Now playingSpaceCollective Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction.Introduction Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
Advertising has alot to do with Chaos Theory and I will show you how. However, lets start with a guy called Alan Turing who, by the way, was an absolute genius.
Many may not have heard of him, but on the 10th of September 2009, Gordon Brown made a formal apology for the way Alan was treated after the second world war. He (Alan, not Gordon – heaven forbid) was falsely accused of gross misconduct and offered imprisonment OR female hormone treatment to ‘cure’ his homosexuality. Alan took the 2nd option and after a significant bout of depression, ate an apple he had laced with cyanide. He was 41 years old and the year was 1954.
Alan Turing’s paper on chemical morphogenesis was the start of a realisation that life itself is constructed of random, uncontrolled events that produce ever-so-slightly different results each time. This, in addition to other work such as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, progressed thinking toward ‘Chaos Theory‘ which, in the late 60s, augmented the laws of Newtonian Physics which was based on predictable, organised structures. In actual fact it was a guy called Lorenz who realised that predicting the weather was a fallacy…such is the unpredictable nature of nature.
The predictable structures (exemplified in models of a ‘Clockwork Universe‘ for example), were fine and dandy until it was realised that even the most predictable and known elements could output totally random results. Blame was originally cast at anything other than the ‘machinery’ of life, but eventually theses like ‘The Butterfly Effect‘ prompted society to believe that indeed, chaos and unpredictability were stitched into the fabric of our very existence.
This infinite randomness showed extreme, ordered beauty and the maverick mathematician, Benoît Mandelbrot mapped out a complex picture which is infinite. The exact maths can be found here but put simply, it is self-creating (as seen in morphogenesis) due to a never-ending ‘feedback loop’. What is created, feeds back into the creating. Forever. It doesn’t simplify at any given magnitude, which qualifies the boundary as a ‘fractal’.
Some people call this ‘The Thumb Print of God’, but, perhaps more agnostically, I find it to be one of the most incredible pictures in the world – and here it is without any magnification, the Mandelbrot Set:
The more you travel through it, the more the fractals develop. Below is a very deep zoom into the fractals (and you can even run your own open source code to simulate the same if you are so inclined):
You may think – what the hell has this got to do with advertising….?? Well actually, quite a bit in my opinion.
The way I see it is that traditional advertising methodology is somewhat akin to Newtonian Physics. Solid rules with finite structures and predictable outcomes. This is perfectly valid and proven over many years.
However, the world we live in today challenges the interpretation of a brand and the usage of media channels, due to the extreme interactivity of citizens and the commoditisation of (previously) corporate-level technology.
People are empowered to have an opinion and publish it widely. Brands can be built and destroyed by the public without any involvement of advertisers.
What this means for advertisers is that involvement doesn’t stop when work goes out the door and the creation of a brand itself, actually includes the people that were once seen to be on the receiving end of communication.
Totally random outcomes are unpredictable and instantaneous in today’s ultra-connected society and our beloved brand ‘onion’ and brand ‘key’ needs to be augmented to allow for this, in the same way as Newtonian Physics was augmented by Chaos Theory.
Where before the brand models had integrity and values emitting from a core to a waiting audience, we now see random cells (citizens) having a morphing effect on brands at every stage of the process.
As a disclaimer, at this fluid world we are starting to assist advertisers all over the world on what can be done to enjoy this opportunity, and this is just the beginning. The more you consider the biology of business, the Chaos Theory we see in real life is actually here and now in terms of communication – commercial or otherwise.
The only thing you can predict accurately is the unpredictable results.
Some random thinking perhaps... Dont be too hard on me ;-)
There is an underlying unity to all particles that make up the matter of the universe; all these particles comprise entities, large and small, flowing in a never ceasing cycle of chaos and order. As elsewhere in the universe, this cyclic behaviour is present in our own galaxy, on our planet and in everything we do and see around us. At times the seeming chaos of our universe is noticeable—a volcanic eruption, the Aurora borealis , the flare of sunspots seen through a telescope—events that we have named and, therefore, having named, say that we “understand.” At other times, what appears to be chaos happens on such a minute scale as to be invisible; a reality elegantly illustrated in Powers of Ten, the 1968 documentary by American designers, Ray and Charles Eames.
