The following quote by Albert Einstein is like a mantra for Seymour: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.”
In this case we are not talking about Seymour the person but about Seymour the project. Seymour Projects is the brain child of Melissa Unger. The New York born globetrotter sees it as her mission to positively influence our fast-paced and increasingly digitized world, through the power of imagination.
DLD interviewed Melissa about her vision behind Seymour Projects.
Seymour is an online project with “real world” manifestations like exhibitions, events. What is your/Seymour’s take on the increasing digitization of society?
Because of Seymour’s mission statement, people often think that I am anti-technology but I am not. I embrace it, in fact I believe that the increased connectivity between individuals and the easy transcendence of time and space that the internet and other tech devices afford us, make it a crucial step on humanity’s intellectual and spiritual journey. I simply believe above all in the concept of Yin & Yang- in the value of balance in all things. Seymour encourages people to flex their mind muscles, to disconnect once in a while and ‘ride the imagination bike’ by pedaling themselves rather than relying fully on tech-powered creativity assistance.
I see introspective exploration and the intake of external stimuli as ‘complementary, not opposing, forces, interacting to form a whole greater than either separate part’; this results in a dynamic system. Conversely, too much of one or too much of the other is not productive. Seymour doesn’t seek to demonize technology or make it an either/or proposition for people. We are simply seeking to encourage people to strike a balance and to ‘Surf their Mind’ as often as they surf the Internet.
Right now, we are experiencing an extreme tech heavy period, there is much excitement about new technologies and understandably with that excitement comes excess. Seymour is just a small voice in the wilderness shouting as loud as we can in favor of humanity. I think it is so important to make sure that tech products are developed to engage, encourage and enhance our innate imagination rather than inhibit it. I think it’s important that people ‘drive the machine’ and that the machine doesn’t drive the people. We must ensure that certain ‘muscles’ don’t atrophy from lack of use. Humans have been flowing their souls and imagination out through their fingertips since they first drew on the cave walls at Lascaux. Each one of us has a different ‘handwriting’, gestural expression- a different and unique touch that imbues all of our individual projects with an innate patina of human poetry. I’d be bummed if in my lifetime we were all reduced to a set of fonts.
Why do you/Seymour think it’s important to daydream?
Constant access to digital information has obvious benefits, but I feel that this hyper-connectivity also keeps our minds perpetually locked in ‘active’ thought, stifling the natural ebb and flow of imagination. I believe that allowing the mind to relax and wander, to ‘daydream’ is vital to both our innate creativity and positive mental health. Yet, time afforded to this type of introspection is increasingly rare. Seymour hopes to encourage people to make time for it every day. Creatives I work with have shared that this endless access to so much information often leads them to suffer analysis paralysis and they lose themselves and drown in an ocean of competing ideas and noise, causing them to give up on potentially valuable projects before they have truly even begun.
Seymour encourages them to relax, turn inward, ignore what’s hip, just let their thoughts flow naturally, then get brave and follow their instincts. At Seymour, we believe that the subconscious mind is an extraordinary reservoir of untapped creativity and that imagining, daydreaming, productive play – whatever label you want to put on subconscious exploration, is the key to authentic expression, personal fulfillment and effective innovation. Taking a break from external stimuli enables people to turn inward & access deeply buried thoughts and images that can be really compelling starting points for new projects.
Throughout history, many of the most exceptional and inventive minds have explored their subconscious and opened themselves to alternative thinking, relying in part on dreams and imagination to solve problems and to create. In doing so, they produced pioneering work in both the arts and sciences, advancing human progress and paving the way for further innovation and discovery. In this fast-paced digital age Seymour encourages people to take time out to nurture that precious connection with their subconscious.
Here’s a personal essay I wrote about my childhood experience with daydreaming & imagination.
The nexus of art and psychology plays a big role at Seymour; can you give an example of a project that reflects this interplay well?
Most of our projects are positioned at that crossroad, but our MINDSURF project last year probably reflects it best: In June 2012, in collaboration with the non-profit group Art Barter Seymour launched SURF YOUR MIND- our first interactive online project. A call for submissions was announced to the general public via our website and social network: We invite you to set off on a journey to the most amazing place you’ll ever visit: your subconscious mind. The goal of this project was to encourage people (particularly those who don’t typically think of themselves as creative) to take time away from technology, relax their mind, explore their imagination and express their creativity without feeling pressure to actively conform to ‘art world’ expectations.
We received submissions from the USA, UK, France, and Germany, participants creative expressions ranged from simple scribbles, to lush painted landscapes, to words to abstract images. 20 submissions where chosen and these works were exhibited at a one night-only event held in Paris on November 29th, 2012. Art Brut specialist Christian Berst embraced the project and offered use of his space Galerie Christian Berst for the exhibition/event. The attendance was strong with 200+ people attending. More info about the project and photos & video of the evening are available for viewing on Seymour’s website.
Participant’s submissions were also published in Seymour’s online magazine. A limited edition catalogue/publication Surf Your Mind- A Journey to the Sea Inside was also produced in conjunction with the event/exhibit.
I’d just like to add that Seymour is at the very beginning of its journey. We will be developing further and expanding in scope both online and offline throughout 2013 and beyond.
If Seymour could describe a “perfect world” what would it be like?
A perfect world would be one in which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the Noosphere becomes a reality. According to Chardin: ‘the noosphere emerges through and is constituted by the interaction of human minds. As mankind organizes itself in more complex social networks, the higher the noosphere will grow in awareness.’ The ultimate goal of history, then, is ‘an apex of thought/consciousness’. The folks over at Princeton are doing great research on this right now.
I agree with Chardin’s ideas and like to think that perhaps the Internet is a ‘safety’ net of sorts, that it allows us to ‘practice’ communicating all together across increasingly diminished notions of time and space until we’ve achieved a certain level of mental connective skill. I believe that once we have ‘advanced’ sufficiently, the Web will simply melt away and we will communicate directly ‘mind to mind’- without the technology. Like the acrobats who leap from swing to swing toward each other, and once proficient enough, are able to perform their feats without the ‘safety’ of a net beneath them.
I believe that it will be those whose imagination is most robust that will be the first to ‘fly’ without the net. It is my greatest wish that Seymour play a role, however infinitesimal, in helping humanity to reach toward that exciting moment.