Johnson v. Warhol

HerbOctober 8, 2004

In the latest issue of the (U.K.) Spectator, one of the regular contribuitors, Taki, makes some adverse comments on somebody's art collection. Taki cites two very different opinions about art. Here they are -

"In his new history of art, Paul Johnson views art as Âthe ordering instinct that makes society possibleÂ", and

"According to Andy Warhol, art is what you can get away with."

I think that Paul Johnson's definition is a great deal sounder and worthwhile than the cynical one attributed to Andy Warhol.

Taki was not, of course discussing the Garden Art of Japan, but since he has raised this question of what constitutes Art, it would be interesting to hear what people have to say about it in the context of Japanese gardening.

My own (instinctive) opinion is that the ordering instinct that Paul Johnson refers to is fundamental to the best forms of Japanese gardening. But is the Andy Warhol standard creeping in?

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edzard(3b Canada)

Paul Johnson's view is still somewhat naive in the scope of (garden) art, yet for the conversation accepted, whereas Andy Warhol's art did not circumvent the 'ordering instinct', and agreed, everyone needs to attempt getting away with something at some time or another.
Is it happening here? Absolutely, the wish to bypass the beginnings to a fast-track seems more important than the method. Garden is more method, than ordering a garden. From following a method, a garden emerges. By following the order, a copy emerges.

i'm not convinced that we have the need to 'order' as a fundament, as much as the need to build to enable cultivation, whether cultivating an idea, or nomadically a herd or in situ, a crop... in which each action allows us to express our ability to build tools, from which eventually order, need -> composition -> construction -> order of assembly = a tool, from which we may observe that an order has emerged.

:), is then the garden a tool? or just an ordering system? or a mindless copy?
just $.02's, and some quicksand.
edzard

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 10:29AM
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Herb

Edzard,

I can't help feeling think that you're falling into the error of taking the word 'order' out of its context, and attaching too much significance to it, e.g. by contrasting it with the word 'method'. I sense a somewhat semantic approach that may be missing the deeper significance of Johnson's definition read as a whole.

Herb

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 11:20AM
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inkognito

"I argue here that art predated not only writing but probably structured speech too, that it was closely associated with the ordering instinct which makes society possible, and that it has therefore always been essential to human happiness."

"By art I mean three things: useful art, concerned with survival; fine art, concerned with beauty; and fashion art, concerned with conformity to social rules."
Paul Johnson from the book mentioned, which might help to 'flesh out' what he was talking about. Paul Johnson is an historian who deals in the Deep and Meaningful: Andy Warhol, on the other hand, claims only to be superficial. Warhol's work, as opposed to the sound bite, reflects the superficiality of the world as he sees it. Strangely he does so in a totally unique way that makes it a deep and meaningful commentary.

I find Paul Johnson's three meanings of art problematic and I am not sure which banner I would put a Japanese Garden under, although I could probably get away with putting it any one of the three.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 12:04PM
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Herb

Inky,

At first I was inclined to agree with you that Johnson's three categories of Art are a bit questionable - e.g., when I consider the painting Christ on the Cross in Britain's National Gallery. On the other hand, I think Johnson was writing - in that context - about Art pre-dating both speech and writing, at which point I doubt that Art had advanced to the stage of expressing religious emotions. I would hate to think that in saying any if this I'll be taken for one of Jacques Derrida's disciples. As I indicated to Edzard, I prefer not to over-analyse the expression "ordering instinct that makes society possible".

There is, I believe, a mathematical or computer process called 'fuzzy logic', which sounds as though it should produce unreliable results, but that, in practice, works very well indeed.

Johnson's expression "ordering instinct that makes society possible" may - as Derrida might have asserted - also be 'fuzzy', but I think that in an analogous way to the operation of 'fuzzy logic' it describes the human instinct that leads to great Art - including the best of Japanese garden art - very effectively.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 6:40PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

"Paul Johnson views art as Âthe ordering instinct that makes society possibleÂ", and

"According to Andy Warhol, art is what you can get away with."