We seldom truly apprehend the natural order that exists in our world, even though we say we understand it not just visually, but kinaesthetically, and in our subconscious minds. Human beings have an innate need to impose order on reality; and we clamp it on reality even at the most casual levels. Who does not recall lying in the grass and seeing a rabbit, an eagle or a car in a cloud? The converse, with rare exceptions is not true: No cloud in a rabbit, an eagle or car. Yet Picasso’s four black lines on a simple white canvas is perceivable as a woman’s backside; an ordered, understandable, nameable object to be categorized.
Our minds are programmed with a need to organize what we perceive as chaotic. They sift through what we see as disordered, and prescribe it to form conclusions about our environment, the objects in it, the spatial differences, what might be harmful, what useful, and what presents a danger. As Rudolf Arnheim wrote in his seminal work, “Entropy and Art” that:
‘Order is a prerequisite of survival; therefore the impulse to produce orderly arrangements is inbred by evolution… Order is a necessary condition for anything the human mind is to understand. Arrangements such as the layout of a city or building, a set of tools, a display of merchandise, the verbal exposition of facts or ideas, or a painting or piece of music are called orderly when an observer or listener can grasp their overall structure and the ramification of the structure in some detail. Order makes it possible to focus on what is alike and what is different, what belongs together and what is segregated.’
It’s all about the Fractals, Baby
In reality, there is not one particle in the entire universe out of place and, nothing is ever actually in a state of disorder, although we may grasp it this way. The mathematics of fractals shows that the irregularity of a coastline, as pictured on a map, is illusionary (Richardson, 1961). The coastline is as ordered as its fractal iteration of the same structure at arbitrarily small scales.
“Fractals represent a new geometry that mirrors the universe.”
It is our eyes that see a conclusion in the illusion and chaos. Our eyes relate it to our being, and inform us of an image, concept or solution. In the field of quantum mechanics, it has been theorized that an object can exist in multiple states, multiple dimensions, and multiple positions. Perhaps our view of an artwork such as this is quite ‘one dimensional’ with out the ability to reduce the image instantly with our eyes and in return, make sense of an otherwise chaotic and abstract image.
If, we apply this quantum idea to abstract art, then no art is actually abstract, and, it is simply our limited and inferior ability to perceive form, colour and object to a degree analogous to that which we see as ordered, ‘non-chaotic’, and representational of natural form. I'd like to deconstruct so-called “abstract” art to show that while the concept was created to explain a new way of seeing to Westerners by European artists, it may be about time for it to retire.
No such thing as ‘Abstract’
Abstract art is as dead and as dated as its early 19th century founders. We should abandon the idea of abstract art as a representation of the surreal and take into consideration that much of what was once startling and new to our predecessors is now a quotidian reality. Three white right angle triangles on a blue canvas equal three sailboats on the sea. As simple as a child’s drawing, or a cave woman’s. Ironically, abstract art returned us to a primordial state of first sight. We can now see the players in the puzzle piece of Picasso’s “Three Musicians,”and yet today, advances in science and mathematics, astronomy and physics, hint at more than the eye can see. Perhaps, even more than the whole body can apprehend.
Abstract art— also called non-figurative, non-objective and non-representational art—is defined as a visual language of form, colour and line to create compositions free from visual references to the world. From the Renaissance to the middle of the 19th century, Western art was built on the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. This was coupled to an earlier adherence to the principles of Classical Greek and Roman art, especially its sculpture and painting. The ideas of balance, beauty and harmony and a delight in replication, drove them to produce on the basis of a perceived reality. Abstract art, on the other hand, departs from this visible reality. It exists along a continuum— from slight variations of the representative, such as Henri Matisses’ reclining nude, to conspicuous alterations in colour and form, the works of contemporary painter Jose Parlá , to a total relinquishment of reality as seen in the compositional pieces of Piet Mondrian which seem to retain the ‘sensation’ of structure and relate directly to architecture, while being completely ‘abstract’ in nature.
