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Posts tagged "science"

Aug 05, 2014
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Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s Scientific Guide to Art

In December 1993, the Russian emigre art collaborators Komar and Melamid began a statistical market research poll to determine America’s “most wanted” and “most unwanted” paintings. Since then, the whimsical project has spread around the world. Polls in the United States, Ukraine, France, Iceland, Turkey, Denmark, Finland, Kenya, and China revealed that people wanted portraits of their families and always “blue landscapes.” After conducting research, the pair paint made-to-order works that meet the wanted (landscape) and unwanted (abstract) criteria; they follow up with town meetings as virtual performance pieces. This intriguing and serious volume documents issues raised by the conflict between high art and popular taste.

I read this after devouring Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End of Taste, which quoted several bits.

The book was published in 1997, so it’s almost 20 years old, but, in this age of Instagram likes and Tumblr reblogs, I read it mostly as a cautionary tale about artists looking to their audiences for direction as to what they should produce for them. As Diana Vreeland said, ”You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”

The best part of the book is the beginning interview with Komar and Melamid. I’ve quoted some of my own favorite bits, below.

On collaboration:

Everyone works collaboratively. That is why society exists. Even artist who imagines himself to be like God, a solitary creator, is working in collaboration with his teachers, his predecessors, craftsmen who created his canvas and paints, and so on—just as God created world with help of angels. Old romantic view of artist is a travesty of monotheism.

How modern artists have lost their way:

We have lost even our belief that we are the minority which knows. We believed ten years ago, twenty years ago, that we knew the secret. Now we have lost this belief. We are a minority with no power and no belief, no faith. I feel myself, as an artist and as a citizen, just totally obsolete. I don’t know why I am here, what I am doing. What is so good about me doing this, or any other artist?

The difference between European and American culture:

I’m stunned by the differences between the European culture and the American culture. In America, the best which has been produced in culture came from the bottom of society. Like music—the greatest musicians of the twentieth century were illiterate; they couldn’t read music.

Why artists should look to hip-hop for inspiration:

People really want art, but we, the elite artists, we don’t serve them… What we need is to create a real pop art, a real art of the people, like the music… And the hip-hop, rock, that’s the greatest thing in the world. We need to make art like these people. We have to learn how they work. That’s what is an artist.

How, in Russia, “Sunday painter” was actually a good thing:

In Russia, “Sunday painter” had a very pure, simple dissident flavor, because to paint on Sunday meant to paint for yourself, not for government. I knew a few very professional artists who made a living painting socialist realism for money all week and painted abstract art.

But how that changed when they moved to America:

Now we paint differently. You know the propaganda cliche: we emigrate and become free, and now we can paint all week, without interuption, without weekends. Every day became Sunday, but you’re working every day. No free time, that’s because you’re free.

And whether their work is serious or not:

No one would ask of life, “Is it all serious or all a joke?” because tragedy and comedy coexist in one life. You cannot separate and say it is all one or all the other. It is same with this work, with all our work: it is serious and humorous at the same time.

Thanks to @mulegirl for the recommendation. Here’s a website with some more of the paintings.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Apr 07, 2014
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Cosmos, like most pop histories of science, teaches the false narrative that the history of science is that of a few, heroic, lone geniuses doing battle with the masses and forces of institutional darkness.The reality, of course, is that science is a collaborative (and competitive) process, slowly evolving over the centuries thanks to the work of millions of people and supported by large institutions and governments, without which progress would be impossible. Mark Twain put it best in a letter he wrote to Helen Keller:”It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others.” It’s an important lesson to remember.
Alex Knapp: A Corrective To Cosmos  (via ayjay) (UPDATE: I’ve actually had a few people tweet at me that they got the opposite feeling from watching the series. I, of course, haven’t even seen it yet…)

(via ayjay)

Feb 14, 2014
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Excerpt from A General Theory Of Love

quartey:

ucresearch:

ucresearch:

From A General Theory of Love by UCSF’s Dr. Thomas Lewis.
It’s a great mix of humor, poetics and science.  