IMHO, Paul Johnson seems to be talking about all forms of human endeavor that could be called "art", while I'd guess that Wahrhol was referring to the form of art created by himself and a comparitively small group of of similarly-minded artists.

I would argue that (as presented in this context) Johnson's view is overly broad. For example, accountancy easily falls within the scope of Âthe ordering instinct that makes society possibleÂ, but it is better regarded as a science than an art (as former clients of Arthur Anderson may realize to their regret :)

Similarly, Wahrhol's view is probably too narrow, except as applied to Wahrholian art.
(It is My Humble Opinion that we would be the less as a culture if Wahrhol had not taught us how to sees the beauty and banality of a Campbell's soup can, and the banality of beauty when it has been mass-produced and merchandised as Marilyn Monroe's was.)

OTOH, what was the reaction to Ryoanji when it was first built?
(Others will correct me here if Ryoanji was not indeed the first of its kind.)
I have an image of the designer (whose name escapes me at the moment) opening the shoji to show his creation to the guy who put up the money, followed by gasps issued, teacups knocked over and CPR administered :)
But Ryoanji is still here, so the designer "got away with it."
[Could we say that that makes it Wahrholian? (ducking and running, especially from Herb :)]

What about the calligrapher Ikkyu, who drew his characters with a broom? What it he, or Basho, or both, who got so drunk one night they tried dipping their topknots in ink and writing with them?
They "got away with it", and their efforts sold for high prices and were regarded as art.

When the shogun insisted on seeing Sen no Rikkyu's morning glories in bloom, and he cut them down and threw away all but the one he displayed in the tea room tokonoma for the shogun's visit, most students of Tea agree that *that was art*.
OTOH, if being invited by the shogun to commit seppeku shortly afterward constitutes not "getting away with it",
does that mean that it wasn't art?
(Or just that it wasn't Wahrholian? :)

"By art I mean three things: useful art, concerned with survival; fine art, concerned with beauty; and fashion art, concerned with conformity to social rules."

I would say, in terms of gardening, "useful art" would be growing food & textile fibers, "fine art" would be what Japanese Gardens seek to achieve, and "fashion art" would be what many Japanese gardens do achieve.

all of the above is my un-artistically-educated humble opinion,

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 7:54PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Make that "Warhol" and "Warholian."
And please ignore all the other typos, too :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 10:32PM
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Herb

Evelyn,

I don't agree that you can possibly be 'ducking and running' because (in the context of discourse between me & Edzard) I claim that 'ducking' is reserved to me. On the other hand, 'clucking' might do, though perhaps Edzard may claim that 'clucking' is reserved to him......

More seriously though, I still don't think that Johnson's view is overly broad, but (note the change of word order) I certainly vote for a motion that declares that in terms of gardening, growing food & textile fibers would be "useful art", what Japanese Gardens seek to achieve would be "fine art", and that what many Japanese gardens do achieve would be "fashion art".

Yours, breaking out in cold sweat, fearing a haunting by Jacques Derrida's ghost, urging me to commit Seppuku,

Herb

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 10:36PM
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inkognito

If anything needed deconstructing (or is that demolishing) it is the 'garden' at the Parc Villette that Derrida had a hand in, but that is another story.
Paul Johnson gives us three 'meanings' of art not three 'categories', although categories better explains it because "useful art" does not tell us what art is anymore than the other two categories do.
Art is to do with creativity and the communication of thought and feelings isn't it? Sharing your view of the world with another would certainly rate as an ordering instinct with a positive effect on society. That human beings attempt this sharing or communicating in a variety of ways is a fact; for some it is a garden others a love letter and others a drawing of a bison scratched on a cave wall. The bison came first, if that is what Johnson is driving at.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 11:18AM
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jeepster(5)

I believe that the comparison is "apples to oranges".

What was Warhol's context? Commercial, technical, esoterically?

