Abandon Your Practice.
This is the First Rule of Ghana ThinkTank.
The ThinkTank founder, Chris Robbins, is our Act II guest today.
Chris came to this position after taking a closer look at the unintended consequences of his own do-gooding in West Africa. He questioned the unexamined impulse of the “first world” to impose its good intentions on the developing world. For instance, an anecdote: A Peace Corps volunteer notices there’s a lot of smoke in a hut and decides that what this place needs is a chimney. She sets about the work of building chimneys, but a few years down the road there’s a massive spike in malaria. Another example: An NGO visits a village, sees an open well, warns the villagers about the danger of goats falling in the well, and then benevolently arranges to have it sealed and replaced with a costly pump. Five years later when the pump breaks, the NGO is long gone, so the entire village must get up and move to a new water source. So Chris decided to flip the process. He began to collect first-world problems instead, asking people to share their gripes at New York galleries. Then he outsourced think tanks in Iran, El Salvador, a VFW in Queens, the Think Tank of Incarcerated Girls, etc., to come up with solutions, to provide answers, i.e., creative directives.
First World Problem: How do we treat our elderly with more compassion?
A: Listen to old people tell their dirty stories.
No matter the directive, they had to execute the command. This became more intensive once Chris took it on the road to places like Sremska Mitrovica, Palestine, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Hire hot Albanians to be lifeguards. Have tea with Hezbollah. Start a “Deport me to Canada” campaign. Set off bombs in your dreams, though, with luck, in real life, the directives will never come to that. It is jarring and exhilarating for us—the Chorus of Act II—to think about substituting our own intentions. It is just as liberating to hear our guest say, without seeming the least hung up about it, that whether it is “ART” or not is completely irrelevant.
Especially in light (in lighght) of this morning’s dialogue around the overly hung-up manifesto “How to be Dumb” by Kenny Goldsmith—thinking partner, laureate poetaster, creative plagiarist, man of intentionally mismatched socks—a manifesto which got us onto the hierarchies of intuition, intellect, status-mongering, and other questions of egoistic cosmology, and which lent us the useful language—dumb-dumb, smart-dumb, smart-smart—for discussing how we might balance our multiplex roles as organizers, editors, creators, and makers, all divergent but essential parts to our identities as artists, the dumb-smart intuitive parts working in tandem (not versus) our more managerial-admin smart-smart parts.