“Long-standing togetherness writes permanent changes into a brain’s open book.  In a relationship, one mind revises another; one heart changes its partner. … Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love.”

"Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love."

I just started this last night. Started with the 7th chapter about kids. Lots of underlining, including this passage:


  Everything a person is and everything he knows resides in the tangled thicket of his intertwined neurons. These fateful, tiny bridges number in the quadrillions, but they spring from just two sources: DNA and daily life.


First heard about it from Maria.

Excerpt from A General Theory Of Love

quartey:

ucresearch:

ucresearch:

From A General Theory of Love by UCSF’s Dr. Thomas Lewis.

It’s a great mix of humor, poetics and science.  

Long-standing togetherness writes permanent changes into a brain’s open book.  In a relationship, one mind revises another; one heart changes its partner. … Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love.”

"Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love."

I just started this last night. Started with the 7th chapter about kids. Lots of underlining, including this passage:

Everything a person is and everything he knows resides in the tangled thicket of his intertwined neurons. These fateful, tiny bridges number in the quadrillions, but they spring from just two sources: DNA and daily life.

First heard about it from Maria.

(Source: mabelles, via jedsundwall)

Apr 08, 2013
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propaedeuticist:

At NASA’s Drawing Board - J R Eyerman

Reblogging just so I can resurrect the “chalkboards” tag

(Source: propaedeuticist, via wnycradiolab)

Dec 11, 2012
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The artist vs. the scientist

I am a scientist
I seek to understand me
All of my impurities
and evils yet unknown
Guided By Voices

thenearsightedmonkey:

Because artists and scientists don’t hang around each other quite enough, they accumulate odd imaginations about each other. Here a great scientist talks about an artist who imagines that scientists have a inferior imaginative take on things.

It was fun to find out while reading Lawrence Weschler’s books on Robert Irwin and David Hockney that both artists spent a good amount of time hanging out with scientists and felt a special kinship with them.

Robert Irwin in Seeing Is Forgetting The Name Of The Thing One Sees:

Everyone involved on a particular level of asking questions, whether he’s a physicist or a philosopher or an artist, is essentially involved in the same questions. They are universal in that sense… although we may use different methods to come at them…

The scientist in the video above is the great Richard Feynman. Here’s an excerpt of what he says:

The way I think of what we are doing is, we are exploring, we are trying to find out as much as we can about the world. People say to me, “Are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?” No I am not. I am just looking to find out more about the world.

Hockney, in True To Life:

Finding out that [art and science are] not that different has been very exciting for me. The more I’ve read of mathematicians and physicists, the more engrossed I’ve become. They really seem like artists to me. One’s struck how it’s almost a notion of beauty which seems to be guiding them, how at the frontiers of inquiry, contemporary physics even seems to be approaching and acknowledging eternal mysteries.

Feynman explains why the unknown doesn’t bother him:

I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong… I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe…

This is very much the attitude that the writer Donald Barthelme said was essential to the creation of art:

The writer is one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do… The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention… Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing…

Irwin says the process of inquiry that an artist goes through is a lot like a chemist’s, in that “What you do when you start to do a painting is that you begin with a basic idea, a hypothesis of what you’re setting out to do,” and then the rest is a lot of experimenting and trial-and-error.

But there are some essential differences, mainly that it’s hard to retrace an artist’s thought process (although, some artists leave a better paper trail than others…):

“Once the scientist is finished, you can look back over his notes to consider the precise sequence of yes-no weighings which brought him to his solution. It’s all quite logical and structured… The artist, on the other hand, keeps no such record (although historians would love it if he did). Rather, he literally paints over his errors. Six months later, when you ask him, ‘Why did you stop there?’ and he replies, ‘Well, because it felt right,’ his answer may not seem acceptable from a logical point of view… but in fact it’s quite reasonable. Given the basic fundamentals, he’s tried just about every damn combination possible, every way possible, until he’s finally arrived at what makes sense to him. The critical difference is that the artist measures from his intuition, his feeling. In other words, he uses himself as the measure.

(Source: xyvch)

Oct 02, 2012
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Barry Commoner Dies at 95 - NYTimes.com

He was called “the Paul Revere of Environmentalism.”


