2004/11/18

Where does the surf land us?

If visual arts have been, for a time during the Renaissance, in the vanguard of change in Europe, in the present times they are somehow out of the picture, marginalized in our societies by the confusion that they themselves help to entertain. Science and technology are indeed the leading shapers of new perceptions of reality. So I believe that the only way out of confusion is for the visual arts to follow in the footsteps of scientific discoveries and produce the visual signs of the new perception of reality that is shaping and emerging out of those discoveries.

- The failure of visual artists to grasp this opportunity is irritating and leading some scientists at trying their own hands at visual arts.(1) One could summarize those artists visions as stationary points of perspective plunging out of the realm of what the eye can see. With the help of microscopes and telescopes they are plunging either towards the micro/nano-scale or towards the macro-scale of the universe. Their photos are showing a visual reality seen from another environment than the environment where our human eyes can operate. The results are often stunning graphically and can't but foreshadow a new perception of reality, a new Zeitgeist, a new worldview that will spread in the conscience of humanity along this 21st century.

- The stationary point of perspective had been abandoned by the "avant-garde" as early as 1900 but science pulls us again inexorably towards visual representations drawn to points perspective. Science gives us today the means of 6 simultaneous points of perspective(2) that unveil a wholly new way of thinking and seeing reality.

- Another approach, more poetic perhaps, is the discovery out of automatism. The surrealists influenced by the early psychoanalysts Freud and Jung tried their hands at automatism, automatic writing and automatic painting but did not explore very far along that path.
In his treatise "On painting"(3), Leonardo often mentions the "admirable inventions" in the clouds, in streams, in dirt, in the irregularities and the shadows on a wall,... but he correlates the ability of the artist to seize the opportunities of those "admirable inventions" with his knowledge base. In other words, what one can see in those "admirable inventions" depends upon what one knows, thus implying that one can't see what one does not know. Furthermore, the possibility to use in a visual creation what one sees depends ultimately upon one's ability to complete the parts "ignored" in the images growing out of the "admirable inventions". Here Leonardo implies the knowledge of the parts that are not given by the "admirable inventions" but also the knowledge of the visual representation technique that is used by the artist.

- Globalisation is one of the facets of our future that will become determinant in the shaping of our daily lives. Art will not escape this fact. How will this turn out is not of our knowing but some trends will emerge that seem unavoidable. I personally think that the traditional Chinese Xieyi approach has the most promizing future, it is bound to revolutionalize visual signs and could thus be one of the prime shapers of the signs of our future worldview that is in the initial stages of development nowadays.
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But if science is the leading shaper of reality at the dawn of this 21stcentury, we should nevertheless remain conscient of its limitations and avoid to be enslaved as propagandists of what is most often no more than mechanic scientism. Science is an accumulation of knowings about micro realities and the sheer size of accumulation of such knowings about micro realities is having the effect of acting as a blinding agent upon knowledge. The elimination of this blinding effect is thus an imperative for the artist and this can only be done by integrating scientific knowings into the globalizing mold of philosophy.
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(1)Dee Breger
Ken Musgrave
Loes Modderman
Microangela
Molecular expressions
Martha Demenezes
Philip Galanter
Cell Imaging

(2)Book On Perspective Six points allows you to draw the total up, down, and all around scene. It gives students and artists a whole new way of thinking.

(3) Leonardo. On painting. Yale University Press. 2001.

(4) Xieyi painting. Meaning: "writing down the meaning"

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