Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Anker: The Two Cultures Update (Sappol)

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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1 comment:

Daniel said...

Thank you for the opportunity to post a question to this virtual symposium. As I have read these conversation threads, I am struck that little has been mentioned about artistic representation of ‘mind, emotion, behavior’. As neuro-biology continues to understand the layers of the mind, where is the art that bridges this science domain with such an important social issue?

Where is the forum for artists who bridge the evolving neuro-science, molecular signalling of emotions, affect regulation, social sciences, psychology, etc with the vast domain of mind, emotion, behavior, mental health, trauma, self regulation, etc. Anything being done at the National Institue for Mental Health?

Historically, media, film, advertising and entertainment have touched these areas with some influence from academia and science.

As the human form is a genetic genotype expressed within a social environment, I see a huge gap in art. Where is the art of our internal emotional, mental, behavioral states that dance poetically in social neuro-science and with the environment? It could be called many names ‘mind-body art’, ‘mental health art’, 'social neuro-science' art.

Medical students are given illustrations and animations of anatomy and physiology from an allopathic framework. I see that illustrations and animations for the domain of mind, internal subjective states, and inter-subjectivity are notably under-developed.

Art can help society learn, heal and transform - where is this mind-body domain of art?

Would you please comment on this, and offer suggestions for forums to connect with others on this topic.

Daniel Lappin
First Currency Sciences
Mill Valley, CA