My research concerns a pattern of organization that I see as arising from intentional human acts that can be characterized as the perceptible opposition of order and disorder.I approach multi-modal examples of art as externally observable and analyzable artifacts of internal cognitive processesThis view is shared by Psychologist Rudolf Arnheim in his article entitled “Entropy and Art” from 1971. (CLICK)
Rudolf Arnheim was a distinguished psychologist and art theorist who studied with two of the founders of Gestalt psychology. Known mainly for his book entitled Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye originally published in 1954 and completely revised in 1974 (commemorating its 20th anniversary) Arnheim endeavored to deconstruct the “gestalt” of human perception by working to identify and define the “grouping principles” he believed to be present in all visual phenomena.Arnheim believed he would be able to identify universal principles of visual organization and in 1971 wrote the article that I base my research on – Entropy and Art.(CLICK)
To understand this article, and the ambitious research that Arnheim set out to conduct – one first needs to have a basic understanding of the terminology and how it relates to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.So entropy is defined as: READ SLIDE(CLICK)
Here is a crude diagram that describes how entropy works:Consider this……You have a pot of water. If you are interested in boiling some potatoes for dinner– to do this we apply heat……So now our pot of water is boiling – the heat is the energy available to do work (cook the potatoes) and is described as a highly disordered state – the molecules in the water are bouncing all over – hence the visual appearance of boiling….Two things are happening while we are cooking our potatoes – 1. some of the heat from the water is being transferred to the potatoes (a ordered state) and 2. some of the heat is escaping (evaporating) through steam…..Since the steam isn’t contributing to the work– it dissipates (moves to a cold state) This dissipation of potential energy is the entropic force. If we continued to boil our water – eventually all of it would evaporate – this is why some believe that to use Entropy as a model is to comment on continual deterioration – or increasing chaos – but this criticism only holds when the system being described is closed……let’s look at what a physicist says – (CLICK)
PeterLandsberg – Physicist and author of “Seeking Ultimates - an intuitive guide to physics” published in 2000 acknowledges that the concept of “Entropy” has been explored and used before as a metaphor….which he believes is not productive.Landsberg, Peter T. (1964). “Entropy and the Unity of Knowledge”. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.I suggest other:(CLICK)
The field of Cognitive Science is interested in the analysis of symbolic systems as a basis for the examination of neural/cognitive processes. Therefore – the study of metaphor as a product of a conceptual domain - is indeed productive – and could in turn inform or deepen our understanding of the original area of physics.For instance – if the current research were to eventually uncover some link to or implication of a neural process – this finding could lead us to view certain principles in a new light.Also – while applying this concept to a closed system MIGHT lead one to conclusions of ultimate decay – considering its application to an OPEN system becomes far more productive and useful as it more closely resembles the context of the discussion – culture.
So what does Arnheim think?…..READ SLIDE (paraphrases only)
So as Arnheim sets out to define the process of Entropy as it applies to Visual phenomena, he first identifies his terminology as such. In doing so, many problems begin to arise – most having to do with a lack of clarity.In addition to the terms order and disorder – as static states, and Entropy and neg-entropy as tendencies towards these statesArnheim borrows terminology from biology relating to the metabolism and the synthesis of or reduction of complex molecules – catabolism and anabolismThe difference between the biological terms and the those of the entropy principle is convoluted……Than the term “tension reduction” further complicates things…..it is never defined or described in relation to any of the other terms.Only this graph is supplied:(CLICK)
This graph appears in Arnheim’s article Entropy and Art but is never directly described or explained. How Entropy relates to Catabolic destruction and Tension Reduction – is anyone’s guess.
So here are problems that I have identified and attempt to solve through my research.
My approach to these issues is as follows:
The first work I analyze is an essay by Charles Baudelaire. In the essay (which describes the poet’s review of a current art exhibition) Baudelaire outlines his philosophy of art. I provide here a quotation from this essay that encapsulates the sentiment:In this quotation, (and in his poetry that I review as well) Baudelaire sets up an opposition – that of life and death. But he does not indicate that beauty resides in either state but rather that it hovers somewhere in between – this suggests a pragmatic scale described as a continuum running from life to death – with beauty located somewhere in between based on the work of art being attended to.If we are to apply Arnheim’s reasoning – we might conceive of life as a process of ordering – that neurological processes strive to create order out of perceptible phenomena – and that death is the discontinuation of these processes.
