“Diversity” is important. If for no other reason, then at least because it brings financial support. Estimated nine out of ten museums, galleries and financial resources for artists will credit you for pursuing diversity. You can declare it in your application, or in your artist’s statement or you can show diversity in you art. Not seldom the word occurred in the announcement to which you think of responding.
But what does “diversity” mean? Can you be “diverse” alone? I believe even enthusiasts will hesitate answering yes. You might like to associate with this adjective, but it would seem a bit paradoxical, even ridiculous, to think of one person (artist) being “diverse”. Diversity basically characterises a group/collection of people (artists), or of artifacts (art). You can only be part of diversity along with others.
Beyond this, you find basically three types of diversity: unknown, random, and perfect. The common antidote to all of them must be “sameness”.
“Unknown” is the deep diversity. When Columbus encountered the “Indians” of the so-called new world, he saw a difference. But he hardly thought of it as diversity. Encountering something that is unknown to you, is at the outset disturbing. It challenges not only your view of the world, but also your view of yourself.
Less dramatic, but also interesting, is to see an artwork that you have never seen before. But isn’t every piece of art unique? Well, that’s the challenging question. Joseph Hayden wrote a hundred symphonies, Ludwig van Beethoven “just” nine. In the case of Beethoven, however, each symphony was really a new one. Who of the two composers was the most creative? Creativity is mostly understood as bringing about something new, not as “creating” (producing) a lot of well know stuff. I guess the answer must be Beethoven.
Random is the everyday type of diversity. You move to another city within your country and discover that people have a different dialect. This was not the reason why you moved, but you can collect this little taste of diversity as a side-effect. The same happens when you encounter people with a lifestyle totally different from yours in spite of one common interest, say in a sports club. But how often do we now meet people with a totally different lifestyle?
“Unknown diversity” as well as “random” are beyond your control. Perfect diversity, however, is created deliberately. Why do it? Well, I think that is a good question – as soon as you go beyond the pragmatic reasons mentioned initially.
I am afraid the truth is quite sad. The truth, I will claim, is that any deliberate “diversity”, perfect or not perfect, is more about abolishing differences than about … enjoying them (or about cultivating). And worse: in western culture the claim for diversity is more about averting our own culture than loving any other.
Let me explain. First, the major features that diversity is supposed to “diverse” along are sex, ethnicity and to some extent social class. To sex you can add sexual orientation. Second, the point of making every group you can think of the perfect mixture along these 3-4 dimensions is NOT that you want to USE the diversity to anything in particular, or simply to enjoy it. The point is to emphasize that those differences do NOT MEAN anything.
The aversion against western culture has many facets. One of them is seen indirectly when you are shown a group (diverse, of course) of people smiling and playing like kids, say in a business context. But at the core of western culture, I will claim, you find the responsible, adult individual.
Artwork of the fortnight
Piet Mondrian made this famous image in 1942. Order is not necessarily the opposite of diversity.
But is there diversity in this image? Sure, I will say, the primary colours red, yellow and blue are there. In order to have diversity, there must be some primary feature by which the elements of the diversity differ. Where nothing (important) differs, there is no (important) diversity.
PS: But, of course, Russian is not part of diversity to-day, is it?
In a milieu of people enjoying the dance of tango I saw a woman come to the dance at a venue in Berlin on February the 27th. She was very upset. Dancing is international, and (once knowing the dance) you can normally dance anywhere regardless of understanding the lyrics (which, when present, may be in Spanish, German or in any other language). The upset woman would not dance to Russian lyrics, though. This she made clear to the organiser – any music with a Russian text should be taken off the programme. The organiser hesitated to do so and the woman left in anger.