Commercially, his statement is prima fascia. Technically it is at a much different level. It is all about "what you get away with". It's all about tricking the mind to see something that may not really exist in the mode that you think it is. Thirdly it may very well be a cynical statement by a cynical man that has seen it all, art that is, and jumped outside the envelope.

As to "ordering instinct", what is happening in your mind and brain when you pass a scene in nature while hiking and you rearrange your position in order to optimize with or line up with a random arrangement of natural features in order to form a temporal "picture"?

All of gardening is a form of temporal art. It changes constantly on many levels. The form you experience today will certainly be different tomorrow. Japanese gardening seems to me to be very dependant upon negative space, maybe more so than other forms of gardening. In my mind, Japanese gardening ia all about negative space.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 12:48PM
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Herb

Inky,

I largely agree with you.

Incidentally, it has just occurred to me that just as Johnson's definition of Art also encompasses Japanese gardening, so I think Warhol's definition of it as 'what you can get away with' is wonderfully apt in relation to the sort of philosophy expounded by Derrida and to things his followers wrote about it.

For example, somebody called Barbara Johnson, writing about deconstruction -

"A deconstructive reading is a reading which analyses the specificity of a text's critical difference from itself."

That, I suggest, is another candidate for inclusion in Private Eye's Pseuds Corner......

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 1:02PM
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Herb

Jeepster,

I've seen several newly constructed 'Japanese' gardens recently, and even at this stage, they looked (to me) to be overcrowded. I assume that that's much the same as saying that they lacked negative space. Not only that - I thought they relied on too much on gimmicks. I think that this - as in the Adachi garden, (see the Tamamono thread), is evidence that Andy Warhol-esqueness is creeping in.

Maybe some garden designers find that that's the way to make the most profit - in short overcrowding (or ignoring the need for negative space) pays?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 3:40PM
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jeepster(5)

Herb

I agree, it seems that a lot of it is all about trinket-ization. If not carefull one runs the risk of just collecting and arranging trinkets of japanese iconography and then the garden looks stale and predicatable fresh out of the box. Like buying a garden in a box from Sears, just open the lid and water.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2004 at 7:23AM
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edzard(3b Canada)

using Evelyns quote, I would interchange a few words...
Evelyn said, "I would say, in terms of gardening, "useful art" would be growing food & textile fibers, "fine art" would be what Japanese Gardens seek to achieve, and "fashion art" would be what many Japanese gardens do achieve"

I would say, in terms of gardening, "useful art" would be what it started out as and should be, "fine art" would be what Japanese Garden afficionados would like it to be called and is what others may see your own practicality as, and "fashion art" would be what many Japanese gardens have declined to.

in relation to clucking,.. Âthe ordering instinct that makes society possibleÂ, I would need to respond with the first parallel that comes to mind, that of why do bees instinctively hive and build a hexagon as an ordering instinct.

What is Man's 'ordering instinct'? what order?

and... Andy Warhols' can of soup, is for all intents and purposes, a Japanese garden, when one thinks in terms of 'garden', what all can it be?

however, I also strongly agree with my fellow fowl and the mission of the notation.
edzard

    Bookmark   October 12, 2004 at 11:51PM
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Herb

Edzard,

Sorry, but the clucking and quacking problem is with us again. To me, Johnson's 'ordering instinct that makes society possible' needs no further elucidation: to me it is more in the nature of a spiritual impulse existing on an entirely different level from the instinct of bees to build hexagons. I see no relevance at all in any attempted comparison of the two. Nor does the duck have any idea what 'mission of the notation' means.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 12:18AM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

I think that, in relation to the chicken and the duck, I may be the crow on the fencepost, who caws from time to time with consistent enthusiasm and variable relevance :)

"...Andy Warhols' can of soup, is for all intents and purposes, a Japanese garden."
Uh, Edzard, I'm going to need a goodly portion of Herb's Mortlach, or a similar intoxicant, before I'll be able to think about that properly :)

And "mission of the notation" has the crow mystified as well :)

Caw! Caw!
(I may not be entirely sure what I mean, but I mean it very intensely :)
- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 1:26AM
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edzard(3b Canada)

...well.. if Herb's original missive was a notation with a mission, in that Japanese gardens have become Warholian in a diminished sense from a higher understanding of art as ordered instinct, then I agree with Herb and the reason Herb posted the thread.
simple enough ?

