Friday, 4 September 2015

27. Sight and insight

I always joke about the super power I'd like to have: "being able to roll my eyes 360 degrees" (As in being-able-to-perform-an-epic-eye-roll in front of someone talking non-sense). Definitely. It was a joke until I thought that I might actually have another, more interesting and less cynic, reason of why I'd like this super-power: it'd be the power to look in, to see clearly something inside that changes how you see the outside. The power of insight. 

Insight is this moment of recognition of an internal truth that changes how we see and interpret reality. It is something that had previously been hidden, but which we recognise when it emerges. The journey of how we find insights -and thus discover these inner truths- is not easy. Most of the times, we try to do it through observation (sight), sometimes in constructing (or attracting) outside something that we "feel" inside, to then observe it (sight again) -as in the Infinity sand sculpture by Carl Jara-.
Infinity (sand sculpture) - Carl Jara

In this sculpture the true insightful moment would be when one of these men turns around and, instead observing only a smaller version of themselves, they see what's behind. Bringing forward what's back, making conscious what's unconscious, elevating his awareness of reality.

In Marketing and Advertising insights are used either to create propositions or to make an existing one more appealing by making them "resonate" with the public. By "resonate" here I mean that the public recognise it as a "truth" and therefore identifies with it, albeit unconsciously. To give an example of what insight is, Top Gear is a good case. It is a BBC program described to be about cars and driving. However, the insight behind the success of the program is that it is about male camaraderie with a car theme. There are many programs that speak about cars, with experts and maybe even more accurate reviews. What had made Top Gear appealing is that it is about three "friends playing with cars", the cars and the information about cars is important but not central. This is the difference between what you see and what you don't see, but is. Sight and insight. If you are the producer and have this insight, the way you'll put the program together will be completely different to one that only focuses in the cars themselves: you would allow episodes when the presenters build their own cars, and cheat each other in phoney races. Its insight is what makes it unique. Its insight informs what's the creative coherent space to play with.

The following advertising plays with the concept of "Golden shadow", with the insight that sometimes prejudices don't allow us to recognise potential.

Insight is only found through a trained used of our intuition, a skill in which we are all almost analphabets. It is about submerging ourselves in the world of ideas, of symbols and concepts that sometimes are incongruent and ambiguous, and making connections to then articulate a simple idea, a truth (or for the artist to create art).

But why is this important? It is important because we are all looking for our own inner truths. We are all exploring the geography of our identity, with its ever changing landscape and its moving borders, trying to understand what's in and what's out, what is ours and what's "foreign", ultimately trying to answer the question: who am I? 

There are three quotes attributed to Michelangelo about sculpture that have to do with this process (I hope that at least one of them is real!).


We are both the sculptor and the block of stone. We know that inside the block of stone that is ourselves, there is something that simply is. Finding these insights, as Grayson Perry puts it "these truths we didn't know we knew", is powerful because it is liberating. We chip away that piece of marble that wasn't us, and we feel lighter.

National Portrait Gallery: Grayson Perry's Who are you? Introduction

Of course, we are not only eyes that roll between sight and insight, deep in contemplation, observing and reflecting. So what happens when we get out of the our inner cave, step outside the church or the museum? We have to create. Play a new game. Make something new. Make new decisions. Express ourselves from this new found centre.
This is so important that funerals are increasingly more personalised and popular songs started to replace the old hymns.  "My way" was the first hit to top the funeral charts. So even though we are not all great innovators, breakthrough thinkers, artist or rebels, being able to claim we did things -big or small- "our" way seems to be a worthy badge of honour.  

As an opposite example, we can hear Johnny Cash singing Hurt:
If I could start again 
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

And yet, as long as we are here, we can always try to find our way.


PS: You have to love the British that now moved on to Monty Pynthon's "Always look at the bright side of life" and songs like Queen's "Who wants to live forever" for their funerals.

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