The mission of the Humanities, Arts and Society Project is to establish a worldwide movement of artists whose creative work will demonstrate the impact of the arts and of creativity on society, promote global understanding and collaboration, and contribute to the debate within the humanities regarding universal issues. The question is: What are the roles of the arts, of artists, and of creativity in the world’s progress and transformation?
In the Constitution of the UNESCO delivered on 16 November 1945, whereas declared: the purpose of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as assigned to it by its Constitution, is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations, Whereas it is essential, if the Organization is to achieve this purpose, that in each Member State it should have the active support of the intellectual and scientific communities and the cooperation of the population.
The International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) posits that a better knowledge of human behaviour is indispensable to a greater understanding of the world’s peoples, and identifies cooperation among scholars and non-academic partners as the appropriate lever for fostering such knowledge and its dissemination.
The World Humanities Conference, gathered at Liège in 2017 upon the call launched by CIPSH and UNESCO, was intended to establish a midterm agenda to face contemporary epistemological and societal challenges from the perspective of the contribution of the humanities. In that context, CIPSH and UNESCO-MOST assigned Mémoire de l’Avenir to launch the Arts and Society Project, aimed at World Humanities conferences in 2017 and beyond.
The outcome documents of the 2017 World Humanities Conference specified that in order to conceive new ways of teaching the humanities, we must foster disciplinary research along with interdisciplinary cooperation within all domains of science and the humanities, including philosophy, history, literature and languages, arts and letters, as well as non- academic knowledge. This holistic approach integrates natural sciences with social and human sciences, including the arts as well as traditional knowledge.
As a result of the 2017 WHC, the Global Chinese Arts and Culture Society has linked with the Arts and Society Project to create the Humanities, Arts and Society Project, in a new engagement to face the new challenges that have been increasingly affecting societies subject to extreme situations of violent social and economic conflict, ecological transformation, and questions of multiculturalism, pluralism and human rights.
The new project has been approved by UNESCO, by CIPSH, and by all of the 21 scholarly world federations affiliated with CIPSH.
The Humanities, Arts and Society Project starts with the premise that transformations of societies and of nature are based on human actions, and human actions are based on cultural, social, and ethical schemes of knowledge, interpretation, and awareness. Dealing successfully with issues of the humanities and of the environment requires people to learn and to understand their locally embedded lives and their influences in a global context. Acting appropriately on a local level presupposes global consideration and understanding. Global understanding becomes a new human condition. It necessitates bridging the gap between local acts and global acts. According to Eliezer Batista, key initiator of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, “Knowledge is the factor that leads us to change our way of thinking. However, it is the understanding that leads to change attitudes. Global understanding puts emphasis on culturally different paths to global sustainability.”
Artists from all regions of the world must develop multidisciplinary cooperation with fields of research and the sciences, in the following spheres: The arts as tools in innovation, invention, evolution, and progress; The arts as tools in education, knowledge, and awareness; The arts as tools in practical and sustainable development; The arts as tools in critical thinking, revolution, and resistance; The arts as tools to fight all forms of discrimination.
Culture consists of the ideas, customs, art, and social behavior of a particular people or society. It is a plurality of beliefs, rites, traditions, esthetics, ethics, and histories. Nowhere on earth are people without language or art. Art and artists bridge the gaps between people, continents, cultures, civilizations, and time. The arts mirror the endeavors and oeuvres of humanity. The arts are an ongoing research into the nature of human beings and of their environment. To quote from Tanella Boni’s keynote address during the WHC, the arts have an essential role in “the preservation of the humanity of the human,” and are at the heart of what is meant by the humanities. An artist’s responsibility does not lie solely in aesthetic research. Each person has a responsibility to provide people with new ways to discover the world—to influence, to provoke, to propose and to generate reflexive criticisms.
The expressions of the human mind are as diverse as those producing the arts, and hence are part of disciplines that constitute the humanities. The arts are a journey within the world of mankind, beyond political or religious borders. The arts are reflections of the human mind and its functioning—observing, recognizing, and rationalizing, using resourcefulness and creativity to revolutionize, to transform, to propose, to act, to advance, to interrogate, and to transmute, while forming philosophies, laws, ethics, and economies.
Now, more than ever, creativity should favour access to knowledge and to universal values and principles, and should seek to connect worldwide problems with emerging solutions. We must encourage cross-world knowledge and comprehension, to enhance participation and collaboration beyond borders—on global issues such as education, environmental consciousness, and ethics. Arts and culture are powerful mediators in the constitution of social realities and personal mindsets.
With globalization, socio-cultural issues a nd practices now, theoretically, have an international reach. A collective of artists and project holders will illustrate—via a general schema of communication transcending locations or personal differences— an enhanced understanding of our realities, limits, tools, objects, symbols, and languages, as well as our philosophies, life choices, and histories. By proposing actions and concrete activities, in collaboration with educators, scientist, and humanists, the collective will also propose choices for the future. Yet, to paraphrase Prof. Luiz Oosterbeek, the co-coordinator of Arts and Society, the arts do not replace science, and are not reducible to the concerns of the sciences, but they are part of the process of enhancing creativity and imagining new futures.
The history of the arts and that of man are inseparable. Art begins with man, or even, perhaps, with his predecessor, the Australopithecus. Man asserted himself from the start as an artist because he collected the “works of art” of nature, then immediately created forms, produced traces, and invented the first ornaments. The latter aspect draws on the Neuroscience of Human Flourishing, a new subject area that is gaining support and popularity with many in contemporary society. As a movement, we can combine sociological, artistic, psychological, and philosophical perspectives to represent important societal challenges and the means to address them.
The Humanities, Arts and Society Project represents the beginning of a global movement of artists reflecting upon the impact of creativity as an essential factor in all cognitive development. The Humanities, Arts and Society aims to become active—and interactive—thanks to the will of artists, project leaders, and collaborators, looking to create and contribute to events, to share resources, knowledge, competences, and to create bridges between projects and people.