If the presentation of the Bento Box is the design result culminated from 'the Arts',.. tea, ikebana, suiseki, painting, poetry, weaving, etal, then the soup can is a garden variant of the presentation module, which is what a garden is. A reflection of how we think... and how we see ourselves, -decide to express how we think, within the enclosure of our relative influences.
'We are what we eat', we are what our art reflects, are we not expressing the developing 'ordering instinct'?
(if using the present terms within -my- understanding)

or, it would invalidate the 'ordering instinct' on no matter what level it is understood. Instinct is instinctual, there is no intellectualization of instinct.
just a cluck for the day.
edzard

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 12:27PM
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Herb

The Duck has attempted to discuss this matter with its friend, the Donkey. The Donkey however, wisely declined to join in, giving the reason that it does not want to risk losing a leg.

The duck would very much like to join the crow, but it has, like ducks in general, difficulty perching on fences, so will have to remain in it's pond and quack occasionally from there.

The first such quack says that so far as the Duck is concerned, the effort to deconstruct Johnson's wonderfully lucid definition seems to rely somewhat on things like red herrings.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 1:11PM
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nachodaddy(quiet, I’m trying to meditate!)

Hey;

I want to be an animal too.......

Can I be the Walrus??????....kuku chiko....

It even sounds Japanese...........

Michael

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 9:28PM
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Herb

Michael - Yes, on condition that you explain the significance of kuku chico. Is it a Swahili recipe like kuku paka?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 11:10PM
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nachodaddy(quiet, I’m trying to meditate!)

Herb;

The literal translation is "an Australian meat pie eaten at an old time radio station based in Mountain View Missouri"

I MEANT to say "Goo goo g' joob".

I hope this clears things up.

On second thought, I don't want to be a Walrus anymore. I want to be a Blue Dragon (Warhol to geomancy in three easy steps........)

Michael

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 12:50AM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Michael:

You are the Walrus.
Goob goob goo joob.

Presumably, you are also the Eggman.
Apparently, I am also the Eggman.

I strongly suggest that the position of Crabalocka Fishwife be left unfilled.

Don't let your face grow long,

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 12:55AM
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Herb

.....and of course Michael is now stuck with being the Walrus, whereas the Duck, Chicken and Crow are, for obvious reasons, Eggmen. Pigs also definitely have wings, (necessitated by being shot at with guns).

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 2:06AM
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gregoryjohn(z4b/IL)

Gee, I wonder if this dive into metaphysical morphysism is a result of falls changing photoperiodism. :)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 2:55AM
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jeepster(5)

What about the bowerbird. It creates a very fine garden in order attract a mate. It has an ordering instinct to arrange garden features that it thinks will attract a female and the female must then stroll by and make a value judgement as to this gardeners prowess at making fine little gardeners to cary on the tradition. Natural selection of gardening prowess? He had better get his tamamano correct.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 12:20PM
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inkognito

Perhaps it's a donkey's job to stubbornly stick to the point when surrounded by asses.
Paul Johnson, it seems, suggests that the three arts have an hierarchy and they come in the order written above starting with the "process of ordering, and so understanding and mastering the wild world of nature." This may indeed have direct relevance to any discussion on Japanese gardens.
Moving through fine art (the pinnacle and related to beauty) to his "fashion art" being "when the ratio of skill and novelty is changed in favour of novelty," which may also be relevant where anything with raked sand in it is concerned 'zen'.

eeyore.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 1:49PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

I must then duly apologize for clucking so fowly betwixt the Duck and the Donkey and allow them to continue their enlightened private conversation.
-of course being a chicken has its downfalls in so much as running around wreaking havoc painting the town red, even though its head has been severed...
to which I would cluck that from eeyore's notation, the gardens of N.America have evolved from the novelty of the Great Expositions,.. which would result that they are still observing more novelty than skill, never having achieved any art whatsoever.
cluck.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 3:07PM
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Herb

Inky,

Now I don't know whether to address you as Inky, Eeyore or Benjamin.

