Art – Abstract or Integrated?

China The idea of knowledge as a network, with concepts and information connected as hubs and nodes, also applies to art. One of the distinctive qualities of art is how it acts a “hub” component of a world view or mental model. Art provides the artists view of reality. Art provides you with these complete models that give you insight into the artists way of seeing things. It lets you experience the world from the artist’s perspective in an intense manner; indeed, in an integrated manner. The artist provides you with everything, the hub, the nodes, the complete package. It is not abstract, but a synthesis of the various elements of that artist’s view in the form of an analog or metaphor. This is exactly the value of art, because in experiencing it you acquire new mental structures, new thought tools for interpreting the world. It can change your entire world view if it is powerful enough

It is because this structural integrity of art that you can make wide scope integrations resulting in the “aha” experience. This is the feeling that you just came to a profound realization. Things suddenly click into place, like a phase transition from one perspective to another perspective. The thing is, this new perspective is not a lateral move; it encompasses the old and the new in a single leap, providing you with something that is more than the sum of the parts

As such, art is a kind of catalyst for phase transitions. Hub topics are catalysts in the same way, and the knowledge that links to them are like the elements and compounds that combine and react in the presence of that catalyst.

This is another idea that bears follow up: that networks can themselves be catalysts for phase transitions. Catalysts are a whole area of study in Complexity Science. Sometimes it is simply that the network reaches a state of complexity and a phase transition results. But it can also be that catalyst drives some threshold that when breached, results in a transition to another phase state. More to follow on this idea.

By looking at knowledge as a network, we open up the possibility of explaining how art can be of such value, and can characterize that value in like terms. When you look at art, read poetry, watch a film or play, or listen to a fine piece of music, you are potentially acquiring new knowledge networks that can drive these mental phase-state changes.

So is art a system? Art, being an abstract concept, is not a system. But specific instances of art are systems…complete knowledge networks that you can combine and produce new knowledge and understanding from. This is potentially great fun, as you start to see systems everywhere you look.


© Copyright 2008 Keith Sherwood