The next focus of analysis is “The Unknown Masterpiece” by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac. The central theme of this narrative again evokes a scalar schema but this time instead of the polarities of the continuum coming to a terminal end, Balzac’s narrative tells us that the continuum describes a cycle, one that continuously moves from order to disorder to order to disorder…and so on…Comparing this to our previous example – the concept of life – here- is presented a bit differently – the fixed state that Gilette is approaching – serves to DEFINE the principles of ordering that describe her Whereas the painting is progressing past it’s initial ordering principle (that of a portrait of a woman) to something undefined and thus entropic.
Balzac’s narrative does more than illustrate for us the relationship between aesthetics and entropy – it also comments on the reflexivity of art - the symbiotic relationship between artist and art, and the salience of intentionality in how it contributes to the creation of a symbolic system.Since the advent of Post-Modernism the academic pursuit of a general principle to reconcile art and nature historically has been one that serves to remove the intentionality of the artist from the analysis as a redundant instance of nature. In 20th century thinking, the reduction of the intentional to causal processes was common and even fashionable (i.e. Structuralism).This however would serve to communicate that cognition, emotion, creativity, and so on are not special or important – since nature is just uniformly causal and mentally blind - and so goes against my present assertion, which places cognition at the center of analysis.
Per Aage Brandt suggests an ontological graph to describe the cyclical processes at work in our world.So how does this ontological graph further elucidate the notion of reflexivity?The mind communicates it’s perception of the world through the use of sign systems (e.g. art) which then becomes part of the accumulative understanding of many minds (e.g. culture) which, in turn, adds to ideas we “receive” from the semiotic cycle that inform and or stabilize our initial view of the world.
For Gombrich, art is the transposition of nature to an audience by an artist through the use of technique and in spite of the chosen medium. He states:“ What a painter inquires into is not the nature of the physical world but the nature of our reactions to it. He is not concerned with causes but with the mechanisms of certain effects.” (Gombrich, 44) The inquiry of a painter as described by Gombrich in this quotation would reside in the phenomenological cycle taking place between the perceived world and a single mind. This may indicate that Gombrich thinks that nature (as perceived) is beauty, and so sees no need to further explore the reasoning behind intentionalities that support anything other than the decision making that leads to the most “successful” representation of the natural world possible by a particular artist.If we consider however, the intentionality of the artist to be something other than the rendering of nature, or natural phenomena – we might come to this conclusion(CLICK)
I propose instead that Monet’s intention is to communicate his perception of light in time to an audience with help from his phenomenological concentration and in spite of his technique which allowed him to focus on his cognitive perception of light in spite of its material or temporal relationship to nature, thus helping him to transcend the constraints of his formal training. This idea is supported by the existence of the “Rouen Cathedral series” which depicts the same subject at many different times (e.g lighting conditions) of the day. But there is further support for this interpretation – one that can be illustrated through the use of a semiotic blending network like this one:(CLICK)
We can assume that Monet’s personal history as a trained artist would allow for him to be able to oscillate the attention of his aesthetic experience between the blend and eachinput space individually. Signifier (object) – order / Signified (expression) - disordered This ability would have allowed Monet to have first, seen Rouen Cathedral at once as a stone architectural structure in space, and a surface interacting with present lighting conditions, and second as a fleeting scenario (commenting on the impermanence of the lighting condition)Monet’s choice to depict Rouen Cathedral as a wall of reflected light might be an attempt to create a meaningful work of art in addition to creating a beautiful representation of his experience and not just a way to “overcome” perceived shortcomings.
