Gebser on the Inclinations of the Integral Artist

In the early part of the 20th century Swiss cultural philosopher Jean Gebser discovered different structures of human consciousness reflected in various cultures and observed a relatively new emerging structure of consciousness that he eventually termed “Integral.” Gebser detected this new form of consciousness or cultural worldview in many of the scientists, writers, and artists of the early 20th century. He discerned that this new worldview consisted of the transcendence of ego-centered perception and thought, and the realization that the three dimensions of space are relative to the fourth dimension of time, thus producing an aperspectival, or multi-perspectival, time-space transcendent form of consciousness (Feuerstein, 1987). This new form of consciousness, expressed through the arts appeared to include structures in which “time is no longer spatialized but integrated and concretized as a fourth dimension” (Gebser, 1985).

For Gebser, this type of visually concretizing time along with the three-dimensions of space is an essential quality for any work of art to be considered integral because “the concretion of everything that has unfolded in time and coalesced in a spatial array is the integral attempt to reconstitute the ‘magnitude’ of man from his constituent aspects, so that he can consciously integrate himself with the whole” (Gebser, 1985). In addition to the concretion of time, Gebser (1985) also considered the concretion of interiority, or individual and collective interior dimensions, to be a precondition of the integral structure because “only the concrete can be integrated, never the merely abstract” (Gebser, 1985).

Films like Groundhog Day (1993) and Source Code (2011) are clear examples of the concretion of time or the concrete narrativization and visualization of temporal patterns in cinematic works; and films like The Matrix (1999) and Inception (2010) powerfully concretize interior dimensions of mind through text, image, and sound as well.

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