Whatever, thanks for bringing the thread back to the point.

Speaking of sand, personally I don't much care for raked sand, even in what are considered the greatest examples of Zen gardens. But in some gardens in England a lawn seems (to me) to give a similar effect that I rather like. One example is the Master's garden in one of the Universities - maybe it's Oxford . Unfortunately I can't find the picture that I have in mind, but, like many Zen gardens, it was surrounded by a wall. The nearest I can find to it is Picture 3 below. Pictures 1 and 2 are raked sand gardens for comparison

Does anybody else like the effect of the lawn?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 3:56PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Herb, the duck does have the advantage that there are many more savory avian delicacies to be found in the pond than on the fencepost - including those tasty red herrings :)

Michael, your post didn't post on my machine before my post posted (said the crow on the fencepost), so I didn't know you know longer wanted to be the walrus. I would never impose any type of marine mammalry upon anyone who didn't want it. :)

Greg, as a Woman of a Certain Age, I find it ruefully amusing to think that, as the nights get colder and the days draw in, I slowly cease to produce chlorophyll - and turn into an old black crow :) :) :)

Jeepster, of all of the essentially non-sexual ways of estimating men's sexual prowess (looks, net worth, athletic skill, choice of vehicle, glove size, etc., etc., etc...), judging men by their tanamono makes at least as much sense as any other I've ever heard of. And (although my own very dear BF is not a J. gardener and would not know a tamamono from a mano-a-mano), I will never look at a tamamono the same way again ;)
[Private aside to Cady: Whoo-hooo, *Girl-Friend*!!!]

OK, enough with irrelevant and salicious cawing, and back to our Serious Conversation About Art:

It would seem, if only through the sheer facts of probability distribution, that good art will always be surround by bad and mediocre art. For every worthwhile raked gravel garden out there, there will be half a dozen ill-considered and over-Orientalized efforts, and at least one gussied-up catbox.

OTOH, good art can sometimes occur by accident, and has always occured in the face of bad & mediocre art. The good North American JG's (which might include the Portland JG, Nitobe Gardens, the one in Rockford, IL whose name escapes me at the moment, and... (complete list according to taste)) arose from, with, and in response to those exhibition gardens and their descendants.

And novelty art does have its place. Although a Disney-esque theme park might not choose to make all that many changes if they were to take over and open up in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park :), that was my first Japanese garden, and my love for it eventually led to my interest in Japanese gardens of an, uh, more refined standard. (And what would the J. gardening world, or at least this forum, be without me, eh? :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 4:21PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Hey is there room for a tigger here?

We seem to spend an awful lot of time on definitions here; despite our seeming inability to define even a J-garden, we've decided to tackle the definition of art itself.

It must be the photoperiod.

I kind of like that Uncertainty Principle (can't remember if it was Planck or Heidinger, but one of those deep thinking Germans; we have our own model here, neh?) that says the closer you try to measure something the less accurate the data becomes. I definitely think that applies to art (I don't know what it is, but I know what I like).

Seems to be a group consensus that Warhol misses the mark, but I beg to differ. Art for me is any construct that demands individual attention and illicits thought not directly stated by the construct. Yoko Ono's apple is a good example of something that was not art until she left it in a gallery; the process of decomposition was the statement and you could see it as a reference to life/death, the futility of man defining himself through art, or a rotten apple. Art is not defined until it is viewed, then the intent is subjective to the viewer. So we are defining the purpose of art more than art itself. And that must be personal expression above all else. An ordering instinct? Jackson Pollock was looking for order? Why are so many artist's lives a study in chaos if order is the defining paradigm? I would concede that point if the ordering is a definition of the universe, which is as least as much about chaos as it is order (as my train of thought clearly illustrates...)

