Re: [rumori] enjoy Chuckie Bumpling

From: Chris Stecker (
Date: Fri Sep 14 2001 - 12:12:08 PDT

On Thursday 13 September 2001 11:48, Steev wrote:

> life is a collage. sometimes it seems to be a random blur of
> unrelated events. other times it seems to make sense or have
> a pattern. many times even when it doesn't have a pattern
> people look for and invent patterns in it. same with
> collage, and the creators of collage - some seek only to
> duplicate and amplify the dizzying barrage of sensory data
> that is reality. others seek to make sense of it, and show
> others the sense of it, as they see it. that's art.

Consider that _pattern_ itself is "merely" a construct of observation. The
process of perception (and even cognition and memory) is the construction of
patterns of meaning from (dis)ordered neural activity (e.g., sensory input).
Your brain is in a constant process of rarranging information into sensible
patterns, and I would suggest that this sense-making task is a guiding
principle of brain function at many levels, from auditory and visual
perception (constructing concepts of sound sources, locations, melodies,
phonemes, and sentences from the chaos of acoustic vibration received at the
ears) to reasoning, story-making, memory (the construction of meaningful
"stories" which make sense of fragments of stored sense-data, expectations
based on similar "memories," etc.), and (of course) dreaming (memory minus a
coherent librarian to select related fragments?).

I would assert, as Steev does above, that the motivation of the collage
artist (and all true artists?) is an extension of this biological
pattern-making process: to draw connections between ideas which may at first
seem unrelated. Consider in the extreme the surrealist paranoiac-critical
(please bear in mind that I am a neuroscientist, not an art historian)
method, in which one phase is the generation and combination of random
material, followed by a second phase of selection and presentation in which
the artist amplifies the results of the first which resonate with his
aesthetic or mood or whatever. Surrealist works can be powerfully symbolic
because the random connections somehow just happen to evoke something
important, even more so because they are not explicit in their reference,
leaving much of the "connecting" to the viewer/listener.

Far from "numbing and stasis-inducing," such "thoughtlessly chosen
juxtapositions" gain significant power by involving the listener in the
process of pattern-making. Of course IMO, the juxtapositions must be TRULY
thoughtless, not carelessly overt (e.g., as in the random mixing of popular
images). Indeed, some (most) of my favorite works are ones which seem to
have the least "critical-phase" manipulation by the artists, bringing us back
to the potentialities of abstract art. Take as an example Reich's "Come out"
or Lucier's "I am sitting in a room;" a simple acoustic process is repeatedly
presented to the listener, who cannot help but have his brain rearrange the
pieces into new and wonderful sonic images. Once the listener realizes that
he is doing the artmaking, then the bridge has been crossed. Anyone can make
random art. Anyone can relate to abstract art, and each will in his own way.

In fact, as a true American (that is, one who remains blissfully unaware of
the world outside my sphere, including the lives and agendas of
representationalist artists), random abstract art holds an especially strong
appeal for me; its "meaning" is specific to my interaction with it. No one
can tell me how to appreciate it or that I don't "understand." Now, if
artists feel threatened by the potential of millions of tasteless Americans
relating to thoughtless art, each in his own thoughtless way, who's problem
is that?

Good riddance to "good art,"

-Chris Stecker
Brain Science / brain scientist

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