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Role of the Artist

See also: [Text as art material] So, what then are the artist's duties in society? So, even if i'm *not* a "board-certified" artist, i still have a certain sense of duty to the community at large - read that as: "SpaceShip Earth"... -- written some time ago

Creativity, Progress, and Responsibility

The creative process has its ups and downs; if i may be flippant for a moment. Einstein said that if he had known that his equation would have led to the death of people, that he would have never become a physicist, but instead a gardner and studied the violin more assiguously. And in the same way if we think about propaganda art and its potential for indocrination and destruction, we see that a similar weight of repoonsibility befalls us as well. I want to expand the concept of artist to the purely creative effort and what that means. The so-called "leap of insight" that is the characteristic of the break-through. In particular, to work through some of the ideas of creativity in maths for that seems most similar to art. I wish that i could take credit for such an brilliant connection, but it occurs in the wondrous little book by Lillian Lieber, "The Education of T.C. Mits" (T.C. Mits - standing for "the celebrated man in the street"). In this book, she draws a connection between platonic solids which she places into a tower and the range of the concrete ideas to the abstract. At the highest level are the pure mathematicians and abstract artists; i understand that her husband was an artist, and judging by his style something of a surrealist closer to Joan Miro or Saul Steinberg than my more minimalist style. This idea propelled me for many years to work through many, many of the areas of maths - both applied and abstract; usually with not much more than an interested amateure's enthusiasm. We start with Rene Descartes' discovery of analytic geometry which must surely be one of the most brilliant ever in any area of thought: To join the infinite line of real numbers with the geometry of the plane. Thus, as well remember (or dread as the case may be ;) we can graphy any equation in the XY-plane. And of course, in 3 dimentions, we can graph cubes, spheres, and all manner of surfaces and solids. Of course early pioneers in 4-dimensional geometry (such as a particular favorite of mine Henry Parker Manning) kept be both enthralled and mystified. But, then when Jean Louis Argand discovered his "Argand Diagram" (which was previously discovered by Caspar Wessel), another great leap forward was made. In this case, taking the Y-axis to represent the imaginary numbers and the X-axis the real numbers - thus allowing complex equations to be expressed when they involved "i" (the square root of -1). And then (i believe Hamilton of Algebra fame) discovered the idea of phase space. In this case, The X-axis is displacement (distance) and the Y-axis is momentum (velocity). This leads a bit later the development of chaos theory by Poincare and of course Mandelbrot, Feigenbaum, "and the rest". My point here is that such a simple idea as two perpendicular lines - which had been around at *least* since the time of Euclid and almost certainly since the beginning of building *any* rectalinear thing (think squares, rectangles, and of course pyramids - as opposed to curvilinear; eg, circles, ovals, etc). That these could have led to a new way to think about behaviour of not only mathematical functions (ie, as purely ideal, geometric objects) but to the progress of the sciences for which the mathematician Eric Temple Bell pronounced Maths as "The Queen of the Sciences". And of course then "for no apparent reason" - "Ah ha!" insight the the bril maths gamester Martin Gardner always refered to -- boom! From the real X-Y plane, to the Imaginary Plane, to the Phase Plane - and each leap of inspiration was as great a leap as from 1 (line) to 2 (plane) to 2.5 (fractal) dimensions. And this is part of the problem of the visual arts in general - a problem that taxes me continually. That is, using "cross currents" or "non-linear thinking" or "translation" or "metaphor" or "analogue thinking", etc, etc, to reach new ideas; to form bridges from one to the next, but also to carve out new landscapes.

The Past/Present/Future

As the futurist/historian Bruno Latour has pointed out in his tidy little book "We have never been modern", the myth of time is one that we (as humans) consistently mistake for history; although, i am certainly twisting his words around a bit. That is the crises of our present time have always been present. Today we have over-population, before we had plagues. Today we had ozone layer depletion, before we had massive deforestation and if nothing else the obliteration of the passenger pigeon and the dodo. And so forth. And of course, as an artist i keep going back for as much free thinking and imagination as possible to help solve these problems. For indeed as Malthus pointed out: The Earth's capacity to support life is linear, but the growth of life is geometric. So, it is now within reason that we may - as not just a race, but as a world passing the "limits of growth". A theory that many with other interests other than the pursuit of truth dismiss by combinations of denial, and fabrication. And of course that's just the physical problem. The social problems are what to do with the excess population for which the "modern" economically driven capital systems which have been so successful in the past have now become an end in themselves. When the writer Aldous Huxley pointed out in his "Brave New World" that eventually we would all have to consume with out end or the production based model would grind to a halt. And while he predicted a gentic programming of this lemming-like drive, which hasn't so far materialised, other futurists such as Philip K. Dick saw it as possibly becoming a governmental mandate. Fortunately, enough it only took the continual barrage of *images* that we experience on TV, Radio (an early form of PodQast), and advertising to achieve our current, manic level of "generous extravagance" that Huzley saw in America as it emerged from the First World War and that we now see being exported to all but the poorest of 4th and 5th world countries. Where it will all end is a mystery to me as much as anyone, but i can't help but think of the words of the painter/photographer Moholy Nagy when he pointed out that when ever a problem in society arose, government, military, business, and even religious leaders were consulted. But, almost never artists; the most creative of "professions" - not an exact quote. But, certainly true. Well, that's it for now froodz. Time to attempt sleep yet again. -- Frank: Still your part time decimal point and substitute door-stop.