World Economic Forum Annual Meeting | Davos, Switzerland | Cultural Leader and "Down to Earth" book installation | 2018
In January 2018, I was invited to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, as a Cultural Leader. This was an enormous honor. The theme of the conference was "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World." My book installation, “Down to Earth,” consisted of nearly 8,000 books and measured 27 feet tall by 20 ft wide. It depicted people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life coming together and floating down to the music being played by a pianist. The books alone are a barometer of the pace of change and how fast we are moving. In the past, books were the primary sources of information and repositories of knowledge. Today, books are dying and knowledge is readily available at the push of a button or the click of a keyboard. This piece is about coming together and honoring our diversity as we envision a shared future.
As part of my Davos experience, I was a panel presenter on a session devoted to creativity and the creative process which was moderated by author and organizational psychologist Adam Grant. This was definitely a highlight of the conference. In addition, I gave two talks about "Down to Earth," my personal creative process, and sources of inspiration. I always enjoy connecting with people and talking about art.
One of the biggest surprises from the conference was that I was included in the seven top quotes from Davos, which was shared widely across news networks:
"My favourite part about a book is the smell of it. There's something about it. It defines who you are. I hate (technology), social media, all of it. It does nothing for me at all." -- Los Angeles-based artist Mike Stilkey, one of 40 'cultural leaders' invited by the WEF, going against the hi-tech grain that dominates the conference. Exhibited at the main conference centre, his eight-metre-tall installation is painted on the spine of 8,000 disused books.