CRITICALITY (IN PHYSICS AND ART) IV
Date: Sun, 07 Jun 1998
From: Ronald van Tienhoven
I think you sounded utterly convincing! I read your discussion with Arjen yesterday in the train to Antwerpen. For me it was an absolute eyeopener. I've already ordered some of the books you mentioned.
Still, much can be said about the mental influence of nucear disasters, let say the voodoo-like characteristics of nuclear disaster, which was profoundly visualised in Tarkovski's film STALKER. It's also a state of mind, which cannot only be connected to poor knowledge or emotions. It's not for nothing that e.g. the Aboriginals have such a deep respect for all those sites which they consider to be holy. Most of the time these sites are full of uranium ore.
The same happens at four corners: the place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah collide at one point.
I visited the Hopi there on several accasions, and I was struck with the awe with which they deal with the uranium deposits under their feet. Does this attitude show us their partial lack of knowledge or their profound understanding of the properties of uranium?
Personally I believe in a spiritual relationship with the materials of this universe and I was struck with the way the Hopi dealt with that. Chernobyl is not only a certain amount of wasteland combined with a certain amount of dead and injured. It also encompasses a realm, a forbidden zone with heavy implications with respect to the precision with which we deal with the properties of certain matter. The protocol this requires is not only a technological one. With the advent of new technologies we also need a spiritual protocols with regard to certain new technologies.
Was Rachel Carson a pessimist or an optimist? I think it all boils down to creating the RIGHT AMALGAM!!! In that respect a dialectical attitude (pessimist vs. optimist) will turn out to be highly unproductive.
Hope to hear from you!
Date: Sat, 20 Jun 1998
From: Arjen Mulder
I've been thinking a lot about my critique on Frank Tipler's The Physics of Immortality, but I find it exhausting to only begin a critique. When I read the book during my holiday I became, hmm, stupefied maybe: how is it possible that somebody claims to be talking about science and technology while from my point of view (which I claim to be more scientific than his) he is only talking about belief and ideology. In despair I turned to the other holiday book I had brought along, Marshall McLuhan's 1962 classic The Gutenberg Galaxy. After studying this book for a few days, I think I found the answer to my 'onbehagen' against science as it is presented nowadays in books like Tippler's or in one of all these 'science and art' symposia and exhibitions we have had these last few months. McLuhan comments on page 73 on one of his quotations and then writes:
Does this not imply that if we can devise a consistent means of translating all aspects of our world into the language of one sense only, we shall then have a distortion that is scientific because consistent and coherent?
(all and one in italics)
That was my passion while studying biology: to translate all aspects of my world, the world into the language of the visual sense only, 'het zuivere zien' (pure, objective observation), in order to make it consistent and coherent. But McLuhan is right: that is a distortion. The world is not just visual, it's also tactile, auditory etcetera. The world is what we allow our senses to registrate, and the world of a shark is a different one from ours, because sharks have the electric current sense in the front part of their head that allows them to detect muscle movement in the water around them. Science makes the bandwith of our sensory perception very small. Art in my view should make the bandwith of sensory perception as broad as possible. They are projects with an opposite intention. Art can allow the world to be inconsistent and incoherent, because our human sensory perception is inconsistent and incoherent. Science is an idealistic approach to the universe, trying to overcome our human limits by limiting them to the extreme: to one sense, the visual sense, and even denying the right of the human eye to decide what can be observed (that's why the human eye is replaced by optic machines to make objective observations). Am I making myself clear in my not so clear use of the English language? Artist, beware of science: it's going to kill you!
PS I did not hear anything out of Wageningen yet. Is it still going on, our booklet, or is it cancelled?
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