Sunday, April 20, 2008

Other Issues, David Peat

Other Issues

Peat has been discussing, with Anish Kapoor, the questions "where is the art", "in what space does the art work take place"? And, with Anthony Gormley, what is "the space within" where the art work takes place, "the dark space beyond dimension, beyond up and down, beyond good and evil, yet containing them all"? Over the past few years he has also been engaged in dialogues with Jungian analysts on the relationship between creativity, inner space and the way both artists and therapists engage in their work. How does creativity emerge out of the body? How are movements in art related to transformations within human consciousness? And what relevance do these questions, as well as those of traditional aesthetics have for contemporary art and art practice? And why is that word "beauty" heard so much in contemporary physics and mathematics, yet has become marginalized from art criticism? Indeed, does beauty in science have anything to do with beauty in art? And do notions of perception, representation, transformation and creativity have any correspondence between art and science?

In addition, during lectures, seminars and tutorials while Peat was "scientist in residence" at St. Martin's School of Art, London; Ruskin College, Oxford and art schools in Bristol and Brighton; a number of themes emerged.

Language, Representation and Reality
The physicist Neils Bohr believed that physics had reached the limits of what could be said about the quantum world -"we are suspended in language so that we don't know which way is up and which is down". Art is also questioning the whole notion of representation and the limits of what can be said or shown.

The Participatory Universe
Cezanne stressed the nature of time and participation in the act of looking and making- sitting beside the river bank he would move his head and note the way the scene changed. His paintings reflect this notion of temporal participation and the sense that his paintings act as "the consciousness of nature". Quantum physics emphasized that we live in a participatory universe in which acts of observation disturb the cosmos. Artists are also interested in works which stress participation on the part of the viewer.

Process versus Object
Much contemporary art is about process and removes emphasis from the finished object or gallery installation. Likewise physics is changing its focus from objects in interaction into pure process.

Much art is to do with edges, limits, that which is just coming into manifestation, or vanishing, evaporating, evading capture. In this way art resonates with the quantum world in which existence is fleeting, a constant process of manifestation and annihilation.

Space, pre-space and inner space
After sixty years of uncomfortable co-existence quantum theory and general relativity remain to be united in a meaningful way. Thus some physicists are becoming interested in questions of pre-space as structures out of which could emerge some deeper theory that, in suitable limits, leads to quantum theory and relativity. Similarly, general questions about space are being asked in art. Anish Kapoor is concerned with the placing of the art object in space. "Where is the art" he asks? Within the stone, the eye of the viewer or in a space between? Anthony Gormley visits 'the dark space, rarely visited, beyond good and evil, beyond dimension, yet containing them all". Many artists are currently concerned with pre-space, that zone that exists before gesture, marking and event - the gallery space, canvas, field in a landscape, inner space of the body, cityscape. Related questions about the origin of space, and the nature of pre-space are being asked in physics. Siraj Izhar has spoken of his Fashion St area as being a "pre-space" that will become marked by events and work in progress.

The changing nature of Matter in Physics
Matter vanishes into patterns of energy and information. This resonates with the current debate in art about presence, representation, and the role of the object.

Chaos theory, self-organization, strange attractors and chance
Are the laws of nature given, or do them emerge out of non-linear processes of self-organization? Questions of chaos, self-organization, creativity and the role of chance have always been present in art.

Meta Theories
Cosmology, superstrings etc. involve "theories about theories about theories" that are remote from direct physical test. Such theories increasingly rely upon aesthetic appeals to economy, fittedness, etc. In this sense, criteria from art are beginning to rub shoulders with those of science.

Beauty and Aesthetics in science
"The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" The concepts of beauty, elegance, etc. are widely used in mathematics and physics but have fallen out of fashion in art. What is the role of beauty in art? And is beauty a necessary criterion of correctness in science given that some biological systems and organisms are considered, by biologists or doctors, as inefficient and poorly designed?

Evidence in art and science
Richard Long walks across a field creating a temporary track in bent grass. Andy Goldsworthy throws colored mud into a river or builds a spiral icicle at dawn. Yves Klein sells a portion of empty space - a Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility - and then throws half the gold he has obtained for the sale into the River Seine. In what sense do such works exist, - as documents, or memories?. In general all we have is the photograph, taken at the moment of the event. Such photographs have a curious ontology. They are not the work itself (art), yet neither are they representation of the work. This hovering ontology is also found in science - as in the evidence for an existence of elementary particles or singular events such as the Big Bang. After all, a photograph taken from an elementary particle accelerator is not strictly a "photograph of an elementary particle", neither is it strictly "the path of an elementary particle". But rather evidence having a curious ontology, it is evidence that a process has taken place, a process of intervention and observation. The "evidence" of a Richard Long walk is ontologically the same state of suspension as the "evidence" of an elementary particle.

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