  His four informal rules of ecology were catchy enough to print on a T-shirt and take to the street: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.


That’s the second great Marxist we’ve lost this week at the age of 95. RIP.

Filed under: chalkboards, obituaries

Barry Commoner Dies at 95 - NYTimes.com

He was called “the Paul Revere of Environmentalism.”

His four informal rules of ecology were catchy enough to print on a T-shirt and take to the street: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

That’s the second great Marxist we’ve lost this week at the age of 95. RIP.

Filed under: chalkboards, obituaries

Sep 22, 2012
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thenearsightedmonkey:

This semester, The Near-Sighted Monkey is spending a lot of time at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery   hanging around scientists and thinking about how they use their hands and how we use our hands when we are trying to figure something out or explain something.
Does being able to write out a problem by hand have some advantage over typing it onto a screen? What is it? How does it differ?
Says the Near-Sighted Monkey about her first day at WID:
“There are white boards and markers every which way you look on the upper floors of the WID building and they are often covered with what look like long dense sentences — I don’t even know what to call them. Are they formulas?  These sloping rows of hand-written shapes. They are beautiful.  Straightforward un-self conscious calligraphy—-  numbers over letters with tinier numbers next to them and then sudden epsilons and deltas and symbols I’ve never seen before like an equal sign drawn wiggly which I think means “pretty much equals”.
I could watch the people at WID draw their formulas out on white boards all day.
When I told one of the mathematicians I met how surprised I was to find people doing so much writing by hand, he told me he needs a pencil in his hand when he’s thinking. He said most of the mathematicians he knows are the same way. “
How can our hands help us think something out?

Filed under: use your hands

thenearsightedmonkey:

This semester, The Near-Sighted Monkey is spending a lot of time at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery  hanging around scientists and thinking about how they use their hands and how we use our hands when we are trying to figure something out or explain something.

Does being able to write out a problem by hand have some advantage over typing it onto a screen? What is it? How does it differ?

Says the Near-Sighted Monkey about her first day at WID:

“There are white boards and markers every which way you look on the upper floors of the WID building and they are often covered with what look like long dense sentences — I don’t even know what to call them. Are they formulas?  These sloping rows of hand-written shapes. They are beautiful.  Straightforward un-self conscious calligraphy—-  numbers over letters with tinier numbers next to them and then sudden epsilons and deltas and symbols I’ve never seen before like an equal sign drawn wiggly which I think means “pretty much equals”.

I could watch the people at WID draw their formulas out on white boards all day.

When I told one of the mathematicians I met how surprised I was to find people doing so much writing by hand, he told me he needs a pencil in his hand when he’s thinking. He said most of the mathematicians he knows are the same way. “

How can our hands help us think something out?

Filed under: use your hands

(Source: handdrawnbyhand)

Aug 07, 2012
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Einstein and Picasso compare drawings (from Steve Martin's PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE)

  • EINSTEIN: It's perfect.
  • PICASSO: Thank you.
  • EINSTEIN: I'm talking about mine.
  • PICASSO: It's a formula.
  • EINSTEIN: So's yours.
  • PICASSO: It was a little hastily drawn… Yours is letters.
  • EINSTEIN: Yours is lines.
  • PICASSO: My lines mean something.
  • EINSTEIN: So do mine.
  • PICASSO: Mine is beautiful.
  • EINSTEIN: Men have swooned on seeing that (indicates his own drawing).
  • PICASSO: Mine touches the heart.
  • EINSTEIN: Mine touches the head.
  • PICASSO: (holds his drawing): This will change the future.
  • EINSTEIN: (holds his drawing): Oh, and this won't?

Aug 19, 2011
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The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees

13-year-old studies trees and Fibonacci sequence, comes up with a design for better solar panels. Awesome.

The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees

13-year-old studies trees and Fibonacci sequence, comes up with a design for better solar panels. Awesome.

Jun 27, 2011
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Darryl Cunningham Investigates: Evolution

Great comic about evolution. Thx, @scottmccloud
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