When perceiving interpretations and accounts of the world and it’s western society you will notice a few things, firstly science and physics are continuously shaping our views of this world. Whether we are observing the newest discovery in subatomic particles or attempting to decipher a new theoretical notion in quantum processes and calculations which physicists have developed. This at times often can be held as a fantastically brilliant art form as it does share similarities with art if you look at the narratives: a physicist proposes an equation, an idea then tests this in the experiment. Does the artist not take their idea proposes a matter of subject moving on to a very prolonged period of experimentation, in this angle of shared characteristics between art and science good gallery and exhibition space become like the laboratory, with which one achieves a certain greatness. Unfortunately this prodigious-ness falls short as both practices or fields of behaviour are currently failing our species. Why is this the case? One reason suffices to explain, both art and science are chained to the mast of the sinking ship that is known as knowledge. Do not be confused with this, as what is suggested here can be simplified in a very simple question. The question (which is extremely relevant to the relevancy of both subjects) is, as a human being what would you prefer to have when living experiencing your life, knowledge or understanding?
Now immediately many people may start to say ‘what’s the difference, are they so different?’ at first glance they are similar you can believe that knowledge is generated through understanding. However what one will propose here is that today we desperately need the above processes to develop and leave us with understanding, knowledge needs to be dethroned (or even destroyed?) – simply because it has become overtly possessive like the pimp that beats his whore. Putting it much more softly, if you know you will avoid the option for the helpful understanding. Within this suggestion one does hope to also show how art rather than science is naturally in the business of developing understanding, rather than science which has a long history of knowing. It is not the fault of scientists that their area of expertise carries this great weight and damaging characteristic as looking at their process of experimentation you see it is destructive; when using a hydrogen collider or ‘Atom Smasher’ they smash, break, and collide matter to get a waveform to analyse and use as data. This appears to be an experiment only the physicists are invited to partake in however that is not the case because every single one of us carries atom smashers on our bodies. Every time we blink we have been smashing photons to build a picture to understand our world. The difference being is that one has to use the language of mathematics to challenge the factual.
The other, or art, is not completely roped to numbers it remains and has been an experimentation with more mobility. The major retort to this suggestion will be one of being accused of operating within just a semantic, word game, metaphysically wish fulfilling co-ordinate to overcome these possible dismissals we will be taking a journey on the next shuttle or rocket into the universality. That is unknowing, on the way we will take our knowledge and see it absorbed in the hole of art. Art this fantastic black hole when it happens when you encounter a great work of art, you are invited to develop your understanding of it’s subject, the art arises from facts but is sitting on top true art has always been secretly driven by understanding it’s constructed by it shaped by it. Where as modern science is historically understood to have grown up on the highway from Scientia (Knowledge) through René Descartes’s X/Y Co-ordinates, to Isaac Newton’s scientific method, and arriving at quantum physics and mechanics. Again we should ask incisive questions to unravel the scenario we are exploring, let us start with the narrative of the similar and the different; regarding knowledge and understanding, in doing art in a world of science or equation. In a recent discussion with fellow artist Pavel Büchler, Hester Reeve shows her wonderment at the thinker Hannah Arendt’s comment on art, the conversation is under the title Doing Art Now.