In contrast, the arts of prehistoric peoples and non-European cultures have always incorporated alternative ways of portraying visual experience that included so-called abstract elements. Indeed, African artwork so often tends to favour visual abstraction over naturalistic representation as to be one of its defining characteristics, especially in textiles and wall paintings. The nonlinear scaling of the Kuba cloths of Zaire , for example, is characterized by dynamic symmetry, one small design repeating in a much larger pattern, exactly like that found in geometric fractals.
It was the discovery and appreciation of African, Micronesian, Native American and Asian art in the early 20th century by artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, co-creators of Cubism in 1907, that unhitched Western art from the two-century dominance of Greek and Roman humanistic ideals. Picasso said he experienced “a revelation” after seeing African art at the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro in Paris that same year. A 19th century Fang sculpture of a stylized, elongated face influenced two figures in his painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
Today's perception of abstract art dates to that period and evolved to what is termed pure abstractionism such as the works of well known artists Kazimir Malevich and Henri Matisse. Thus, here in the 21st century, while our eyes may consider one female face ideal and of perfect structural composition because it is perceived as the most efficient and functional structure of a face in our culture, we can equally recognize and appreciate the essence of a female in Braque’s Woman with a Guitar or in Austria’s “Venus of Willendorf,” created between 22,000 B.C. and 21,000 B.C.
Our Westernized minds have, once again, learned to deconstruct chaotic patterns until a more definitive, orderly structure appears. This simplification of structure is an observable feature present in our perception of music as well. The arrangement of a musical piece may please our ears or annoy them because its melody sounds “unorganized,” random and chaotic, as with the many iterations of free jazz or so-called “atonal” music.
In fact, composer Arnold Schoenberg, most often associated with atonal music, objected to the term, preferring “pan-tonal,” for the exact same reason I argue that “abstract” is a dead, useless term:
"The word 'atonal' could only signify something entirely inconsistent with the nature of tone …to call any relation of tones atonal is just as far-fetched as it would be to designate a relation of colours aspectual or a-complementary. There is no such antithesis."
- Arnold Schoenberg
So, too, with ‘abstract’ art, which must of necessity be a far-fetched notion vis-à-vis colouration and form.
Confronted with the abstract, the mind will automatically search for a recognizable pattern in an arrangement of colours or shapes until it can translate those into what it believes to be a reasonable solution for structure. Once Westerners became accustomed to abstract art, they began to be able “to see” it. They drew comparisons between “known structures,” or objects they had seen and could relate to a thought, sound, feeling or smell. A figurative work, such as William Bouguereau’s stunning figurative work entitled “Femme Au Coquillage”provides easily identifiable elements, representational of the simplest ability of our eyes and minds to see and processes of shape, colour, and meaning from our world that are familiar and comforting to our senses. This eases the challenge of questioning or understanding the works meaning or relevance. When the same figurative work is ‘abstracted’ , like Picasso’s ‘Women with Flower’, it has not necessarily lost its value as a figurative work, our eyes perhaps simply lack the ability to reconstruct the image which has, in the language of the universe, taken one step closer towards entropy. Without order, things fall apart, but when there is an excess of order and structural refinement, so-called abstract art, too, collapses.
Entropy and Art
The Western world’s embrace of “abstract” art was concomitant with the rise of science and its displacement of religion. Entropy is a scientific term usually associated with the amount of order, disorder and/or chaos in a thermodynamic system. But the entropy of science was quickly applied to the wrenching fin de siècle cultural changes brought on by industrialization, the rise of cities and displacement of human kind, and especially was it applied to the visual arts. The concept of entropy epitomized for many the social dislocation and degeneration that began with the end of Victorian age; it seemed the world was running down and would eventually stop.
The nature of this new world brought new rules, new questions and most importantly, new interpretations of society. The art world, artists themselves, had unique and feasible means to explore the topics of this new cultural construct. Artists began to explore new ideas in relation to advances in technology, medicine, science, cultural theory, and philosophy and presented viewers with a new, sagacious and deconstructed view of their material world.
