April 9, 2016

Consenses in “The Examiner”

Musician Sally Taylor, special guest at Banned in Boston, talks to The Examiner about Consenses.

Artist and musician Sally Taylor, daughter of renowned singer-songwriters Carly Simon and James Taylor, has a talent for starting things from the ground up. Taylor toured on her own record label and is currently working onConsenses, a project she founded to create unity through the arts. She is a special guest at Urban Improv’s Banned in Boston #sociallyunacceptable on Friday, April 8 at Boston’s House of Blues. Sally Taylor discusses her music and the ideas behind Consenses. Click here for Banned in Boston tickets!

Sally Taylor with Governor Baker at Banned in Boston 2015. Urban Improv's "Banned in Boston" takes place Friday, April 8.

Courtesy of Lisa Kessler/Banned in Boston, with permission

Jeanne Denizard: You are a “founder” of things. Not only did you create your own record label, but you created the Consenses Project. Please tell me about that.

Sally Taylor: I had put my touring career on hiatus to have a family and started thinking about the dilemma of isolation we feel as a culture especially when we became inundated with social media. Of course social media wasn’t happening at the time, but I felt this isolation from my fellows and creating this fear onstage every night performing. I felt alone and something was really missing somehow even surrounded by an audience and our band.

I kept thinking back to this fable I heard when I was in college studying anthropology. It was about the blind men and the elephant. These eight blind men find this elephant in the jungle and each feel a different part of its body. As they imagine the essence of the elephant to be, they come to a conclusion. The one that feels the tail thinks the elephant is a rope and the one who feels the tusk is sure the elephant is a spear. Each of them feels a different part, concludes a different reality, and all fight over their version being right. This king arrives and says if you are feeling a part much bigger of something you don’t feel access to alone, wouldn’t it be a smarter idea to start to listen to each other and share your different experiences to understand the greater essence of this creature?

This fable made me realize this is the nature of human experience. I imagine we each come to the planet and only feel a tiny sliver of the fabric of the mystery of time and reality. Then we befriend those who agree with us and discredit those who see things differently. Just like the blind men and the elephant fable, so much more could be revealed if we had the capacity to share our different experiences and listen to each other with compassion, empathy, and curiosity. I created Consenses out of that idea. It became my next startup and it’s what I am working on now. I want to empower myself and others like I did when I started my own record label. I wanted to empower artists to recognize that they can do it by themselves.

Consenses was started in 2012. I thought about it when I was on tour and it kept haunting me. I was in Thailand and woke up one night with the idea so loud in my ears just wanting to be born, so I just didn’t have a choice. To create my own metaphor for the “elephant,” I chose 20 photographs representing different angles of one thing. My “blind men” were different artists in different mediums to explore the essence of that collage and express it. Each photograph went to a different musician and the musicians were asked to interpret this photograph with no right or wrong answers. Just express it in the medium of music. When they were done, I took their music and I gave it to a dancer and I said no right or wrong answers and the dancer could not see the original photograph. The dancer would listen to the song and create a dance or series of movements that represent the essence of this song. Then I sent the dance without the song to a painter, then the painter to a perfumer, then to a poet, then the poem to a sculptor until all of the senses have been represented.

Every thought is a piece of art. If that’s true, then there is no right or wrong to any of what we think. It’s about leniency and curiosity to find out why somebody thinks the things they do. What is their perspective in which they are imagining life that they came up with this result? The excitement comes when they realize we are not all experiencing the world the same way, but have a multitude of experiences that have shaped the perfect masterpiece we have created each individually of this reality. Can’t we have tolerance for each other’s versions if each one is a piece of art? That is where the project really comes into play. It tries to create unity, clarification, understanding, collaboration, and community because my version is different from everybody else’s and I should celebrate that and therefore understand the greater version which is reality.

JD: On the opposite token, you can discover how much you also have in common.

ST: Exactly, and with people you never could have imagined you had similarities with. So much of verbal language is about making things right or wrong or black or white right away so we can move on and get things accomplished. However, it really short changes the intimacy we could have if art were a language.

JD: Music has consistently been a part of your life over the years. What does it mean to you that you consistently keep it a part of your life?

ST: I can speak to this on so many different levels. I am a science nut by background and a full string theory enthusiast. With string theory, you believe we are music and made up of strings and we are basically making a big piece of music. I think therefore metaphorically we love music.

I think what art is called in the mainstream is just one tiny pinnacle of what art is. I feel upset that we only appreciate art in museums, what the most virtuoso musicians and sculptures accomplish, and what people do that go to school and graduate with a background in art history. Each person’s perspective of life is a form of art and each belief system is a brush stroke on the canvas of our individual piece of art. Each thought is a color framed by that piece of art so we are all artists. Just some of us don’t have practice with a brush yet. Art is really just an expression of our inner experience and that we privileged get to celebrate and given credence to keep on doing. I think everyone should be able to.

JD: Your project is growing and has done quite well over the last four years.

ST: It has been pretty incredible. I have recent proposals from Mass MoCA right now and with Lincoln Center Global Exchange. We work with Massachusetts Cultural Council and three different schools. Our exhibit will open again this summer on Martha’s Vineyard so it has really taken on its own life and trajectory. I feel blessed to get to ride on such a unique beast.

JD: I know Consenses has evolved from this idea to this wonderful outreach. What have you set for goals in the near future?

ST: Our goals are to partner with institutions and organizations every two years to build Consenseses with brilliant artists from around the world to participate and shed light on some greater subjects on an elephant of some choosing. The second goal is to bring Consenses into education and to use it as a tool for students to be able to see things through each other’s perspectives, break down the boundaries, and create a new community through these scholastic environments. People can get in touch with us and check out all of our artwork to date, upload their own work, interpret work online, and express themselves in all the mediums and participate.

Urban Improv’s Banned in Boston takes place at Boston’s House of Blues, 15 Landsdowne Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets and visit consenses.org for more information!