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  • Writer's pictureSunita Asnani

#2 On ambiguity


This post is the first out of seven, where I write use cases for art-based facilitation.


A for Ambiguity


Latest since the Corona pandemic we hear it from everywhere: We live in a VUCA world. V for volatility, U for uncertainty, C for complexity and A for ambiguity.


If we can't deal with ambiguity, we might get stuck in fixed ideas or frozen by uncertainty. As an artist with a migrant background, I believe we can deal with ambiguity in an active and creative way.


Recognizing and celebrating the ambiguity of things, instead of perceiving it as a threat, is increasingly becoming a basic competence for shaping our lives and relationships.

This competence is also called aspect vision. The term comes from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and I got to know it through the philosophers of language Tine Melzer and Tobias Servaas.


Every event, every image, every word, every sound - everything in this world, can be perceived and interpreted in many different ways. A good example of aspect vision is the painting "Plaatsbepaling" (1994) by Frans Oosterhof with the six different headings. You can observe yourself moving from one interpretation to the next, interpreting the same picture six times in different ways.

To train dealing with ambiguity means to accept different points of view and possibilities of interpretation, to actively shape one's own interpretations. To open oneself with the senses and the heart to the manifold aspects of one's own world and those of one's fellow human beings.


Aspectual vision means looking beneath the surface to discover different aspects and meanings.

Contemporary artists consciously work with this game. Artistic practice often presents one with the experience of one's own construction of reality. Art-based methods and activities help to train the competence of aspect seeing. A simple way to experience aspect seeing is through exercises with images and words.


Application of aspect vision: A case study


Context

This case involved a client of our colleagues at SIGA (Swiss Institute for Global Affairs). The client is one of the largest organizations in Switzerland. During a two-day event, the cadre (49 men and 1 woman) was asked to work in small groups on topics such as digitalization, self-organization, agility, diversity, as well as their vision of the future for their organization. Basically, it was about reflecting on their own corporate culture and getting some impulses for a cultural change. For the workshop described here, we used the methods aspect vision and lateral thinking (the latter will be the topic in one of the next posts).


Workshop: Newspaper - Mapping

The participants randomly selected images from newspapers and put them together with new headlines. Through these sometimes astonishing or even radical combinations, new meanings emerged in the images and headlines. The next step was to create cross connections to their vision of the future. Through this procedure we allowed a fanning out of the ambiguity and opened a space for non-linear thought processes to bring hidden or less obvious aspects of the future vision to light.

The random compositions created an ambiguity that allowed participants to identify new relevant aspects and contexts for their vision of the future.

The correlations they worked out together using the images and headlines gave them a powerful language, which allowed them to talk to each other constructively about an unpredictable future.


Impact

The game of aspect seeing, was equally accessible to everybody since making mistakes was impossible. the task could not be solved logically, so they used associative, intuitive and emotional thinking instead. There was a creative flow in all groups and collaboration on the same eye level - which was not common for this organization. This was the optimal basis for discussing strategies and stages of the future vision in the further, more rational work steps.


The Newspaper - Mapping was chosen as one of the best results of this two-day event.



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