A whole series of art -isms arose as a result: Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Expressionism, Futurism and the so-called “anti-arts” of Dadaism and Surrealism, all representing an evolving world on the precipice of a visual revolution.
The shock of this new (I argue, renewed) way of seeing was deemed by many commentators as proof of an entropic universe, and the decay of “real” art. Physician and social critic, Max Nordau, went so far as to ascribe to the Impressionists an actual physical disorder in his book, Entartung (Degeneration). He thought these artists degenerates and attributed their pictorial style to nystagmus, a congenital, or acquired, rapid, oscillatory movement of the eyeball. He thought their veering away from the acceptable norm of seeing was due to nervous exhaustion brought on by modern life and technology as well as to syphilis and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics.
Though the immediate horror of the law of entropy on human life gradually subsided when it was realized that it would take aeons before the universe collapsed upon itself, still the concept continued to play out in the arts and humanities as artists wrestled with their own mortality.
According to Arnheim, this romance of the entropic is illustrated in two stylistic trends in abstract art: extreme simplicity and “accidental” or deliberately produced disorder.
Simplicity can be seen in the expressiveness of pure colour in Henri Matisse’s Woman with a Hat and Landscape at Collioure and in the work of Russian painter Kazimir Malevich. Malevich’s 1913 Black Square is literally a black square on a white ground. The black square, however, was not empty—entropy—as his critics claimed. It was, Malevich said, "filled with the spirit of non-objective sensation," the areas of white in the compositions was "the free white sea" of "infinity."
His 1918 White on White, took that infinity to the extreme with one white square neatly superimposed on another until both are nearly invisible. Malevich was fascinated by aerial photography and his elemental approach to art was much influenced by the look of aerial landscapes, a new visual environment that brought about a change in his perception.
“Suprematism,” he said, “is the rediscovery of pure art which, in the course of time, had become obscured by the accumulation of "things."
To this day, we continue to see this elementalism in the parallel striped canvases of Irish-American painter Sean Scully and the late Gene Davis of the Washington Colourist School.
This would seem to be the essence of modern abstract art, removing any element of the pictorial and relying solely on the empathic feel of colour. Yet the Aboriginal artists of Australia have been painting this way for thousands of years and contemporary artists like Gloria Petyarre continue that tradition. So are the Aboriginals artists devolving into entropy and chaos, or did Western artists rediscover their radical “abstract” beginnings?
Arnheim contrasts the pure colour simplicity of a Malevich or Matisse with that of the “found art” of Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp, etc., and the “action painting” of Willem DeKooning, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and others. These groups, he wrote
in Entropy and Art, cultivated “accidental or deliberately produced disorder , a predilection that can be traced back to compositions of randomly gathered subject matter in Dutch still life, untidy scenes of social criticism in the generation of Hogarth, groups of unrelated individuals in French genre scenes of the nineteenth century, and so on.”
Far from random, however, these artists carefully selected, arranged, posed and structured the disorder with talent and imagination. The splashes, sprays of paint, crumbled metal, constructions or arrangements are controlled by the artist's sense of visual order, which may or may not become apparent to a viewer, depending on his/her perceptual ability. Even the laws of chance that seem to underlie the paint dribbles and streaks are misleading. Pollack, for example, carefully observed his work, attempting to balance colour and texture, adding, layering. What may initially appear chaotic in Pollack is no more so than would be a picture of the Crab Nebula.
Pollack’s work shows a painterly economy that, if the viewer will let the work do its work, presents a balanced, even meditative sense. The redundancy of drizzles and their arrangement does not lessen the aesthetic experience.
Thus, a viewer would not see a procession of identical human figures on the walls of the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, as redundant because their mass seems
appropriate and representative of a religious gathering. Pollack’s paint splashes and Andy Warhol’s silk-screen compositions of rows and rows of the same image may seem puzzling and meaningless at first, a mere visual patterning, without some reference to mechanistic modern life and the cult of celebrity.
