindred spirits
in the Republic of Stories
A video by Meg Boyles
I'm always held in a suspended sense of awe in an art museum.
We live in a poly-storied universe. People have their stories; animals have their stories; plants have their stories; the earth has its story; stars have their stories; and heaven has its story, too. Sometimes the stories are pleasant and sometimes painful. Often they are both and always they intersect. We are storied into existence by the stories of others. As Meg Boyles puts it, we do not exist singularly.
Meg Boyles is a first year student at Hendrix College in Arkansas, and she recently visited Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, with an eye toward hearing the stories of others. She was taking a course called Art and Spirit and her texts included The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists, and the Future by Arlene Goldbard. Goldbard suggests that we live in a world divided between two orientations toward life. One sees the world as a collection of information to be manipulated for human use; the others see the world as a republic of stories to be heard with respect and care. Goldbard believes that the better hope of our world is for people to see the world as a republic of stories, and she believes that art can help people listen.
Meg Boyles agrees. Her visit to Crystal Bridges Museum points to a form of spirituality in its own right: listening to, and be widened by, the interpretations and stories of others. She created a video to describe her experience, and we think it can help all of us understand how a museum can provide a context for mutual story-sharing. We asked Meg if we could share her story with the world, and she kindly agreed. She was embarrassed that one of the images was flipped on its side, and she asked us to offer her apology. We accept her apology, but we realize that flipped images, too, offer fresh perspectives, offer novelty. It is so important to look at the world from flipped perspectives, if only to remember that perspective is in the eye of the beholder. Art can and should turn our world upside-down sometimes. Or at least sideways.
If we want to think about how process-relational philosophy might be applicable to how we understand an art museum, Meg's video will help. From a process-relational perspective we are as wide as the stories we include within our lives, empathically and thoughtfully. One purpose of an art museum is to help us enter into the widening process, so that we can step out into the world, adding whatever kindness and beauty we can offer, to a world of many stories. The process begins in the museum itself, as we realize, with Meg, that we are not the only one in the gallery.
-- Jay McDaniel, editor of JJB