A random collection of Reflections on my experience of life...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Within the margin of error

This post is inspired by an anonymous saying which goes 'Dont let art be all about comprehending the expression of the artist. Its so much more than that, and indeed it is this very incomprehensibility that makes art truly and uniquely beautiful' 

Indeed, what I gather from this saying confirms what I believe generalizes all of human emotion. If you ever give it a sincere thought, human emotion has arisen from things beyond our understanding. There's no clear definition of beauty that is documented; neither is there an epitome of perfect beauty accross which anything else could be compared. The inability to understand ourselves, the working of our mind and that of our own body confuses us, and causes us to react so. 

Just to make it clearer for those who have reached so far, this post may seem utterly pointless and even a waste of time for most of you; and indeed you would be right. To those of you, please proceed and devote your time to something more fruitful. But to the rest of you, I would like to appeal to your sense of understanding, to grasp the inadequacies of the heuristics we take for granted; and relate to what I feel truly describes our life - within the margin of error.

Lets start with an example. Lets start with the word 'Ideal' (you would associate it with perfect). For those of you who watch Boston Legal, you would recall a scene in Season 1, episode 6 'Truth be told' :
(background: Sally is defending a guy who jiggered in a spoon right thru a toaster and got himself electrocuted. Sally's case - its the toaster manufacturer's fault for not considering safety of users, while the defendant claims its the guy's fault for behaving non-idealistically)

Sally Heep exits Alan’s office, walks down the hallway, and enters a library area and picking out a book.Denny Crane is there.
Denny Crane: Ever used a computer?
Sally Heep: Denny. Um, yes. Yes, I have.
Denny Crane: Remarkable machine.
Sally Heep: Let me ask you a question. A manufacturer of toasters should anticipate that their written safety instructions will be ignored to the extent that they’re counterintuitive and should plan for that contingency, right?
Denny Crane: In an ideal world

My second take: In an ideal world, we would expect every user to use the toaster only within the limits of its stated usage. And in such a scenario, It makes no sense for the manufacturer to plan for contingencies arising out of un-idealistic behaviour, in an Ideal world. 

I know I'm playing around with point-of-view or frame-of-reference (From the point-of-view of the toaster manufacturer, an ideal world would be one where every user behaved ideally and within limits of stated usage instructions; while from the user's point-of-view, an ideal world would be where every toaster were manufactured to handle any conceivable usage), but whatever it is, we have just succeeded in thwarting the impression of the word 'ideal'. So now, 'Ideal' is not so ideal after all.

Similar arguments apply to beauty as well; and in fact to any known human emotion. Going back to the original saying:
'Dont let art be all about comprehending the expression of the artist. Its so much more than that, and indeed it is this very incomprehensibility that makes art truly and uniquely beautiful'
Okay, so when the artist goes about making a piece of art - be it a painting, sculpture, inscription, or anything, s/he has a mental picture of what s/he wishes to convey. And more often that not, the mental picture is either a mixture of emotion, or a message. Whatever it is, once the art-form is ready, what it conveys differs from observer to observer. Many artists have considered this implication a positive one. They say: The true beauty of art is to convey an expression and let it imply different meanings to different people. And if you happen to observe true art, you must find the conveyed meaning in your own way, and not necessarily the way the artist meant it. This is why art is 'so much more' than just a medium of communication. 

I do not disagree.

But I would like to point out an objective view, that questions this behaviour. First of all, if the observer is unable to determine what the author had in mind while creating the art, it is evidently clear that either the artist was incapable of, or the mode of art chosen was insufficient to convey the emotions / expressions effectively to the user. And this incapability / insufficiency is something which we as humans cannot bring ourselves to face. So we find solace and choose to extoll this rather unique form of expression, where the incapability / insufficiency is regarded as necessary for the resulting beauty that art cannot do without. 
Since it is unclear as to what the artist wishes to express, the observers make their own interpretations of what the artist probably meant. And since this interpretation depends on individual personality, it must be different for different people. 
Associating this differentiation with beauty or the brilliance of art is something that artists take great pride in doing. Indeed, this is probably the only reason that art as a profession even exists.

And yet, there is another explanation. Probably, art is indeed not about a form of expression or communication. It is about rediscovering ourselves, as we observe the piece of art. 
Often, as a part of psychological analysis of patients, researchers display them abstract images drawn on a paper by threads dipped in paint. They make no logical sense, but when forced, the brain tries to draw analogies to make sense of the painting. Through these analogies, patients either see 'snakes' or 'cats' or 'lions' or 'tigers' or what not. It is these interpretations that lead researchers to their understanding of the patients' mind or cognitive state. But is it really true 'understanding'? In my opinion it is just a manifestation of how little we understand ourselves, so much so that we pride ourselves for researching on how little we know about it. And the more we know, the more we realize how little we know. 

We constantly live in heuristics of what we consider to be benchmarks of beauty, of joy, of happiness, of freedom, of serenity, of peace, or of emotion. How can you define peace, when your definition of violence itself is clouded? How can you define imperfection when you cannot know what perfect or ideal is? I do not wish to be misunderstood, and am not against the claim made by artists. Indeed, what our mind conjures or is capable of conjuring in the form of art or science (yes, true science is inseparable from art), truly transcends all our perceptions of beauty and emotion. But taking such an interpretation for granted and as the basis for understanding is, in my honest opinion, a false premise. 

Writing has always been considered a mode of communication and expression. However I believe it is much more than that, it is also an art. What you interpret from what I've written above may not be what I intended to convey in its entirety. Probably you have formed an interpretation that draws meaning in your own unique way; that instills in you an understanding of a different kind. In such a case, you will truly realize the essence of what I intend to convey, that we live in our own unique world bounded by its own heuristics that we have learnt not to question. But when we do question, we realize how little we know without the heuristics to support us. And scary though that thought may be, it is the true reality. we live within a Margin of Error, the bounds of which we still do not know...


me, as i am said...

"And yet, there is another explanation. Probably, art is indeed not about a form of expression or communication. It is about rediscovering ourselves, as we observe the piece of art."

But then again, we always try finding something familiar in whatever we see. I mean, the abstract paintings, or if say you go to a different place, you tend to look for people you know. So when we rediscover ourselves, its basically that we try finding something familiar in whatever we see. And when the wavelengths match, we 'love' that piece of art.

Hope that made sense :)

Asmita said...

well written.. took me a day to read it.. ( well i had to take breaks and read it over and over. lol).. lot of relativity :D.. but its was a good read..

thank u for the comments on my blog.. and also for adding me on ur "blogs i read" list ( i think its a list)