Deciphering the Visual Code
Abstract art often presents the viewer with the difficult challenge of deciphering the visual code of a work and relating its meaning in the mind. Similar to a complex arrangement of sounds, this does not necessarily mean that no formative pattern exists, or that there is an absence of meaning in the work, perhaps our eyes simply haven’t evolved enough to transmit the signal to our brains and our brains lack the same evolutionary comprehension.
If we focus our attention away from ourselves as the ‘ultimate deciders’ of reason and order, and assume for a second that we might actually lack, at the present stage in our evolution, the ability to think differently about structure and arrangement, because our sense organs constantly betray us, then perhaps it can be postulated that it is we, human beings, who may not be as capable of understanding the complexities of order as we believe. For example, we are still unable to see all of the colours in the light spectrum, and that light plays a critical role in our visual perception of objects, without which we loose our ability to see.
Perhaps our minds have evolved unbeknownst to us? Is it not completely plausible that Cubism, where the subject is altered but obviously taken from our environment, is simply the mind’s evolved way of depicting the chaotic structural complexities of beings and particle interactions?
We need a new set of descriptors for this new century—a new generation and a new way of considering our perceptions of the world. It seems so very natural for a person to assume that evolution was something that happened a long time ago when man went from the ape-like (homo-erectus) to human beings (homo-sapien).
Why do we not take into account that the ever changing chaos of the universe allows for the continuation of time itself, and that this inevitably influences our genes and perceptions of that which we create; an idea that may serve to potentiate our own evolution
Chaos is fundamental in the universe and is a necessary element of time and the evolution of change. Order and abstraction are the two adverse elements that teeter on the fulcrum of chaos. Abstraction of an image creates chaos in our minds and makes understanding an object reasonably more challenging, yet not impossible.
As Malevich declared: “Art can advance and develop for art's sake alone, regardless of its pleasure: Art does not need us, and it never did.”
One hardly knows where to stand or how to look when one takes this approach to art. Faced with Pollack’s squiggles and Malevich's off-centre squares, one may not even know which end is up. But that may be more a human limitation, the tension between our desire for balance and order, than a limitation in the art.
Abstract Art Abstracted
Certain artists have directly confronted the tension between balance and chaos in art, arguing that, as the world goes global and technology speeds us faster, art should reflect the destructiveness of the world humans have created. Artists should use traditional art techniques or collaborate with scientists and engineers, even Nature itself, to create art that mirrors the pace and displacement of life in our modern world.
Just as certain island cultures build temporary shelters in which to mark the arrival of spring, then watch as the surf bears them away, so too this art is constructed for a single occasion or allowed to fall apart over time, the experience of the structure or the deterioration open to the unique, individual interpretation of the viewer.
The pictorial and the abstract are completely abandoned for the experiential.
Gustav Metzger is a principle proponent of this kind of art, though he sees his works as a cry against the heartlessness of capitalism. As such, Metzger’s art focuses on the relationship between creation and destruction as in his 21 upended willows in Flailing Trees, a statement about the environment.
Metzger developed what he calls his ‘highly political Auto-Destructive Art’ and the ‘Art Strikes’ movement to address the destructive drives in both capitalism and the art market economy. Each of his works of art contains the seeds of its own destruction, or is destroyed by its creator. One of his intentions was aggressively playful, with the intention of creating finite works of art that were unable to be marketed and sold as commodities.
In his manifesto, “Auto-Destructive Art,” issued in November, 1959, Metzger explained his art this way:
"Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies.
Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of idea, site, form, colour, method and timing of the disintegrative process.
Auto-destructive art can be created with natural forces, traditional art techniques and technological techniques.
The amplified sound of the auto-destructive process can be an element of the total conception.
The artist may collaborate with scientists, engineers.
Self-destructive art can be machine produced and factory assembled.
Auto-destructive paintings, sculptures and constructions have a life time varying from a few moments to twenty years. When the disintegrative process is complete the work is to be removed from the site and scrapped."
Metzger is often seen as the precursor of the installation artists of the 1970s but one could argue that Kurt Schwitters is the originator and Metzger the progenitor because Schwitters constructed The Merzbau in his house in Hanover, Germany, in 1933.
