Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Art and Science Piece; Abstract, Draft One

Art and Science Piece; Abstract, Draft One

Economically, militarily, technologically, scientifically and culturally America is to varying degrees the world's only superpower today. In all of these areas America inherited the tradition of the West and built upon it.

This Western Way separated Man and Nature as a unity by making Man an observer and Nature the observed.

It separated Man himself as an intellectual, physical, and spiritual unity by elevating the intellectual over the spiritual.

It separated man's unity as a physical being with five senses by elevating the sense of sight over the others.

From the Renaissance onward the West's goal has been to pursue a complete "accounting for," which became for it the Truth.

While breaking the unity of Man and Nature, and of Man himself, the West united two separate things, method and outcome.

The Western Way was method-driven and outcome-neutral. The method, scientific inquiry, was to be followed and by definition truth would result. The method could not be questioned and so the outcome could not be questioned. Thus method became outcome, description became meaning, [and meaning--truth--became description.]

Until after the beginning of the Renaissance, the Western Way also united the separate disciplines of art, philosophy, and science. All pursued the same goal and used the same, scientific, method. The spiritual and emotional components of art and philosophy, like those of man, were subsumed to their scientific components and to scientific purpose.

In the Arts, poetry and music were comparatively devalued to painting. Painting was intellectual and could pursue the West's goal of description while music and poetry were spiritual, and could not.

The West strove for this truth, this perfect description, and in its pursuit of the perfect description only perfect subjects were painted. Human beings only in perfect, youthful, physical appearance--that is no "real" human beings at all, but rather idealized forms of human beings--were painted.

The Western Way thus further abstracted--removed--Man from its method, which was its meaning, which was its Truth. This idealized human form, this meaning, this truth, was Beauty and it became the measure of a painting's greatness.

Working in tandem with science, painting, the West's premier art form, the most advanced of the West's disciplines, achieved its goal of verisimilitude during the Renaissance. A completed paradigm had been accomplished and western painting and science thereafter diverged.

They diverged because western painting's brief had been so modest, which is not to devalue its achievement. Western painting's goal had been to describe, mirror, or copy, to account for:

(1) the physical world removed from the spiritual, that is as man and nature separated.
(2) to so account for the physical world as comprehended only by man's sight, not by any of his other senses in combination, not by the sight of people in other cultures and not by any other species--e.g. eagles, bats, dolphins--and any of their senses.

After the Renaissance western science pushed its goal beyond the human ocular to the sub and super ocular.

In western art Rembrandt began to push painting into a more spiritual direction. His portraits aimed at revealing more of the spirit or character of the person rather than a purely physical, or physically idealized, form. Rembrandt painted his human subjects with less beauty.

Philosophy broke with science in the late 18th c when Kant succeeded in his argument that it was a "foundational" discipline.

In contrast to this Western Way is the Chinese civilization which existed as an island in relation to the West.

China's Zen religion is method-neutral and outcome-driven, the opposite of the Western Way.

Chinese art forms were valued more for their spiritual component than in the West. Music was valued more highly. "The Three Perfections" in Chinese art were painting, poetry and calligraphy. Painting and poetry had the same status, the opposite as in the West and precisely because of their spiritual component.

In Chinese painting the spiritual was elevated over the intellectual, again the opposite as in the West. A Chinese painting's quality was evaluated by reference to six factors. First was "spirit consonance," sixth was verisimilitude.

The apex of verisimilitude, as devalued in Chinese painting, was reached during the Sung dynasty between the late tenth and thirteenth centuries. The apex of verisimilitude, more valued, in the West occurred in the fifteenth century.

China and the West existed as islands in relation to each other. The social, political and economic influences were different yet after reaching its apex of verisimilitude Chinese painters began painting in a style that has been explicitly analogized to that of the Impressionists and to the post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne.

Despite being an island, China had its "Renaissance" in verisimilitude, but two-five centuries before the West's Renaissance. Despite being an island, China had "Impressionism" and "post-Impressionism" after its renaissance but two-three centuries before the West had its Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

-Benjamin Harris