Friday, September 28, 2012

Art and Science in Smackdown!

In  his article "Science is more beautiful than art"  blogger Jonathan Jones says:  “From the Higgs boson to searching for life on Mars, science is overtaking art in its capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”
Anyway, it is surprising to see this because usually its religion that takes a huge bashing in the realm of “expanding minds and inspiring awe”. But it’s true that all three domains offer up such. Ah, the good old days when religion, science and art were seamlessly integrated like a zygote. Art and science  (not to mention church and state) could not possibly have been separated as it wouldn’t have been conceptually possible to tease them apart in the first place.
Art, science and religion (and, hello, philosophy) are all things that lay some claim to addressing “the meaning of life” and that they should go from integrated to disintegrated is the cost of technology.  Or something like that—I’m saying technology because it actually progresses.  (Thinking doesn’t really progress, if you ask me because our brains are essentially the same ones we started with when we crawled out of the Rift Valley.  Thoughts have changed, mind you.  But I don’t think we are more intelligent.  I feel I am on pretty shaky ground here, I’m no neurologist but this is my blog blah blah blah.)
Science is about empirical thought and testing and retesting.  This ends up with people on the moon, which, you’d be nuts to say isn’t impressive.
I’m not even going to go into the can of worms that is  the morass religion finds itself in today with regards to “its capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”….but ART?  Art can potentially enchant in many ways science cannot.  But does it bother?
EdwardWinkleman is upset by the article owing to what he sees as a false dichotomy.  What’s with the “us versus them” mentality?  Well…yeah…but that in no way accounts for the fact that science IS outdoing the arts with regards to  the “capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”.
I can see if all we are talking about is images, then art isn't doing so bad.  I like that pic of Neil Armstrong, but its neck in neck with this image:
And, I gather, in the minds  of many adoring fans, the frenetic sentimental spun-sugarvomit images of this guy:
But we're talking more than images. Why?  Because image is something that artists have fled from.  Image is too superficial.  Image is what those cheap and trashy celebrities traffic in. Art, especially conceptual art, is not about images.  Like science, its going for some deeper truth. least I think so.
If Art operates in a realm separate from science, the question remains, is it doing its job?  Oh right—its doesn’t have a job.  Art is unemployed.  No one can really persuasively argue that the function of art is “to expand minds and inspire awe”.  That’s quite a presumption in these post post post modern times.
Ugh.  Why am I even bothering with this nest  of iniquities?  Ok, as an individual artist, I have taken it upon myself, as MY job “to expand minds and inspire awe”
 And I can see with my very own eyeballs and hear with my earballs and sense with my heartballs  and get a shiver in my bellyballs that many people find much art bereft of awe and inspiration.
I won’t be giving examples to protect the possibly innocent.  But you know what mean.  You, the viewing public wants an art experience that’s awesome!  And this happens a tiny proportion of the time.  Like maybe at a blockbuster Van Gogh show.  Or with MUSIC, which I am not going to go into because as far as I can see, its got its own claim to awesomeness that’s very, very different from “visual” art  (Cliff notes: visual processing in the brain is radically different than auditory processing.)
The question is, has there always been so much dreadfully unsatisfying art?  Was there ever really a time when it was understood that the function of art was indeed “to expand minds and inspire awe” and therefore artists worked like crazy to make that happen?  Because I think that history tends to flush the toilet and we forget that there’s ALWAYS a vast proportion of art that utterly fails to do this.  And it ends up in dumpsters.
On the other had, there’s some good reasons to see that expectations of art have changed and they may liberate artists  from the oppressive chains of doctrine!  Woot woot! Artists are free to work with no master, be that political, intellectual or even practical….Hooray!  But... the cost of that is in the area of relevance!
It all comes down to expanding minds and inspire awe.  You can’t, on the one had say that art has no function, that it is not beholden to anything or anyone, that it is for its own sake only and then say that it does have a function.  If its function is “to expand minds and inspire awe” then artists need to get to work because the competition, i.e. science, is fierce!


Chris Rywalt said...

Science and art are not opposed and aren't in competition. Art is what you do after you've done your science. Science is work, art is play. No matter how abstract the science is, ultimately it has a purpose, which is understanding the universe and how it works. And understanding the universe ultimately has a purpose, which is making life better. And once you've made life better -- made it easier to get food and water, reduced pain and disease, opened up time for leisure -- what do you do with it? You enjoy yourself. And one of those things you may enjoy is art. (Science can also be enjoyed, as can understanding the universe. The funny thing about humans is, anything they can do, they can turn into a leisure activity.)

Judith Schaechter said...

Thanks, Christopher!
Setting them up as competitors does seem false for the most part. Art, having become very, very self conscious as a separate category (since, like 1500 or so) has struggled to define itself.
You could say that the detritus of science is art. All those Mars rover, and Hubbel images, if they aren't art what is?? Just because they weren't made with the intention to fullfil an "art mission" doesn't mean they aren't art. Just like the voluminous crap produced purposely to fulfill that mission often doesn't come close to qualifying.

Leon Syfrit said...

Art and Science are much like peanut butter and jelly-both are quite good by themselves, yet so much better together. I also like Fluffernutter and Nutella.

Art is "play" like Russian Roulette is a game.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the function of science is to make life & the world explainable; the function of Art is to make them bearable.

Judith Schaechter said...

Is that you Charlie? That's just about perfect!!!!
And thanks Leon, I agree!

Anonymous said...

Yep, Judy, it's me.