Installations, whether they work inside or in the great outdoors, play with conceptions of space by transforming interiors and exteriors with constructions, sound, video, performances, digital and the internet. Installation art tries to address all the senses, to wrap the viewer in a holistic experience. It may be abstract like Metzger’s video work , "Liquid Crystals" , or as familiar as rain, as in the work "Rain" , by American artist Stacee Kalmanosky, consistent of clear plastic beads on fishing line.
Such art narrows the space between the art and the viewer, breaks through the fourth wall so to speak, in such a way as to offer a virtual reality without the computer simulation, a 3-D experience without the glasses, a reach beyond human physical limitations until we evolve to the point where we can experience art in every dimension the artist explored in the arts creation. It is what gives graphic computer games their popularity and the thrill experienced in a CGI movie like Avatar. We humans want to experience more of our environment, more of our world, more of our psyche. Humans are infinite on the molecular level, but we’re still finite on the bodily, subject to entropy and endings until our species takes the next evolutionary leap. Will it be science and implants that will allow us to view art in a new way? Will we need to breed a physically different species as described by the science fiction writer Octavia Butler in her novel, Wildseed?
Until then, we can take the words of Andre Malraux in kind, who once said:
'In a world in which everything is subject to the passing of time, art alone is both subject to time and yet victorious over it'.
The Forces that Be, an application of the unified theory
The basis of these observed principals of balance and forces present and acting in and upon planet Earth and in the universe came the discovery of unified forces. These, singular ‘contact forces’ were a result of combined principles in different fields and produced such unified theories as gravity and electromagnetism. We could paint our world as a very colourful place, full of diversity and uniqueness or perhaps say ‘Planet Earth is full of homo- sapiens who share many common physical traits, thoughts, and ideas’. However, if we apply a unified theory to our species, homo sapiens, combined with all of the other organisms on earth, and then combine those with the forces reacting upon the earth, and even further, with the forces present in the universe, we end at a rather singular point: That all matter is one particle, comprised of many particles of matter combined with multiple reactions acting upon that matter, ‘clothed’ in a shell of more matter. As we go farther and farther down the chain of particles from the singular to the unquantifiable, one could note the trend of gradual ‘inferiority’ which when speaking of our species defines why we may lack the ability to actually see all of these forces and particles in action and, thus, inhibiting our ability to realize the past present and future as a single moment and eliminate any ‘uncertainty’ as the French philosopher, astronomer and statistical genius, Pierre-Simon Laplace hypothesized.
Laplace suggested that it is quite possible that an intellectual who possessed enough mental stamina could potentially see all of time existing in one common moment. He stated:
“An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit this data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
When one takes into consideration a multi-dimensional universe where a ‘dimension’ can consist of an abstract idea, or thoughts and not of the three-dimensional world which we see before our eyes daily, then we can begin to understand the idea of eventual evolution to a state of possessing the abilities to see the past, present and future simultaneously.
During our current age, humans may never be able to see this state of present and future as Laplace describes. We simply lack the tools in which to do so physically. Mentally, it may someday be possible if we simply lack the physical tools to know at this present time in our existence?
It could be said that enough chaos has simply not ensued yet in our world. If chaos can be quantified and we take into consideration that all things in someway strive to reach a state of entropy and order and those things can be seen as forces as well, then does that not mean that chaos, the erratic behavior of all of the particles in the universe occurring amidst the order must too reach a level of entropy before evolution can occur?
With these ideas in mind, one can argue that there truly are no ‘abstract’ works of art in existence and the same could be said for ‘conceptual’ works of art. It can be argued that to bestow a title of ‘abstract’ or ‘conceptual’ simply ignores all possible limitations we posses in our abilities to ‘see the thought’ that is the work when we visualize it in idea form, solid state and comprised of multiple particles with high entropy and low-dimensional complexity; the work of art existing as an extension of the artist who created it on a different plane , but more specifically, an extension of the artists thought and the way the artist’s brain processes information, a process considered uniquely dependent upon the individual.
