An essay on the qualities of artistic performance, creativity and aesthetic understanding Aspire Project, Leonardo eu, May 2010. Enter

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Jan Jaap Rothuizen, Martin Hansen, Eddy Thomsen - VIA University College, Århus, Denmark

An essay on the qualities of artistic performance, creativity and aesthetic understanding

Aspire Project, Leonardo EU, May 2010.


The following text is a tribute to the rich, elaborate, colourful and funny undertakings of the creative business, in community work and informal learning settings as well as in the appropriate academic traditions. We represent the latter. And we would like to express this point by presenting a appropriate, provisional tool box of stories, pictures, poems, concepts, concerns and dreams – before we all take a deep dive into strong evidence by registration, documentation and cool-instrumental conceptualisations.

Actually we doubt the value of strong evidence in these matters. We will aim for it – of course. Still the point of “fun and dreams” has a more impressive impact on those, who this ultimately concerns.


Janus was the patron of concrete and abstract beginnings of the world (such as the religion and the gods themselves), the human life, new historical ages, and economical enterprises. He was also the god of the home entrance (ianua), gates, bridges and covered and arcaded passages (iani) named after him. He was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, the growing up of young people, and of one universe to another. He was also known as the figure representing time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood. (

We approach this matter with awe of the complex nature of learning in creative settings and industries. We are afraid to miss the core of the object, or rather: Like when you hold the fragile newborn child in your hands: We are afraid to embrace and strangle the object in academic vocabulary (sic!) and hence miss the ultimate target, validation and empowerment of Trainers and subsequently Trainees among disadvantaged young people. Our initial situation as researchers and investigators is incorporated in formal, bureaucratic (EU!) and educational institutional environments. We know a lot of words. We can produce models, procedures and work-packages by the number. And yet the goal is the empowerment of people with less power of expression – to provide them with an ability of expression (a “say”) matching the “cultural capital” of our business.

We can also strive to capture the intrinsic factor, which we consider to have importance apart from the economy, that is the core of aesthetics and the joy of creativity. In some ways the intrinsic factor has the character of something sacred, so you can´t approach it directly. You can´t name it, but you certainly can get a glance of it. The core is hard to capture with conceptual discourse. It is easily detected by narratives as well as in music, paintings, dance etc. And we will try to use some of these means and some concepts applied to artistic production and aesthetic experience and understanding.
A man in an automobile is driving down the road in the country-side. It is a fine day and he enjoys the speed. Approaching a curve he observes a farmer standing by the road next to a barn. Suddenly a rooster appears in the middle of the road. Is is impossible to avoid the collision, and the rooster is left dead on the road. The driver jumps out of the car and with his hand to his wallet, he walks to the farmer, saying:

I am so sorry. I couldn´t help it. May I replace your rooster?”

The Farmer: ”Oh yes, that would be very nice. Come every morning at dawn and crow!”
It is not the economy alone that does the trick! Other aspects of life are essential and are not as easily replaced. You might replace the rooster with an alarm-clock – but, but. What about the beauty of the appearance of the rooster, and what about the hens?

When Bill Clinton, former president of USA, made the accurate statement in the context of some kind of difficult political business: It is the economy, stupid! – He disclosed himself a true Marxist, at least in some pragmatic sense. Behind all the political spin, you always discover an economic agenda. And then again. It does not fit. We all experience moments in life, death and love, the personal an existential side of life, where economics do not matter – not even in our pragmatic-liberal societies

Another representation of the same theme, now replaced to the present Afghanistan: It may be that the Americans possess the watches and other advanced equipment – but it seems that Taliban has the time?

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