When I tell the story of how I became a futurist, people are often surprised to learn that my training as an artist was just as helpful for developing my practice as my experience in change, improvement and innovation.
On the surface, it might seem there is not much overlap between a Diploma of Fine Art and a Masters of Strategic Foresight. But look closer and you’ll discover some curious similarities between learning to make art and developing foresight capabilities.
WAYS OF SEEING
A key skill is both art and foresight is becoming aware of the ways you habitually make sense of what you see. As you become more aware of your default views, you start to notice other ways you could see the same situation.
SHARPENING YOUR ATTENTION
Action follows attention.
It wasn’t until I attended art school that I appreciated how difficult it is to truly see what’s in front of you. Most of us glance at a subject, get a rough sense of it, and allow our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
It’s not until you learn to focus your attention to truly see your subject, noticing subtle shifts in form and colour, sensing the texture of the surface, and feeling the emotions the subject evokes, that you can create an artwork that looks and feels true.
Developing your foresight requires sharpening your attention to notice the non-obvious. By broadening your attention, you can find the edge of what is commonly seen and accepted, and unearth personal, social, and cultural blind spots.
Observing, repeating, and playing with patterns is a staple of the visual arts. Patterns can convey rhythm, movement, tension, and the internal logic of the piece.
Pattern recognition is also core method for understanding the passage of time. Rather than imagine time moving forward in a straight line, or time repeating in a cyclical fashion, we combine these ideas to create a spiral – moving forwards, but passing through echoes of the past in the form of repeating patterned dynamics.
When we think of time as a spiral, we can observe patterns of the past and imagine how they might repeat and evolve in the future.
MYTH AND METAPHOR
Myth and metaphor are powerful ways to convey meaning.
My early training in the arts gave me a practical experience of learning to use myth and metaphor to visually communicate experiences and abstract concepts.
When it comes to working with ‘the future’, you quickly learn that our images of the future, and assumptions and beliefs about what the future holds are deeply informed by our understanding of how the world works and our place within it.
In foresight, myth and metaphor are used to concisely convey worldviews and scenarios, and highlight the differences and tensions between them.
As I pay more attention to these similarities, I feel there is a space of potential where foresight and arts therapy meets. I hope to explore this further in the coming months.