Let us consider the bold, black and white tachismic works’ of Pierre Soulages that with this principal applied would, when hung say, side by side with a figurative painting by de Goya in the National Gallery, produce little or no reaction amongst viewers . It could also be said that there is a strong connection between this idea of a definitive abstract human visual state and the thought of a more complex thought and mind-based state.
Life becomes simple once we realize there is a point to it.
In no way am I stating that this case would be ineffectual to viewers, or that shock or confusion might not be created in this scenario, but, I am speaking on the theoretical grounds that when we apply a new method of seeing an image of abstraction, and take into consideration forces which, like gravity, were once a mystery and then factor in our own potential physical and mental limitations for viewing, then we can begin to question if there is such a thing as abstract art or if it is an idea, simply dated.
The ideal work of art which strives to truly communicate to the viewer would employ the use of all or most of the human senses. This can truly connect the viewer directly with the artist as many abstract works are indeed an idea, feeling and circumstance, “abstracted”. These methodologies require the employment of all of the human senses in order to make up for what people may not have yet evolved to see.
If the universe follows a chaotic pattern which makes it a universe of probability vs determinism, then art, being contained and interconnected in that universe is inevitably, unpredictable and chaotic. But no matter how much one abstracts an image of the human form, we can take for example Merleau-Ponty’s idea of interconnectedness and environment reactivity to say that while our eyes may not grasp the work and all its meaning, we must take into account the art as an object itself in an environment, as say a painting vs. a drawing.
If we look at Malraux’s view of art as a transcendent object where the subject speaks to us in a non- verbal manner and through that we understand it, then we can look at the work as more closely related to particle theory and many forces coming together to create one force a force that serves a purpose, we may not understand its connection and function as of yet, but we will eventually. Just like gravity. An assumption can be made that at the moment because it engages our visual cortex, sometimes our physical, then we can say it is related to all things, but mostly language as language, written is visual or physical (Braille).
So what does the potential to deconstruct an artwork mean in all this? Can we “tidy up” art works in order to achieve entropy? The Swiss artist, Ursus Wehril , seems to think so. He takes various paintings and ‘organizes’ their matter based on colour, shape or content.
Although this takes the task of viewing to a new level of simplicity, it still fails to take us to another ‘dimension’ in understanding the work, its substance or even its creator.
One need not step very far outside of our own planets galaxy in order to witness the bewildering and remarkable beauty of the universe. Elegant particles erupting from the nuclei of dying stars, black holes, the ‘smoking guns’ of the universe, devouring the fabric of time in a sea of celestial matter nestled within the infinite darkness of space.
What is it about space and time that denies us our ability to describe it with any accuracy or at best a mediocre appropriation of words? Perhaps it’s chaotic and volatile nature, or the mystery of its beginning? Maybe it is our elementary language that fails us. Or perhaps our species has not evolved enough to see its boisterous elegance? No matter how organized the universe may appear in our minds, or how ‘tidied’ a painting is, there still remains a vital lack of information. So where is it?
"How would a creature limited to two dimensions be able to grasp the possibility of a third?”
– The Triangle
The novel "Flatland", an imaginative, delightful novel about the inhabitants of a two dimensional world. A. Square, the narrator of the tale, journeys through lands of no dimension, one dimension, and three dimensions, and learns not only the differences in terms of geometry and mathematics, but also of the social order and the class hierarchy. Through his journey, A. Square becomes convinced of other, yet undiscovered dimensions, but when he attempts to teach his countrymen of such concepts, he is imprisoned. First published in 1884, "Flatland" still holds a charming place in literature, both as an instructional guide to dimensional spaces as well as a barbed, harsh, satiric narrative of the social structure of Victorian society.
We tend to see art on a canvas in a two dimensional way when describing the visual process. Although the objects may be portrayed on the canvas in a three dimensional world, our viewing of the work happens in a different dimensional space, one inclusive of both the 2D, 3D, and the 4D. The process of our ‘looking’ at the work creates a mental 5th dimension of thought and relationship to the objects we are seeing, but we still may fail in deciphering the visual code and piecing together a mental 6th dimension of deconstruction solely based on the inferiority of human vision.