So the actant model previously introduced, helps us to discern the difference between the perspectives offered by Gombrich and that which I am presenting.- But, the model lacks the dynamics representative of the open system we have come to characterize art (as it occurs in culture) by. To better illustrate this - I present the Semiotic Square – a network of logical negation that serves to oscillate an element from one state to another continuously
Through the use of this method, we are able to illustrate the process of dynamic conceptualization relating to the opposition present in works of art as a reflection of the artist’s embodiment.Poet Wallace Stevens is keenly aware of this very dynamic as his poem entitled “poem’s of our climate” is both created though and comments on this deep structure. – in his poem, the narrator continually oscillates between desiring the complexity of embodiment and a desire for the ordered perfect division of duality. But this graph is just a single part of a larger semiotic network – returning to our blending network – (CLICK)Clear water in a brilliant bowl,Pink and white carnations. The lightIn the room more like a snowy air,Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snowAt the end of winter when afternoons return.Pink and white carnations – one desiresSo much more than that. The day itselfIs simplified: a bowl of white,Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,With nothing more than the carnations there.Say even that this complete simplicityStripped one of all one’s torments, concealedThe evilly compounded, vital IAnd made it fresh in a world of white,A world of clear water, brilliant-edgedStill one would want more, one would need moreMore than a world of white and snowy scentsThere would still remain the never-resting mind,So that one would want to escape, come backTo what had been so long composed.The imperfect is our paradise.Note that in this bitterness, delight,Since the imperfect is so hot in us,Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
The semiotic square then is important to our semiotic blending network in that it defines in part – the content of the “relevance schema” which in turn stabilizes the blend.(Also…..while the use of metaphor locates a source and a target in each input space – if the concept being analyzed is a simile – the parts reside in a single space)Let me draw your attention to the labels on the right – which correspond to our Brandtian ontological graph from earlier. - pairing what we understand about the function of the ontological graph and a semiotic blending network – we are able to create a blending cascade – Further illustrating the integration of our methodologies…..
(The graph is going to spinwhen I CLICK)So we started out discussing the semiotic layer – where discourse takes place, now, as shown through the blending cascade – we can analyze the phenomenological separately from the semiotic…….we see this clearly if we flip the graph (CLICK)It is also interesting to note here – that further research concerning the physical world (neurological, physiological implications) might present us with another opportunity for extending our blending cascade.(CLICK)
So far the examples I have presented have remained rooted in the material and are reversible, which means that they can be returned to, recalled, and re-consumed at will. This slowexperience of an aesthetic object over time, permits and even foregrounds reflection, and so supports the audience in their contribution to discourse (conversation in culture). For instance – moving towards the temporal is the artist Cy Twombly – who seems interested in offering us an artifact of an action and not merely an aesthetic object.Art Theorist Roland Barthes agrees:“We are not asked to see, to conceive, to savor the product, but to review, to identify, and, so to speak, to “enjoy” the movement which has ended up here.” (Barthes, 164)So we begin with Twombly oscillating between the aesthetic notion of writing and the notion of painting, until we come to understand, as Barthes has, the importance of the movement of the line quality this foregrounding of process serves to implicate gesture as the “surplus” of the intentional - which leads us OUT of our semiotic square and into our diegesis model – another methodology provided to us by Per Aage Brandt – as an instance of the indexical.It is here that his work exceeds the iconic, moving instead into a liminal state of intention where he eventually transcends the art object in favor of the fleeting temporal “gesture” as it relates to the performance of creation in time.Gesture is then pulled back to the material – as the art object exists in culture which then serves as a point of origin for discourse.
