The power of the visual object, aesthetic and otherwise is that
it can carry and express things which are inaccessible to words.
If words alone are sufficient then the visual quality was
probably inessential in the first place. Words are powerful
things in their own right. It is easy enough for them to hold our
attention and thereby to obscure visual understanding.
As an artist I create art to express things which I cannot
adequately put into words. If you scan my work what you will have
at best is a poetic work of your own device with my work as your
subject. Potentially we would have two separate and distinct
works of art!
There is a great deal of work which probably does not suffer much
in translation from paint or stone to the scanning word. A great
deal of art has been created over the years in the West which
responds to the same mentality as scanning. This is a perfect
match. Both processes share the same mechanistic and reductionist
roots. We have more than 20,000 years of art most of it not made
in the western academic and philosophical tradition; most of it
can hoever be shoe-horned into that tradition through scanning.
If nothing else, in non-western art, entire lexicons of aesthetic
terminology and values, whole new sets of principles and elements
pertinant to a work are not going to be reflected in the act of
scanning. When we scan a non-western or pre-renaissance work we,
in effect, describe a new, western, post-renaissance work which
would be unrecognizable to a person/artist of its time and place
of origin. That's a pretty heavy reduction.
The basic principles and elements which we are so familiar with
and which we so easily assume and pull into our discussions have
had competition over the millennia. There is a huge body of
material relavent to the art of India, for example, which is not
reflected anywhere in our models of art. What exactly is it we
discuss when we then scan a Ganesha figure or a Paravati? What
makes our familiar and favorite principles and elements the
appropriate ones? What are we missing by not knowing the
alternative values and relationships possible for art.
It's like having a big library full of books on art and when we
want to better understand any work we always come back to the
same carrel in the same wing on the same floor and use the same
familiar books. Blow off tens of thousands of pages because they
are inconvenient and unfamiliar. If we could further reduce our
scan to 4 principles and 4 elements it would be even more so!
So there three important points here:
1 scanning reduces the discussion of that which is observed to a
few familiar elements and principles from one familiar culture.
2 scanning either ingnores those things which don't come easily
to words or imposes words which only begin to approximate a
visual experience or possibleunderstanding.
3 scanning is entirely reliant upon words and ideas and therefore
limited to the available vocabulary and general familiarity with
ideas expressed over the centuries by many many people. If you
don't know the words or don't know the people and their theories
and models; if all you know are a basic 6 principles and 6
elements and their basic qualities and relationships your scan
will be pretty anemic.
Scanning is very much like painting by numbers. It's a way of
doing and of learning to do a thing. It has certain advantages
and certain limitations among them a dependency on the quality
and number of paints and brushes (or words and ideas) available.
Instead of painting Scanning offers us the opportunity too be
somewhat intellectual by numbers. Some people are impressed by
paint by number efforts and some are impressed by visual
scanning. Paint by numbers offers a small opportunity to
understand color relationships. Scanning may be a little better
as an exercise to learn about other kinds of relationships in the
conception and production of art.
Visual Scanning is not a bad thing I don't intend to suggest that
its practice be abandoned. I do think that it is important to
understand the limitations we face in its use and the quality of
the data it produces.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Jul 21 2000 - 22:27:02 PDT