‘I am struck by Arendt’s claims that art works are ‘thought-things’ first; they arrive into the world from the human capacity for thought, but this doesn’t stop them also being object-things. It’s this combination which is extraordinary about art.'(i)’ This extraordinary quality is what makes art the ideal breading ground for one’s understanding but what helped design this complex numinous un-edited space between thoughts and objects? Before we arrive at artists that are exemplar black circles that help swallow some knowledge to develop the above question let’s take a short detour with some philosophers, our destination is the space station of Aesthetics where Immanuel Kant and Jacques Derrida are waiting patiently. Fascinated to be in outer space they both made great steps in the ‘how art breads understanding’ Kant critiqued judgement on his fantastic path, his reaction to Newton’s new bread of science which at that time caused a major havoc, bringing into question the idea of God’s dominance. As it showed that the cosmos functioned within mathematical laws that could be created by a man. Kant’s great achievement was to turn this break in perception and show that even if with this new knowledge there was room for the knowledge that had thus far ruled over human endeavour. It is honourable that this thinker created his own set of laws to match the laws set by maths; thankfully Kant’s struggle to bridge the gap between empirical and rational views on art. Did not reaffirm the dominance of numerical physical fact instead his distinctions such as the ‘antimony of taste‘ (ii) and that of the ‘parergon’ (Greek for incidental or by-work), kept discussion open and full of subjectivity. Therefore we should be grateful to Kant because the open unique experience one can have with art whether it be associated with that of the sublime, the beautiful, the unsettling and the calming. Was protected through a Kantian distinction between inside and outside, which we will soon see is still very important in today’s habitat of the overwrought processes of knowing.
All knowledge we have today creates the type of lasting blindness you get from gawping at the sun. This blood red immobility is in contrary and in ignorance to that of an understanding in artwork; working on, in, and from a work of art both as a creator or viewer happens to create potentials. Such as those tied to the difficulty of developing a concise understanding; think about the notion that you can never know what an artwork is really about without speaking to it’s creator, whilst the artist’s work reaches it’s potential when it’s spectator or audience develops a response to it. Here we have a reality that is threatened by data and information, if you approach art and the work of an artist thinking you know their work and it’s meaning you distort the chance scenario. It is now in this current historical context that there is a chance to view the task of art differently. As an opportunity to get rid of your knowledge, another way of saying this is that to arrive at the real or actual value of art, one has to become aware that as a phenomenon art is innocently blind. Here the French philosopher Jacques Derrida offers us an opportunity, a reconstruction of an earlier deconstruction. In 1990 Derrida was the curator of an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, Memories Of The Blind, it opened with the painting The Origin Of Drawing (1791) which we will be an ideal example of the marvellous movement away from knowing and toward an understanding. It is precisely in this image you see Derrida’s attempt to highlight the lines between inside and outside. (iii) Highlighting the behaviour of object/thought relationships that are to be found in this confrontation with a sight from antiquity; Butades is frozen in time, her hand is busy tracing the shadow of her lover as she is facing separation from him for a reason unknowable to us. Although faced with this aesthetic it would be extremely common to understand or interpret that: a) the two are lovers, b) Batudes outlining of the shadow points to that which is exterior, the event that is still to take place or the future that is still to come, an epic frame for our situation today. Subordination to knowledge is not helping anyone it is doing the opposite hindering our attempts to arrive at a better purpose for each other’s life, a greater presence outside of cold fact.
Joseph-Benoît Suvée’s, Butades, The Origin Of Drawing, (1791).
Meanwhile Derrida is finding it hard to decide on if he should start to explain how this image also illustrates some of Plato’s core concept’s, but before he can decide he is accosted by another German bloke. Friedrich Nietzsche hobbles towards them apprehending Kant, ‘Plato is the name for a disease! Why would you ruin and ridicule this great example of human tragedy in it’s most needed form?’. Let’s not, as it seems that one of the most historically accepted renditions of the root of most art is that it is to be found either born out of or smearing itself in the muck of that which is tragic. For is it not tragedy or tragic what we are discussing? This deceit which is the toxic state of our knowing, what would a world look like if art and science where built without architecture that allowed for knowledge? Before we arrive at the black hole we shall play a word game to pass the time with one of the major paradigm shifts in the 20 century, the discovery of Antimatter. In this angle we have adopted a position that is anti – matter, this is in opposition to those matters often banded around, counted as being an adequate platform for knowledge not understanding. It is understood therefore there may be a super-massive Black Hole at the centre of every galaxy in the Universe, it is also thought that Black Holes created through the death of a star, create Antimatter. Thus this shadowy realm that physically exists next to, behind, or accompanying everything that one may observe. Is a new way that a being could arrive at a better reading of this Butades’s painting.
