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Sunday, October 9, 2011

CERN: Where Art And Science Collide

Mark Rodman Smith sent me a link to share. You can address it by clicking here.

    It is a wonderful article by Ariane Koek and I think everyone in this project should read it. The last half of the article is extremely important especially for our quest here at the DNA of creativity. From an aesthetic point of view; what she is doing at CERN is almost exactly what we propose to do here at the DNA of creativity.
     I am also happy to find this article since it reinforces a lot of what I have been telling people for a long time: mainly that you have to know and understand the differences between art and science as well as understand the similarities to really approach creating new fully integrated expressions. Most Sciart is art illustrating scientific ideas, naturally making art subservient to the scientific aesthetic. In her essay Ms Koek lays out four different ways that art and science have been co-mingled, with three of them resulting in a failure. While we here at the DNA of creativity have said very similar things, I’d like to add some commentary on some parts of the essay. The following is an excerpt from her essay:

 Let me explain this fourth and more subtle strand in full. Arts and science are similar in that they are expressions of what it is to be human in this world. Both are driven by curiosity, discovery, the aspiration for knowledge of the world or oneself, and perhaps, as the conceptual artist Goshka Macuga said on her recent visit to Cern, a desire for world domination. She was half joking. But they express themselves in different ways: the arts through the body and mind, often driven by the exploration of the ego, contradictions and the sheer messiness of life; science through equations, directed, collaborative research and experimentation that works in a progressive, linear fashion. 

     There have been tremendous efforts and vast writing about what is similar between art and science, yet little is written about what is different. The second paragraph attempts to describe these differences, but I believe more can be said. When one says that art is expressed through the body and mind, one must think about the difference between craft and design. Craft is an expression that relies on physical prowess, while design relies on mental prowess. So, in effect, we are really talking about the dual aspects that concern the mixture of craft and design as they pertain to aesthetics. Just about every artistic expression has a multitude of aesthetic categories embedded within it (polyaesthetics, if you will). I think that aesthetics cannot be discussed with any accuracy unless you describe it polyaesthetically and address and categorize the experience in terms of their aesthetic components. To understand how polyaesthetic categorization works please click on this link.
     To further discuss some differences between the aesthetics of science and art, I would like to define a couple of aesthetic terms that I commonly use. I define the aesthetics of ‘pure’ art as an expression that finds its aesthetic in the realm of direct experience (no thinking, so to speak). When you look at an expression of ‘pure’ art you react to it, you don’t have to know anything about it or what it means. This is where I believe the dilettante expression -- “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” -- comes from. I define the aesthetics of ‘pure’ science as an expression that finds its aesthetics in the realm of thinking. (The beauty of thinking, you will.) The aesthetics of thinking is what makes science so beautiful, especially the formal sciences like mathematics. Understandably, there are very few expressions in our experience that fit perfectly and solely into these two categories. Just about every aesthetic expression out there is a combination of these two aesthetics, as well as many others.
    Now I must mention one other big difference between the expressions of science and the expressions of art, and this difference concerns itself with culture. I have coined a term that I call “Cultural Magnitude” which describes the size or magnitude of the culture the expression identifies or illuminates. Does the expression actually identify a culture? ‘Pure’ art always seems to fall into categories of expression within cultures, delineated as ‘civilizations of people’. Therefore most art would fall into the category of large cultural magnitude.
     I believe that science tries to create expressions that are universal in their intent and not ‘owned’ by any culture, even though at a philosophical level it may be impossible. Yet, in the vernacular, we don’t make science solely for the Chinese or Egyptians; or any other culture for that matter. We make it with the expectations that it will work for anyone. That said, we can look at the other side of the coin and notice that all scientific thought is created in a cultural setting.
      Cultures do create science, but do the scientific concepts identify the culture? Does the decimal point bring thoughts of Hindus? When learning calculus do you get visions of England or Germany? When you ponder Pascal’s triangle do you think of the Chinese, Persians or French? Do these cultures ‘own’ these ideas? What culture ‘owns’ scientific ideas? Is it the group of scientists that create it, or is it the universe that practices it? It is certain that you can study the cultures that surround the scientific concepts, but again the big question is: Does the concept express the culture? If it is truly a universal concept, then it expresses no culture, even though a culture produced it and ‘cultural magnitude’ is a moot point. If you think of culture as being any small group of people, then it can be said that a scientific concept may express the thought process of the group of scientists that produced it. Therefore the cultural magnitude is very small due to the cultural size being small.

So we must ask what are the cultural differences between science and art?

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