Photo by Timothy Johnson
Lincoln Center Spotlight Interview: Sally Taylor
Lincoln Center was privileged to welcome artist and musician Sally Taylor as an attendee at this year’s Global Exchange. Recently, the Global Exchange team spoke with Sally to learn more about how she is inspiring tolerance and creativity in education by engaging artists of every genre from around the world through her organization, Consenses.
GX: What is an Interpretive “Chain”?
ST: A Consenses “Chain” is a chain reaction through the senses, similar to a game of “Telephone.” For example, a photographer takes a picture, a musician interprets the essence of that photo and translates it into a song, that song is given to a painter to interpret, the painting to a perfumer, the perfume to a poet, the poem to a dancer, the dance to a sculptor, until all the senses are represented. Finally, a set designer interprets the “Chain” as a whole and creates a set for the art to live within.
GX: How do these different mediums interact within their designated chain?
ST: Each chain evolves its own unique personality. The initial piece of art in a chain acts as a statement. However, when the second part of the chain, such as a song, begins to play, viewers are forced to consider the first piece of art anew, through the songwriter’s eyes. Slowly, as each new medium is introduced, the viewer becomes enveloped in a world of sensory expression that inspires a greater intimacy with the spirit or essence of the collective work. Each chain exposes a lesson about life, acceptance, tolerance, equality, humanity, and our oneness.
GX: What inspired you to engage artists from around the world who are working with a diverse array of mediums, such as dance, photography, and perfume?
ST: I wanted to envelop people in all five senses. I asked myself, “Who is a specialist in sight? A painter. In touch? A sculptor. In smell? A perfumer. In taste? A chef. In sound? A musician.”
GX: Two core themes we explored at this year’s Global Exchange were the intersections of Art X Conflict and Art X Environment. How do you think these “Chains” can facilitate innovative responses to these challenges?
My project was inspired by an ancient fable about six blind men who come across an elephant in the middle of a dusty road. Each man explores a separate section of the animal’s body and each insists he knows what an “elephant” must be: The first man, holding the elephant’s tail, determines the elephant is a rope; the second man, exploring a leg, decides the elephant must be a tree; the third man, examining an ear, insists the elephant is a fan. Their discourse becomes contentious as each man grows increasingly righteous of his own perception. It is only when a king appears and suggests the men stop fighting and listen to one another that the elephant’s larger identity emerges.
The fable exposes the dilemma of our separateness. We are each like blind men feeling a tiny section of space and time believing we understand much more of the whole. Armed with our version of reality, we befriend those who agree with our version and discredit those who see it differently. Consenses believes more can be revealed by working together than arguing the rightness of our individual perspectives and that, like different facets of a prism, we each take in the light of inspiration and cast our own versions against the wall. Like blind men, we all have different perspectives of conflict and the environment, not to mention solutions for resolution. Our diplomacy should utilize art as a language to expose the nuances of each unique perspective so that together we might discover the essence of the larger issue and not just assume that because we hold the tail we understand the elephant.
GX: What’s next for Consenses? What is your hope for Consenses’ future?
ST: We are currently piloting Consenses’ curriculum in schools and after-school programs to inspire children from around the world to explore their worlds from different perspectives, asking children to interpret their peers’ artwork and translating them into their own artistic mediums. The curriculum will be online with the goal to unite school communities, inspire creativity, and promote tolerance, empathy, and peace.
We are also excited to announce that, having just closed our exhibit after three years on Martha’s Vineyard, we will start producing the next Consenses project this winter, which will engage 150 new artists from around the world. We will be working with Mass MoCA and Massachusetts Cultural Council to realize these next Consenses exhibits.
Learn more about Consenses
Watch Consenses Documentary: The Story, which follows the creation and evolution of a “Chain”
Photo by: Timothy Johnson