Monday, November 12, 2012

Repulsion, Cessation, Suspension, Opening the Box, and Scientific Method

Delving deeper into Adorno's "Aesthetic Theory," wading through some pretty hoary stuff, finding gems where they gleam through the mud and muck. The searching through this is in itself similar to raking through piles of data or groping through bags of clay. But the relevance to both art and science is unmistakable.

Here's the quote...

"The act of repulsion must be constantly renewed. Every artwork is an instant; Every successful work is a cessation, a suspended moment of the process, as which it reveals itself to the unwavering eye. If artworks are truly answers to their own questions, they themselves truly become questions."

And my interpretation...

The act of repulsion is a stocktaking of the work, the project, the experiment, the published paper. The "final draft" or the completed sculpture may have been prepared to be "perfect" but there are always errors. Errors in typography, errors in execution, the error of a curve gone wrong, a problematic methodology. In hindsight, the finished piece is by nature unfinished. It is dynamic, boiling, and only a step on the way to yet another hypothesis, whether scientific or artistic. It is either a knot being untied or a knot that you are continuing to tie.

The artwork, like the scientific work is truly an instant, waiting to be superseded, undone by a critic (or by yourself), reinterpreted. Its physicality is temporary, part of iterations of work. The iterations may be layers of effort spent on the individual work or new related projects. This is art and science at its most active, at its best. 

Amazingly the art, or the science, is connected to the living world, either literally or through the artist's brain and body, which are alive. The constant change of the living world necessitates re-interpretation and reiteration, and posing new questions about the work. This is scientific method. But it is also artistic method.

Finally, artworks and scientific works are "answers to their own questions" (I explored this briefly in the previous post); They are epistemological (a way of knowing) but above all they pose new questions. They are heuristic in that they prompt more questioning. This is the heart of creative exploration. Why it is that Adorno wasn't able to link science and art through processes that are nearly identical in both, is a strange question to me. Was it the time that he wrote? The conditions of the world? The strong conceptual division between arts and sciences that was being plated at that time? 

I think we need to be careful not to get ourselves stuck in one mindset or another, regardless of our personal biases. It's less thinking out of the box than opening the box to explore what's inside.

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