July 4, 2012
And Now a Word from our President
enthusiastically presents our second Guest Blog entry, courtesy of FFI’s president,
Judy Green--a woman instrumental to the global success of FFI and a leading
voice in the family enterprise space. Take it away, Judy!
On Listening to Art, the 4th
of July, and Random Thoughts on Independence
Judy Green, Ph.D.
I want to start
this brief blog with a caveat that any direct applications to the practice of
family enterprise advising will have to be made by the reader!
For years I have
been perplexed by art museums offering headsets to people coming to exhibits –
a phenomenon I call "listening to art”. Why? Because, it essentially turns a
visual experience into a mediated lecture. Seriously, aren’t we talked to
enough? Don’t we already have an abundance of information on everything? Doesn’t
such superfluous noise create yet another barrier between us and the "real
Not only that,
it’s frustrating to be in a gallery where the pace of viewing is governed by
the length of someone else’s audio clip!
These thoughts resurfaced
last month, when I visited the Damien Hirst exhibit at the Tate Modern. One of
the exhibits included a room with paintings of butterflies, accompanied by
living and expiring butterflies. Forty-nine people were admitted to the exhibit
at a time. In my group, I was struck by how at least 40 of them dutifully
concentrated on the recorded words – all the while quite oblivious to the butterflies
flying and dying around them.
another installation focused on self imposed restrictions got me to thinking
how these headsets were exactly that: self-imposed restrictions preventing
viewers from cultivating their own sensibilities and enjoying their own
reactions to the artworks. Listening instead to the droning voice of the biographer,
curator or critic hidden in the headset.
With all of that
said, I must confess to my own self-imposed restriction. You see, when it comes
to the world of sports, I like to watch the instant replays on the big screen –
the slowed down, over-analyzed versions of the games. Because then I somehow
forget that I didn’t have a clue to what was happening when it actually
So what does all
of this have to do with the 4th of July and random thoughts on
On the 4th
of July Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, an
important document in global political history. In many ways it is also a
celebration of the freedom of the human mind and human spirit. But…in and outside
of the US, in some mundane and some profound ways, people like to wear headsets
and "listen” to art – rather than celebrate some very core human experiences. Why?
I don’t profess
to know why people do what they do, but I have a theory that wearing headsets
in an art gallery is a metaphor for self-imposed restrictions that keep us from
experiencing non-verbal truths and realities. In the end, I think it’s about:
I have to concentrate and form my own opinions on things I’m not familiar with?
OK, I really don’t get what Hirst is all about and I’m not fond of dead
butterflies, but that is all beside the point.
Artists usually are hoping for unmediated aesthetic experience – sorry, no third
parties in headsets!
So there you
have it, and despite the opening caveat, maybe self-discipline, humility and
respect do have some relationship to the practice of family enterprise professionals!
In any case, if
this blog sets off fireworks in your brains (or eyes, ears or mouth), please
let us know! Controversy is at the heart of the 4th of July!
About the Contributor:
Judy Green is president of the Family Firm Institute. A frequent commentator in the field of family-owned business, Judy is the author of numerous articles and was the technical editor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Successful Family Business. Her article "Four Aesthetic Models for Relevant Research in the Field of Family Enterprise” appears in Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise. Judy is a member of the Advisory Council for the International Family Enterprise Research Academy (IFERA). In 2008, she received the Barbara Hollander Award from FFI. Judy holds a Ph.D. in aesthetics and education from Marquette University as well as a CSS certificate from Harvard University. Judy can reached at [email protected].