IMHO, Warhol was saying that all art is imitation and the definition of good art is what you can sell for a lot of money; his apartment was done entirely in French roccoco with none of his art anywhere. I see this as another statement that he considered his art to be beneath notice and was genuinely suprised anyone found it of value (he was pi**ing on sheets of copper and letting them patina when he died; a nice statement as to what the value of his work was). Hence his quote here. But in his work lies a very powerful message about people's perceptions of value, and by extenuation, art...

By this point I'm sure y'all are glad for that very best thing about tiggers...

Scott

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 5:46PM
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nachodaddy(quiet, I’m trying to meditate!)

Oh Boy;

This is really getting interesting. I thank you Scott for bringing quantum physics into play here. Werner Heisenburg basically said that the closer you try to measure something the more you have to disrupt it (hence uncertaintly). In the end, you just gotta stand back and believe..............

I KNEW that somehow being an engineer could help me in Japanese gardening (time to start my plans for a mobile 3 ton stone mover, *patent pending*).

I am enlightened. I don't want to be an overweight marine mammal anymore. I took inspiration again from the Beatles I will be now be TAMAGO-MAN

*complete with Charlton Heston pose staring into sunset contemplating my Kung Fu grip*

Seriously though, I really like listening to these conversations about design. That shrivelled little used right lobe of mine needs a workout now and then. I can in no way contribute unless someone throws an equation my way or reference a deep thinking German.

Now....to find those square pants......

Michael

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 7:26PM
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Herb

Since we now have Heisenberg in our equation, can Schrödinger be far behind? Schrödinger is presumably accompanied by his cat, so for Scott to be Tigger seems even more appropriate, eh?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 7:42PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Hmmm...

The infamous cat...so if we seal a piece of art inside a box that will destroy the art as soon as we open it, is there really any art in the box at all?

Tigger

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 8:02AM
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inkognito

You are the only one Scott as far as tiggering goes but you are not the only one who holds the view "I don't know what it (art) is, but I know what I like". Meaning, until you have seen it and passed judgement on it, it does not exist. So cave drawings are not art unless you see them with your own eyes and if you like what you see then that is art i.e. art is an extension of ego.
Schroedinger's cat would definitely die if ever the experiment were to take place, a live cat would go in the box and a dead one come out. The unknowable is the time of the cat's death. The German equivalent of a koan, I guess.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 9:09AM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Brilliant, Inky! A German koan!

Schrodinger's cat is an awful lot like the "What is Mu" koan (see Ma/Mu thread). As soon as we attempt definition we lose the point...

I love this forum...

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 5:14PM
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jeepster(5)

Don't we strive to create comfort by trying to establish certainty, by engineering order out of chaos, with the capacity of the human mind to detect patterns within the universe?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 12:23PM
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Jando_1(Zone 5 IL)

Chuckling, it seems the old saying "Different strokes for different folks" is the answer to this post. We all view art differently.

Cheers Jando

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 7:47PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Hear, hear Jando!

Some find solace in the certainty of repetitive pattern. Some of us find energy in the individualities of chaos. And to add to the gradually assembling menagerie, how about that infinite group of monkeys typing out "As You Like It"? While we often attribute inspiration to drawn out thought processes, "Eureka!" is usually accompanied by the lightening bolt of chance...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 5:41PM
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RckyM21(z6NY)

I like this thread : )

Ricky

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 11:45PM
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RckyM21(z6NY)

Oh my goodness. This is so me what Gregory John posted . I hd to copy paste and say Its that time of year again : )

Posted by: gregoryjohn z4b/IL (My Page) on Thu, Oct 14, 04 at 2:55

Gee, I wonder if this dive into metaphysical morphysism is a result of falls changing photoperiodism. :)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 12:27AM
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