The Idea Enhancement Project
“…it is conceivable that the history of art could be viewed as a record of the highest achievements of man's qualitative problem solving behavior.”
— David W. Ecker The Artistic Process as Qualitative Problem Solving
The Idea Enhancement Project is a visionary undertaking that explores the use of art as a practical tool for increasing innovative and creative thinking — And vision, our most dominant and well-developed sense, is the ideal medium for this exploration.
I was recently asked by one correspondent “How is looking at your artwork more beneficial in terms of idea enhancement than staring at clouds or a tide pool?”
My first impulse was to reply “Why is one note better than another in a piece of music, or why is one brush stroke better than another in a painting?” or to point out that one of the purposes of this project is to explore that very question. On thinking it over, I decided that this was not only a valid concern, also an important question in terms of the practicality of this project.
Since this project is at its beginning, and I am writing in advance of any official results, the best way to answer that question is with a series of statements that I feel to be “true.” With the proviso that they are in no way comprehensive or exclusive, and that the aggregate does not define or contain any greater “truth” than any of the parts.
Difference of intent
The Idea Enhancement images are not produced by chance, but by the intent of the artist. A practice that is exampled by works like Chinese contemplative gardens that were meant to evoke a feeling of being in the larger natural world and to capture the sensations of wandering through the landscape. The project images are intended to stimulate the qualitative world of the mind — evoking a larger world than could ever be denoted by the images themselves. And viewing images that are produced by the qualitative problem solving of the artist is more likely to call forth creative ideas and solutions from the viewer than a series of random occurrences.
The practicality of this project is equally based on intent of the viewer to enter into the experience. The viewer needs to bring something of themselves if they wish to participate.
Difference of communication and understanding
In the Idea Enhancement Project’s research process, there is a human on both sides of the equation and ideas can meet ideas. This allows for a richness of communication and understanding that is not available by other means, and facilitates the project’s goals.
This project also asks questions, and is thereby more likely to engage viewers than an activity that requires the viewer to come up with both the questions and the need for asking them.
Difference of material
The project material is selected, not left to chance, and the selection can be further improved by feedback that is specific to the viewer. [Among the more interesting questions being studied in this project: “Are the [types] of images and the results specific to certain viewers?” and “At what point or in what area does universality give way to individuality?”]
The quality of the viewing material is enhanced through images that maximize the amount of useful “triggers.” While any visual experience may trigger an idea, the Idea Enhancement images are deliberately constructed with many evocative aspects that increase their usefulness in this regard.
Difference of practicality
The visual methods employed in this project do not require perfect concentration, contemplative balance or years of practice and discipline. It utilizes standard and natural functions of the human brain to overcome these difficulties and deficiencies - no instruction is required. It’s a powerful “simple case” solution which overrides any borderline condition or lack of precision and exactness of the “parts.”
The above statements overlap and could easily be grouped or combined in a number of different ways. This is inherent in trying to translate the non-verbal to verbal, and qualitative to quantitative reasoning. My greatest surety is that the “rightness” that I feel while making a drawing is the same “rightness” that I feel with this project.
Like all creative endeavors, the end result cannot be theorized in advance. The Idea Enhancement Project is a journey of exploration, rather than a trip to a perceived or exact destination. This is only the beginning.