Thursday, February 11, 2010
On art, the universe and a weapon of cat destruction
I would follow George Spencer-Brown in seeing the universe as having — wonder of wonders! — split (whether we believe by supernatural intervention or quantum fluctuation doesn’t matter here) into two parts: one of which could, for the first time ever, observe the rest of itself. Yet in doing so, the universe necessarily became blind to part of itself. It was all OK before, just trundling along being a universe; but it couldn’t see. Didn’t need to, you see. Then it could see, a distinction was drawn, but it became tragically estranged from itself. This or something like it is nearly universal in myths of cosmic creation and so on.
What to do? We need, after this action, and don’t forget the common etymology of ‘act’ and ‘agony’, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If science is the truth (‘this thing happened’) then art is perhaps the means of reconciliation (‘we can’t really mend it, but this is what it might be like if we could’) — and that’s perhaps why really good art can make you cry.
Science is perhaps socially constructed; art certainly is. Imagine Schrödinger’s Cat in its box not only with a randomly triggered weapon of cat destruction but also with some paints. We don’t know if it’s doing art until we open the box and even then the waveform collapses not into a fact but into questions: has the cat got a gallery? Do the critics notice it? Is it in Art Monthly, Art Presse or Kunstforum? If so, it’s art.
The computer is its own box, cat, paints, experimenter and decaying isotope. It should also contain and examine its own modes of discourse and critique. Use that to make art and we necessarily bring new dimensions into play, we render art and computing ‘difficult’ in a positive sense. The social construction of art itself has thus opened up, allowing us to manipulate it.
We need to open everything up, to make space and time and a new dimension in the work. The best interactive art always makes you look at the participants.
Let’s make a revolution! Let’s turn round slowly, just once, and see everything, everything that was done, and then finish back here again, but everything has changed. Let’s look properly at what has already been done, analyse it and reincorporate all the best bits, but going much further, with a new energy, the energy of the square root of minus one, of crazy ’Pataphysics.