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Lesson Plans

Art and Science

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 10:14:59 -0700 (MST)

On Wed, 9 Oct 1996 -Fred wrote:

> Tell me more. What are the useful differences between art and science. What
> is wrong with being confused as to which is which? I get confused all the
> time. Particularly when I am not in a school. It seems to me that it is the
> traditional divisions, the so-called disciplines of knowledge, that muck
> things up. They are artificial and arbitrary and barely useful when we
> function out of the academic setting. It is hard to keep things clear and
> distinguishable because they are not.

Let me start with your last point Fred, because it IS a good one.

"It is hard to keep things clear and distinguishable because they are not."

It is very, very, "true" (if truth be a useful notion) that things (all
things) are not clear and distinguishable. If, however, we perceived all
things as unclear, ambiguous, and as part of a wholey fuzzy and chaotic
continuum, human life, as we know it, would not exist.

Living entities, however, are pattern seekers. All of us, from the most
ambiguous, one-celled proto-vegetable to well developed mammals with a
complex, high surface area, neo-cortex depend on our ability to recognize
nourishment and threat in a chaotic environment that is (as you say) NOT
"clear and distinguishable".

Though the universe appears to be chaoticly complex and continuously
ambiguous it is useful to pretend that it is not. (Certainly more useful
than, as a result of confusion, waiting to eat or be eaten) Humans seem
to have two major tools that allow us to pretend sufficiently to survive.
Science and Art.

Science is (among other things) a survival tool. One aspect of science is
its interest in reproducibility. Science wants to converge on a set of
rules which govern a situation. With a set of rules we can reproduce the
situation and produce "stuff" of certain qualities (Tylenol, Krupps
process steel) with virtually absolute consistency. With a set of rules we
can predict what will happen in a given context (flammable gas or
particulate cloud + spark = explosion).

Art's interest in reproduction is relative. 27,000, uniformily
indistinguishable to the brushstroke, units of Mona Lisa MIGHT be of
interest to a conceptual artist, but having the formula to reproduce
molecularly exact copies of the work at will, is not, I think, what art
is about.

To be fair, economics intruded into art and offered benefit (cash) for
rights to "reproduce" copies of art. As a result art now includes
reproduction, and the quality of the reproduction CAN be of importance
down to the molecular level especially if we are talking about
photography. BUT this aspect of reproduction is limited to very specific
cases. (Most art quality photographs, produced in limited editions, are
considered adequately reproduced if the process and materials match the
original. No ones going to argue much if one batch of emulsion is not
exact as long as it fits into fairly broad tolerances and also, the
emulsion itself is not the art, but only a medium)

Disciplines peripheral to art: history, aesthetics, and criticism WOULD
like to converge. We all know how difficult it is to explain art. Of all
the unclear and difficult to distinguish things in the universe, Art
might be the MOST unclear, the Most difficult to distinguish or define.
The peripheral disciplines provide templates that allow us to talk about
art in its many aspects. They would dearly love to be able to develop a
unified theory of art that would allow art to be measured and defined in
every detail. Of course, if they actually ever succeeded, we wouldn't
need artists, only "art workers" to run the machines and computers
responsible for producing art for the universe's consumption, to make sure
that the bills were paid and that the payroll was met.

That would be the consequence of knowing all the ramifications of
history on art, all the aesthetic possibilities and outcomes, and all the
qualities that make up art, its experience and its appreciation.

Fortunately, the peripheral disciplines show little or no evidence in
succeeding in such an endeavor. :) Admittedly, I'm a bit biased here.
There is no conspiracy in the disciplines to specifically do such a
thing. No specific goal has been set along these lines. Actually, I don't
think any one has yet looked that far ahead. The enterprise, after all,
is largely about analysis of art's past and speculation on its meanings
in our context. Not many "art futurists" out there.

But, as usual, I find myself out on a tangent!

Let's call this part one and I'll go back to the top so we all remember
where we are in this thing.



  • Maybe reply: EVasso: "Re: Art and Science"
  • Maybe reply: henry: "Re: Art and Science"