Thought flow, from Jackson Pollock to Animism.

I had to wait for a long time for some of my test results to come in yesterday, so I thought I’d spend the day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is only about 20 or so minutes away from my lab at the most. I sat down in front of the modern arts exhibition and began to jot down notes on everything that came into my head, ranging from weather to what to have for dinner, and etc.

And then somewhere along the line I began to have some interesting ideas regarding some parallel between the idea of metamorphosis, artificial life, art, music, and writing etc., so I jotted them down and decided to share it with you. The note was organized in rather chaotic manner (with drawings and other silly things) and written in a foreign language to boot, (as is my frequent habit when making personal notes) so this might end up not making much sense.

Some of the practices of art are very reminiscent of the practice of distilling the random pieces of lines, lights, and shapes to subsequent psychological and philosophical response of the human being and the world around the art object. The distilled ‘atoms’ of art objects are then reconstructed as the artist sees fit, into something breathing and constantly struggling and reassessing, something that is part of the world that is alive. Such practice can also be observed in the scenes of artificial life, where random bit of numbers are distilled into certain crystals of flexible pattern and form, which are then reconstructed into whole systems for the express purpose of turning it into, or at least get a hint of, a life. Will it be immature to suppose that certain seemingly random arts of the modern age, such as that of Jackson Pollock pieces, follow similar philosophy and goal?

If the parallel can be drawn between the medium of visual art and that of artificial life, how about music and writing? How can they come closer to a singularity without being confined by their characteristic medium? Modern classic seem to offer some glimmer of understanding for me, as they find a few simple yet poignant tunes and form them into simplistic yet most profound patterns of rich meaning and tapestry of metamorphic perspectives. As for how writing can achieve such an effect, I have no idea…

That is the problem. The art of Kandinsky can easily be visual, musical, and living. Yet how to translate a symphony into a writing? How to write a portrait of abstract thought and feelings? The subtle melodies to echo in the readers minds?

I do not believe I am mistaken in seeing some sort of commonality in the artificial life and arts of various format. Yet what is common between them is rather complex to define.

Perhaps the similarity between a life and an art is in their inherent intentionality to be given birth. The paints and the pieces struggle to come out into the world and walk among us. And when inanimate things created by human hands try to walk among us, we step into the realm of anthropological religion.

Modern religion came from branches of Animism in that religions generally try to imprint human face upon things that are usually inanimate and inorganic, like the winds and the water. In a foreign world the first approach of a human being is to humanize her environment, turn it into something that can be communicated with, albeit in some obscure and strange way that would defy normal human habits. Simply put, gods are created in order to control the world by human hands. The act of worship is really an act of communication. Just as we don’t yell at our computers to turn on and calculate the billionth place of pi like we would at living mathematicians, complex rituals are formed to translate human intentions into a language volcanoes and storms can understand. Inanimate forces and phenomena of nature are considered to have their own consciousness based on human understanding of humanity. Remnants of such way of thinking is apparent in still present sex division in the modern world, as we would often jokingly refer to men or women as unreasonable and pedantic about meaningless things. Perhaps current form of glorifying the object of one’s worship as one’s master became fashionable as the politics and religion became intermingled with each other at around the time of Mesopotamian civilization. Maybe the uneasy relationship shared between the fields of sciences, religions, and the arts reflects this complex web of intentions and commonality formed in the deeper recesses of the human psyche.

Perhaps the one ideal dreamed by the ancient and modern artists, from Pygmalion and African reliquary makers to Auguste Rodin and Mark Rothko is the world itself gaining intentionality, something so close to even the conventional notion of a deity. In the end attempting to create something like a god, when the form of the said god is very close to a human spirit, a god created in shape of humanity.

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