Art is Science

I think about art a lot. Art is the thing that I do more than anything else. Not a day goes by that I don't make marks with a pen, pencil or a brush. Making art is important to me because art is the science that I use to understand the world around me.

When I say science I mean that literally. Art is a science like any of the other sciences. Art is a system that seeks to gather knowledge of the natural world through observation and experimentation. This means that an artist will observe something in nature and will try to recreate that observation under controlled circumstances. These observations could be almost anything. An artist might observe that they are feeling glitchy and try to re-create that feeling in a song. Or they might observe that certain types of shapes convey different feelings of motion and will make a series of paintings to test this observation. An artist might observe that light reflects off a persons face in a particular way and try to recreate that in a poem. Regardless of the observation or of the medium, the purpose is the same: to see if we can expresses an observation of truth. The art making process (whatever that might be) is the experimentation and the final art is the final result of that experimentation.

Art, however, is capable of some very interesting things that most of the sciences are not very good at. For one thing, art is capable of addressing the physical, rational world and the metaphysical, emotional world with the same authority. Music can address the Fibonacci sequence just as easily as it can address the feeling of being a teenager. Art can be about the tactile attributes of oil paint or they can be about your relationship with your mother. In that way, art is an amazingly versatile science. And because it is so versatile we can stuff art into almost anything we do.
Another interesting thing about art, that makes it different from other sciences is that it is obviously subjective (other sciences are less obvious about it). As a viewer you can disagree with the truth that a particular piece of art might express. But it's still art. A Jackson Pollock painting can be the most important statement that anyone has made or it can be total bullshit. And, in fact, it can be anything in between. It's up to the viewer to compare the truth of the art to the truth that they carry within them. This has often caused problems for artists because the truths that art concerns itself with are subjective truths. And there are those who hate the idea that something like truth, which is supposed to be objective and permanent, can be subjective and fleeting.

So, art is a subjective, versatile science, what does that mean?

The first thing that we can take from that is a method of evaluating art that we experience throughout our lives. We can judge wether art is good or bad by asking what truths the art is trying to express and if those truths ring true to you. Bad art will fail, either through poor execution or through poor observation, to express that truth. Good art will express a valid truth. It's a subjective system but I think it's good one nonetheless because it allows for disagreement. And disagreement is often a good thing.

But more importantly, we can take advantage of the versatility of art and try to inject art into everything we do. We can strive to express an observation of truth with with our actions. We can do this with our job flipping burgers, or by singing in the car, or by drawing a comic book. By striving to express truth in our daily actions, we will also need to put effort into observing truth in our natural world. And exploration and observation will lead to a richer, deeper appreciation of life.


Tikigeo said...

I picture you with massive side burns smoking a pipe.

Mr. Crook said...

I think the kids now-a-days call them "bongs".

Ryno said...

whoa buddy...i want some of what you're holding!

Interesting write-up. Been thinking about art a lot lately. Not doing a lot of art, but thinking about it.