But we haven’t yet gone to the extreme yet – performance…..a completely irreversible, immaterial phenomena….So looking at music we might begin by defining it as the embodiment of two states: notation and expression. All composed music then, oscillates between these states driven by the opposing forces of the symbolic (adherence to a prescriptive score) and the acoustic (expression through sound).But this duality (especially in the case of experimental music) is transcended by a shift in perspective which moves to foreground the circumstance of the performance or its indexicality which leads to singularity.In my thesis I discuss at length a work by corneliusCardew entitled Paragraph 7 from the larger piece “the great learning”In this work – the composer did not offer notation but rather an widely interpretable set of “directions” which ensure that the piece is never performed in the same way twice, and that it is never repeatable. – or reversible.This brings us back to Arnheim.(CLICK)
In the beginning of this presentation I identified the difference between closed and open systems as one source of difficulty Arnheim’s research had. I suggest that our semiotic square is an example of an open system, while the diegesis model is an example of a closed one. Now a case can be made that the end state of a diegesis model (being discourse) is not a firm representation of a “closed” system (in that is takes place in culture), but I would contest that the memory of the experience referenced, would degrade over time resulting in the “dissipation” of the productivity of the dialogue. This end state, reached through the removal or transcendence of the materiality of the aesthetic experience brings us very close to the original (and unaltered) definition of entropy as “a tendency (in a closed system) towards the dissipation of useful energy”.
Oscar Wilde’s character, Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Grey states, “All art is self-portraiture”. While the art world has taken many views of this theory, applying it to notions of self-reflexivity, and a forensic view of art,I have shown that the significance of this statement is derived not from its reference to a work of art as a reflection of the intentional viewpoint or preference of the artist, but rather in how it speaks on a deep level of the innately human experience of embodiment. Just as we are an embodied and symbolic species, so too is our art. It is representative of and mirror to our experience and perspective as human beings, and so is structured like that of our awareness; body and mind, emotion and expression, tangible and intangible, order and disorder.
The Logic of Disorder
The Logic of Disorder: A Dynamic View of Cognitive Aesthetics<br />Presentation by:<br />Samantha Schartman<br />Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio USA<br />July 25th<br />2010<br />
Research<br />A pattern of organization has been observed that can be characterized as the force-dynamic opposition between order and disorder.<br />The tension created by this dynamic opposition results in an aesthetically dynamic state.<br />This opposition is reflective of human embodiment and defines a discreet character of the underpinnings of the aesthetic experience. <br />
Rudolf Arnheim<br />Distinguished psychologist and art theorist<br />Studied with two of the founders of Gestalt psychology; Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Köhler<br />Wrote the seminal book: Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye in 1954<br /> Wrote the article: Entropy and Art in 1971<br />
Entropy<br />The 2nd law of thermodynamics, states that in any closed system, there exists a tendency towards the dissipation of useful energy. This tendency is called “Entropy”.<br />
Criticism<br />Peter Landsberg, an established physiciststates: <br />A bridge from science to literature may be accomplished via science fiction. As you might expect from metaphors, the use of the entropy concept here is only suggestive and often superficial. Its normal use is as a hint at ultimate chaos and at a general tendency to decay, be it of objects, people or social organizations (Landsberg, 90).<br />
A Response to Criticism<br />Metaphors are not merely suggestive and superficial, but are productive products of conceptual domains which may correspond to neural mappings in the brain.<br />Using entropy theory to examine closed systems will, in fact, lead one to nihilistic conclusions of ultimate decay, but applying the framework to open systems such as human cognition, perception and experience, disposes one to much more productive analogues that allow for the exchange of forces moving towards and away from disorder. <br />
What Arnheim thinks<br />But it is hard, perhaps impossible to find examples in which the order of a given object or event is limited to what is directly apparent in perception. (Arnheim,2)<br />Outer order reflects inner order<br />If there were independent evidence to make it likely that a similar tendency towards orderly structure exists in these brain processes also, one might want to think of perceptual order as the conscious manifestation of a more universal physiological and indeed physical phenomenon (Arnheim, 3).<br />Cognitive human embodiment might be able to be defined as a neurological tendency towards the application of ordering principals to perceptible phenomena.<br />Disorder is not the absence of all order but rather the clash of uncoordinated orders (Arnheim,7).<br />A tension-creating force dynamic opposition does not indicate a lack or order but rather two competing systems of organization that lead to a sort of volatility <br />