What one is trying to articulate and bring together is that understanding has the same positive properties to those found in the behaviour and event of this particular revolution in physics. Within this space in time there is yet more evidence of the strange embroiled relationship between science and art. In 1941 the ideas of the physicists Richard Feynmen and Ernst Stueckelberg collided, an idea that an anti-particle could travel backwards in time was released (iv). When asked why he did not publish his idea in a more prestigious journal, Stueckelberg said something like this: ‘because it was a time of war, it was impossible to find an artist for the diagrams.’, many would have been enlisted! Maybe, Ernst ‘as artist’ drew the diagrams himself? This suggestion however likely or false if it where true demonstrates the shared material of uncertainty that artists and scientists have been moulding, casting, and thoroughly falling through. Thus the level of uncertainty generated by an event like the devastation reaped by the atomic bomb landing on Nagasaki, has stayed with humanity the complete loss of life left a deep black shadow. One that forecasts a world continuously delineated by opportunities to sell products of knowing. It was with the knowledge that by dropping a nuclear weapon it would assert such devastation on the other, on the enemy that it would cripple them to the point of submission to imperial power. It actually had an effect of the aftershock of an earthquake, it highlighted the extent to which our species operate and function under a wider structure of a heavy evergreen knowledge.
It is in this manner that a reality whereby knowledge not science has a lot to answer for if it results in this kind of forgone shadow, as having this privileged position being able to look back in time. You may well adopt the logic that this had to happen or that it would have happened eventually. If this is so then it is not preposterous (as art has to happen) to propose that art creates a shadow of it’s own allowing not for the zero energy of knowledge but for the bottomless pit of understanding, the negative state of electrons on an invisible ladder of all unconscious quantum (v). This (how much?) attitude is all mortally and morbidly enlightening as on this spacecraft to art as passengers we begin to doubt questioning when we will arrive at the centre of the galaxy? It is a long journey and knowledge weighs heavy on the passengers, especially on those philosophers. As respite they all fall into a dream, whilst snoozing they land on a long and windy yellow brick road where all three thinkers are hoping to be awarded with a watch, diploma, and medal. These will have to wait as we have finally arrived at today’s black hole The Wizard Of Oz Experiment (2011) by the German artist Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube, is an example of this chance to banish knowledge. For this author it shows this by denying or manipulating the usual role of numbers and facts; because of it’s inherent process of re-using visual information, in a non-linear manner; a characteristic that is seen strewn throughout most of our creative efforts. With this video installation you do not know what the material is until that external experience. Then given the information that this work comprises of a screening of the original Wizard Of Oz film, side by side five thousand eight hundred and twenty nine times. All of this becomes irrelevant when confronted with the experience of viewing the work with a type of presentiment. This knowledge you have can be taken from you if you understand that when you start to look. With a preconceived idea of the contents of this work then the art itself distorts and destroys this, replacing it with an understanding that did not exist before you had the encounter. Looking at this work you can not actually observe any of the detail of the original material of the film. Another way of describing this anti-material behaviour of art is the simple understanding we have arrived at through quantum mechanics, particularly those destructive forces found when matter collides with it’s counter part (vi).
Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube, The Wizard Of Oz Experiment, film still from film installation, 2011.
i. Pavel Büchler & Hester Reeve, Labour Work Action: Transmission Annual: Doing Art Now, Ed. Michael Corris, Jasper Joseph-Lester, Sharon Kivland, P15, Artwords Press, 2013.
ii. Andrew Ward, Kant The Three Critiques, P.211, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2006.
iii. Jeff Collins, Bill Mayblin, Introducing Derrida, Ed. Richard Appignanesi, P.140-145, Totem Books, 2005.
iv. Frank Close, Antimatter, Oxford University Press, p102, 2009.
v. Ibid, p43.
vi. Jim Al-Khalili, Quantum A Guide For The Perplexed: Antimatter, Phoenix, London, p164-165, 2012.