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The Artist as Critic, the Artist as Catalyst, Degree Critical

I once heard a story about the peculiar planting methods of outdoor poinsettia farms. When the mature plants fill fields as far as the eyes can see, the broad, cadmium leaves create a glowing, monochromatic expanse—a uniformity that makes the harvesters unable to orient themselves within the environment. To remove this difficulty, the farmers plant rows of white poinsettias at various intervals to create a visual contrast. The simple intervention changes the harvester’s environmental perception: instead of indiscriminately plowing through a sea of infinite sameness, the individual becomes aware of her surroundings, reorients herself, and can then continue pursuing her desired task with heightened acuity. In today’s Western Capitalist society, a world inundated with the automation of devices and human activity, invisible interfaces regulating our actions, and the promotion of willful blindness, we need more white poinsettias.

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