In superstring theory, which describes all of the particles and forces of nature as vibrating, supersymetric ‘strings’ it is suggested that there are multiple ‘compacted’ dimensions which may take the form of a 6 dimensional shape known in mathematics as a Calabi-Yau manifold,
so named for the two mathematicians who discovered it, Eugenio Calabi and Shing-Tung Yau.
This shape which is described as being in constant motion on points on a plane as the dimensions sit on vibrating strings and continuously fold in on themselves may contain a key to understanding the secrets of how extra dimensional space may effect our ability to reconstruct scattered, ‘abstracted’ visual data. To understand how these extra dimensions work we can examine an example provided in the research document ‘Black holes
and the existence of extra dimensions’, by Rosemarie Aben, Milenna van Dijk, and Nanne Louw. Which gives an excellent example on how to visualize multi dimensional space:
“The 2-dimensional surface looks 1-dimensional when its radius is small. For the dancer, the surface is small and she sees it as a one-dimensional rope. However, the ant is small compared to the rope and it sees it as a 2-dimensional surface. That is why for us we do not see the branes , their radius is much smaller than the world we live in.”
In relation to an abstract painting, if we were to stand back and observe the work from a distance of say 5metres, we would only be able to see the 3 dimensions that directly relate to the ability of our eyes and are, at that moment unaware of others which exist on a smaller scale. If we were to posses the power to view the painting from let’s say, the perspective of a microbe, we would potentially be able to see the way the work was constructed, the technique used to construct it, from what angle it was formed by the artist etc. In this sense, the work becomes not just an object in a 3D space, it is now an entirely different world, and therefore has an entirely different meaning, a meaning of which may make it possible for us to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.
Form, and in return, we can no longer apply a passive abstract label to it.
A Means to all Ends
The future is upon us, and a change in our perception is a necessary attribute for a new visual language. Can we really say that there is no abstract art if everything can be tidied up and if we would eventually posses the power to see more dimensions?
With the new sciences of the future—nano-science, DNA manipulation, interplanetary travel, we may discover new ways of seeing and new ways of uncovering the truth in abstract artworks. If one endeavours to explore modern day theories on mental health issues etc, they can also provide us a basis for understanding that we, as a race, may only begin to grasp. Although our technology is advancing, the social climate is changing with every new generation, and our willingness to absorb this new technology is far greater than that of those living in the 1950’s we still seem to grasp to old notions of describing art. Why not revise our definitions now with the knowledge that there is a vast, undiscovered universe that surrounds us? With the knowledge that there exists common patterns and order in everything from coastlines to the clothes on our backs we can begin to rest assured that we will soon discover the power of the natural order and the unity of particles and while we may not fully understand the actions of the universe, we can begin to assimilate our relationship to it and what that implies for the future.
Our ‘everyday’ world, the people and things we see before us are perhaps seen in an unfortunately limited dimension of life and existence at this time. This is not however an inescapable fact, or one that cannot change in an instant. When you visit a gallery and stare hard a work of art, move closer to it and begin to visualize the ultra- microscopic world it harbours, then there becomes a need for the eyes and mind to evolve to understand and to improve. The thought of, as the quantum physicist, Steven Hawking stated, “Our Universe in a Nutshell”, is indeed a truly amazing idea and one that houses infinite possibilities. If we begin to see a work of abstract art, or any art for that matter as it’s own mysterious entity, as its own ‘universe in a nutshell’ we can begin to see a new dimension in art; one born of the intriguing, and often times misunderstood human mind, and with a new desire, new knowledge, and a new ‘need’, the evolution of the human mind and body may very well begin at this very moment in time.
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SpaceCollective is a joint initiative of filmmaker Rene Daalder and designer Folkert Gorter. Daalder is the project's main author and creator of The Future of Everything. Gorter is the site's interaction designer and the curator of the Gallery. System architecture and technology created by Josh Pangell. The Future of Everything episodes are edited by Aaron Ohlmann and produced by American Scenes Inc; executive producer: Joseph Kaufman.