Arnheim’s language<br />Order – all perceptible order is implicative of internal cognitive processes.<br />Disorder – is the clashing of multiple internal cognitive systems of organization.<br />Entropy – tendency towards disorder <br />Catabolic Effect - “shape destroying” the process of entropy <br />Neg-entropy – tendency towards order<br />Anabolic Tendency – perceptible process of increasing order<br />Tension Reduction – a shift from an ordered state to a state of equilibrium (not stated how this is different from entropy)<br />
Problems to be solved<br />Language is unclear and not well defined.<br />Diagram is not explained.<br />All art is assumed to be a closed system.<br />Examples are not given.<br />A methodology is not defined.<br />
Solutions<br />Simplify the language by using only the terms “disorder” and “order” and “entropy” and “neg-entropy”.<br />Explore alternate methods to graph the dynamics within a specific network.<br />All art is not an instance of a closed system.<br />Use lots of examples.<br />Define a methodology.<br />
Step 1: Scalar Oppositions<br />“The beautiful is always strange. I do not mean that it is coldly, deliberately strange. For in that case, it would be a monstrosity that had jumped the rails of life. I mean that it always contains a touch of strangeness, and that it is this touch of strangeness that gives it its particular quality as beauty.” <br /> Charles Baudelaire, 1855<br />
Step 2: Force Dynamic Oppositions<br />The central theme of “The Unknown Masterpiece is the painting’s drive/progression towards an entropic state (disorder) opposing the objectification of Gilette representing a neg-entropic drive towards a fixed state (order). <br />
The significance of self-reflexivity<br />Since the Post-Modern era, reflexivity has sought to remove the intentionality of the artist as a redundant instance of nature.<br />This however would serve to communicate that cognition, emotion, creativity, and so on are not special or important – since nature is just uniformly causal and mentally blind<br />Returning to the ideas set forth by Arnheim, I assert that perceptible dynamics reflect internal cognitive processes.<br />This is supported by the symbiotic relationship between Frenhofer and his painting that Balzac describes in “The Unknown Masterpiece”.<br />
Step 3: The Actantial Model (Gombrich)<br />For Gombrich, art is the transposition of nature to an audience by an artist through the use of technique and in spite of the chosen medium.<br />
Step 3: The Actantial Model (my version)<br />Instead of nature being the contained objective for art’s delivery to an audience, I instead submit that the motivating idea behind Monet’s Rouen Cathedral is Monet’s perception of light in time. Whereas Gombrich focuses on technique, Monet places his focus on the phenomenological.<br />
Step 5: The Semiotic Square<br />Algirdas J. Greimas’ Model illustrating the dynamics inherent in any semantic structure<br />
The Semiotic Square in Stevens<br /> The theme is described by desire circulating though a system defined as the conflict between the essential self as duality (e.g. body and spirit) and the existential self embodied (“evilly compounded, vital I”), instantiated in either a simple (order) or complex (disorder) state of being. <br />
The Purpose of the Semiotic Square in Blending<br />In each layer of the blending cascade, the “relevance schema” consists of, among other things, the dynamics represented by the semiotic square.<br />
Brandtian Ontology and Blending<br /> Art often represents a shift from the phenomenological layer, where perception takes place, to the semiotic layer where perception is expressed through symbolic systems resulting in discourse (culture).<br />
Solving the Entropy Problem<br />The differing functions of the semiotic square and diegesis models, seem to implicate the original difficulty that Arnheim had in reconciling his theory of art with that of his understanding of the physics of entropy.<br />the semiotic square model as illustrative of an open system - one that continuously oscillates between states, and the diegesis model as representative of a closed system – one that moves from one static state to that of an end state. <br />
Conclusion<br />“All art is self-portraiture.”<br />
Further research<br />How does embodiment relate to abstraction as it is referred to by neurologist SemirZeki, in his article entitled Neural Concept Formation & Art: Dante, Michelangelo, Wagner (Zeki, 2002)? <br />Are force dynamics recognized in the same way as spatial relationships (like the notion of verticality)? <br />If the brain constantly processes information by first looking for general consistencies as Zeki suggests, and all art is built upon a structure defined by human embodiment, it is conceivable that there could be a neurological basis for aesthetics. <br />If we are to understand the aesthetic experience as the force dynamic opposition of order and disorder, and that experience is distributed in time; how then, is the dynamic process of perception situated in time in relation to a time-based (temporal) work? <br />