From: Suzanne Anker
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2007 13:12:19 -0500
Having recently re-read C.P.Snow’s The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959) with my M.F.A. Graduate students in S.V.A.’s Writing and Art Criticism Program, we did in fact, find some points that still have currency. Although couched in existential terms, Snow distinguishes “the individual experience and the social experience, between the individual condition of man and his social condition.” Thus for Snow, who had one foot in each camp,
he talks about scientists thus:
“Most of the scientists I have known well have felt just as deeply as the non-scientists I have known well-- that the individual condition in each of us is tragic. Each of us is alone: sometimes we escape from solitariness, through love or affection or perhaps creative moments, but those triumphs of life are pools of light we make for ourselves while the edge of the road is black: each of us dies alone.”
Your impressive and comprehensive listing of “structural similarities” between art and science, is in fact well taken. However I would like to argue with your notion of “artists making themselves into scientists and philosophers of science.” I have made references during the symposium to the fact that at the present time, art practice has devolved into an entertainment industry. Operating as an unregulated insider trading brokerage network, it advances its platforms and cultural consensus through a checkbook. From the Art Fair to the International Biennial, goods for sale (or tourism bucks) are only outflanked by the perception that the “expression” of art is synomous with human rights and political freedom. The enormous interest in objects and markets may in fact dilute the actual practice of art. If one conceives of the artworld as a microcosm of the real world (and this may or may not be true in science) than the commodity trumps the iconic, linguistic, philosophic or other charges that have historically been within the provenance of modern art. And it is here that we can consider the changing ways in which communities and social complexes form. As global markets produce more and more “stuff”, objects, as stated by Karin Knorr Cetina, replace personal relationships substituting ‘things’ for sentient intimacy.
If artists, are migrating towards alternative discourses, it may in fact be that they do not agree with the art world’s self-proclaimed agenda. In this sense, artists are still doing what they have always done, particularly in regard to the historical avant-garde. The claim that art has value, exceeding it material costs, has created a coterie of art historians, historians, curators, documentarians and others as they interpret, catalogue and protect what has been deemed valuable. So in some ways, art functions as a data-bank or archive of the changes over time in our ideas about what constitutes “world-making.” Hence, this current round of artists, not content to endorse the slogan “dumb like a painter” wish at least to have the “creative moments,” the “pools of light” that C.P Snow talks about. And it is to this ambitious undertaking that I give my respect.
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