os190117 When art is not art:
Reflecting on art for the 21st
I went to a pop-up exhibit and panel discussion sponsored by MIT Northwest Forum, and several other sponsors (who sent money to the main sponsor). It was called “Art for the 21st Century.” I was reminded of a biography of Richard Feynman, the physicist, and his encounter with art late in his life.
Feynman said artists whom he met didn’t have anything because their art wasn’t based on Nature, and by Nature he meant that which was measurable and could be described by scientific facts – or, at least theories that could be tested.
Then Feynman discussed this with an artist who challenged him to learn to draw. Feynman loved to take on challenges and after he learned to draw and then sold a drawing, he realized art had only to please one other person to be meaningful.
Feynman never did understand artists and poets, however, but was no longer conflicted. He never understood that the nucleus accumbens of humans can be titillated in both scientific pursuit and artistic pursuit.
He was, in my opinion, as indifferent to the outcome of acts of the nucleus accumbens as he was to his role in making the atomic bomb and dropping it on two cities in Japan. The nucleus accumbens was not only satisfied but also supplied the rationale – that our bomb was better than Germany’s bomb because we say so.
Now, MIT – an institution that gave up on art a long time ago because it was so messy – sponsors a show of art and a talk by artists. Our nuclei accumbens are further satisfied as long as we ignore the various elephants in the room.
For example, when the introductions were made, the man giving credit to “Vicki” was generous and pointed her out so everyone could applaud. He also thanked Ginny, who was sitting ten feet away behind him, but never turned to point her out. He didn’t even know who she was or where she was sitting. I never saw anything like it! He was detached from the real world.
By a show of hands, I think half the room leaned toward art and the other toward tech. The display of art was mixed – from homey, old-time painting aided by Adobe Photoshop to AR and machine-built faces and sculpture.
I never felt there was any art here – just more clutter of money-enabled objects trying to find consumers.
The culture of art was hijacked a century ago by the rich and powerful, siphoning off from the hearts and minds of visionary poets and artists like honey from a bee. Converted into decoration for mega homes, corporations and government-approved, I think of bower birds.
The real art is that which seeks to balance the Natural world with the artificial world. Looking around, I can see nothing in the exhibit, nor anything in the panel discussion except individuals who managed to position themselves in the eyes of a selection committee (Vicki?) as making art for this century.
It’s really recycled art from the past fifty years, the tenets of which haven’t changed since the EAT project.
The real art of the 21st Century, if there is to be such a thing, is rooted in media and most effective as children’s play. If children playing can restore control of communicating with other children, then Nature has a chance.
But if events like this continue to distract us from the real world, there is little chance children’s games will save Earth’s human and other life sustainability.
In May there will be another MIT forum, this time for kids’ education. I sent them a note, telling them I want a spot. I want to show the 3D-printed press and offer my theory about Proximates that can help in an area of concern – communication with kids around the world.
American kids’ futures are at risk if we notice the real world, we acknowledge the elephants crowding the room inside and, obviously, outside the room as well.