But beyond economic theory of the exchange of goods, Gibson’s work is also subsumed within the dynamics of sanctioning in the art world which can generally be described as consensus, but within the loftier realms of aesthetic taste can be indicative of what the economist John Maynard Keyes proposed as the “instincts, emotions and proclivities” that “influence and guide human behavior and thus determined consumer confidence.” These phenomena describe the workings of the “animal spirit” in economics, a concept “drawn from the Latin spiritus animales which may be interpreted as the spirit (or fluid) that drives human thought, feeling, and action.” If dreams are barometers of those instincts then it would come as no surprise that Gibson has alluded to the function of dreams in his work and in particular those of animal spirits that he sees as “guides in his work.” These are particularly embodied by the large caped figures, which he thinks of as “embodiments of these ancestral forms that he imagines have walked the Earth for hundreds of years.”
Today there is widespread recognition of the morass that western capitalism has put the world. It is as if the Keynesian animal spirits are in need of reorientation. We can see a co-tangency with Keynes’s ideas if we appreciate that Gibson is responding to “a spontaneous urge to action … rather than “an exact calculation of benefits to come,” in his response to his dreams/ visions. Arjun Appardurai would amplify this notion in his analysis of the dynamics of the movement of objects through nations and markets — a phenomenon that plays so directly and impactfully on the work of artists such as Gibson. For Apparadurai, the “work of the imagination” and the” circulation of forms” by means of “the negotiation and mutual tensions” between the parties involved in that circulation of forms and materials. “It is this negotiation which creates the complex containers which further shape the actual contents of local practice.” So it could be argued that Jeffrey Gibson is playing into a zeitgeist where a response to the psychic power of his work inspired the consumer confidence that results in market and institutional response and recognition.
This notion of locality — or community as noted earlier in this essay — is ascribed to Gibson in H.C Arnold feature on Gibson’s project of repurposing a blade of a wind turbine into a public sculpture for the 2017 Desert X festival in Coachella Valley. Arnold observes
Referencing the various communities of Palm Springs, [Gibson] bends the pronouns around, reminding us how identities shift according to who is talking. Regardless of which community is speaking, there is no denying the collective “we.” “We” is about diversity. It’s a pronoun that demands the sharing of both similarities and differences in that every collective is made out of individuals. And in the contemporary rise of the “us” versus “them” mentality, Gibson reminds us that we need to be saying “we” a lot more.
And Jennifer Held would hold Gibson up as an example of this concept in actuality when she observes that “the nurturing community that Gibson has created among his assistants in his Hudson, NY studio is the truest testament to his artistic goals. It is a communal environment of teaching and learning, and generally the best example of an artist/assistant relationship I’ve experienced yet.”
So in conclusion, the career of Jeffrey Gibson is a bellwether for a type of creativity that allows the empirical to be propelled by the intuitive. While he might not consider himself specifically involved in shamanism, art emanating from that perspective is rapidly gaining currency even in the hyperkinetic commerce of the art world. As writer Tess Thackera wrote in her posting on the subject, the subject even invaded the 2017 Venice Biennale where curator Christine Macel designated one section of the Biennale as the “Pavilion of Shamans.” But this trend is beyond ersatz new age or tribal simulacrum. Artists are engaging technology and augmented reality to enhance the viewer’s sense of transcendence as exhibitions in numerous mainstream venues have “pivoted away from an examination of the contemporary technologies that consume our lives, and toward forms of collectivity, self-care, shamanic rites, and an earnest interest in the sacred and ineffable”: all within the purview of the market. Thackera also records the opinion of the Chicano performance artist and provocateur Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who opines that, “The basic answers to our survival might lie precisely in the very indigenous communities that the corporate global project is rapidly destroying.” There lies the urgency and extreme cogency of Jeffrey Gibson’s evolution into an artistic, cultural, and economic force to be reckoned with in our contemporary context.