THE PROTOCOLS OF CREATIVITY AND THE CHAOS THEORY by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D.

©2004
tm. © 2007

I should comment that I find this a rather pretentious title, but it does say what it is intended to say, and, perhaps, just a little bit more. Even a banal reference to what nearly every busy housewife could have heard about such as a writer’s block could start us off on a path of discovery from which we might never return unchanged. A corollary to this thought is that it is everyone’s obligation to change, develop, or emerge and that being so, the morality of it lies in how the individual charts the course. But there is something more possible than this in the following anecdote: a curious pubescent boy of eleven, the kind that smell a little, pick their noses and do not curb their tongues for long was venting his curiosity, and that is all it was really, in the tool shed when, by accident, a stack of used but not emptied paint cans toppled and three, whose covers had not been very secured, opened as they fell. Well, one might imagine the result. Instead of a range of brownish grays of ageing wood and somewhat dull and rusted metal attachments the dark interior of the shed suddenly burst

into color. It was clear to him that this was not what his parents had had in mind when they stored these things here and he knew it was impossible for him to hide this catastrophe. The boy was resourceful however and so he energetically open all the other half-empty cans of paint and after a few hours he had painted the entire collection of tools so that there were now wooden handles of red, blue, green, yellow and pink and now, as he explained all this to his parents, “ you need only to remember that a rake is blue and a shovel is red and the wheel barrel is a bright yellow.” He waited apprehensively for the explosion of rejection and promises of punishment and saw endless hours using turpentine to clean off “the mess”. Fortunately his parents saw the fruitlessness of that approach and decided to live with this “experiment in creativity”. They flexibly decided to turn the accident into a project and soon the entire community had tool sheds containing brightly colored tools and there as an element of contentment throughout the community because some of the frustration of negotiating life between dawn and dusk had been liberated In part, this is what is meant by creative solutions arising out of chaotic circumstances. The mind strives for a balance while, at other times, it also tests the limits of that balance to

see how much more complex he might make it and it is the exercise of this ability which an artist uses in his never-ending search for appropriately meaningful signs.

This is what the experience of engaging in the creation of these protocols was intended to do. While, on one hand, they may be seen as finished works of art, they were not initially intended to be finished works, but only steps in the direction of a more openly receptive awareness of potential. The process is ongoing, rewarding and addictive. In regard to a product being an accidental work of art, or a work of art accidentally, there are

two examples which might serve to broaden our understanding. One of these is Michelangelo’s “slave” and the other is a construction by Carl Nesjar.

Michaelangelo: “Slave”

Nesjar,Carl: Ice Sculpture
and an other ice sculpture by Carl Nesjar both of which raise the questions of creative accident, permanence and creative intent. Certainly Nesjar’s work achieves much more on the measure of timeliness than the work of most artists and very nearly moots the question of the creative contributions of Giacomo Balla and Marcel Duchamp.

Nesjar,Carl: Ice Sculpture Nesjar has followed through with his investigations into the accidents of occurrence, Michelangelo who had, we suppose, no control

over the whims of the Pope who kept shifting his assignments from sculpture to painting may not have reflected upon the very informative image to which we are heir, but one Michelangelo probably had never intended. Because of the interpretation we place upon the “slave” we become conspirators, with Michelangelo, [but without his active awareness], in the meaning the work has for us. An interesting experiment might be to take a computer generated image of what Michelangelo’s “Slave” might have looked like if completed and the way it looks now and test a contemporary audience on the differences in perception, if any, they evoke. What I am attempting to point out is that the meaning of a work of art does not inherently exist in the work itself but is, largely, a product of the complex organization of the person perceiving it. In this regard per haps Agnes Martin was correct when she was quoted as saying “what you see in my work is what you see.” The statement, as it reads, is off-putting and I would have preferred her to be less laconic and rather much more verbal. As the statement stands we really have little evidence of her thinking.

N.b.: As I have said elsewhere an artist, more often and perhaps more deeply, reveals who he is in everything he does which is one of the reasons why I believe Paul Brach to be overly rewarded
Agnes Martin.

A work by

There is some meaning in the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I dislike the adage because it seems to negate the insightful contributions, if there are any, of the producer. Now, however, that is only one end of the process…the generative end. The other end, the receptor-audience end is also a highly complex matter and, in a sense, much more difficult to analyze. It is also, sometimes, much more surprising.

If a man watching a parade of marching musicians suddenly straightens his shoulders and lifts his chin, his wife starts smiling broadly, and their child excitedly lurches out into the street and wildly joins the multitude of uniformed legs and mockingly swings his arms we are witnessing evidence of aesthetic messaging. It is the artistic communication in process, but on a very elementary level. And politicians know it is a valuable tool of social control. But it is the cultivation of these sensibilities, under the sensitive control of the individual, which is the focus of aesthetic education. It is a very tender plant and one that can be a joy to have around and it is one, as well, that is under constant threat from a mindset that is intolerant of personal divergence. All of us have seen, quite probably, incidence of where one child in a larger group seems to be selected as the acceptable victim for all the group’s largely imagined sense of propriety. “If you are not one of us you are a threat, or a freak and we will destroy you” Such a view, which invites a mass devotion to some single concept, also benefits the agenda of the bully who, often silently, spreads the idea that if there are any more heresies hiding around similar group reprisals will be enacted.

It is, I believe, historically understandable that groups have learned this technique as a means of keeping itself together and viable as a group. However, it also has the unfortunate effect of curtailing beneficial divergent behavior which the group may need in order to maintain its developing process. Consequently we have this profile of a constant flow of energies, a breathing in and a breathing out, expansion and contraction, a conservative posture and a liberal curiosity. It consequently would seem to me that a governing entity might wisely create a system whereby both these organic responses to stimulus are maintained in alternating balance so that the benefit of each might be less traumatically integrated than they are in some societies where the points of view of one group are immediately trounced by another as soon as there is a major power change. I think we might try to describe this process as managed chaos. The protocols, in the context of art, are intended to instigate some imbalance simply in order to discover what the solutions to this chaos might be and thereby enrich the vocabulary of visual communication.

By way of contrasting a point of view I was recently informed by two colleagues concerned about art that one deputy in the Italian parliament made the comment that the individual commissioned to make a copy of an original work also produces an original work. I imagine that the three of us were equally saddened and de-energized by that sophistry. One of the situations that came to mind was the anecdote that had originated, I believe, in ancient Rome about a collector of bronze works who had been boasting of his latest purchase was questioned by another as to how he cold be sure that his purchase was an original Corinthian bronze. The collector’s reply was

that he was, of course, absolutely certain it was an original Corinthian bronze since the name of the man from who he had purchased it was Corinthus. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, which prides itself on being the third largest “art center” in the United States, a reputation possibly correct only in term of the amount of tax revenue generated by the art sales which take place and then, that figure rests only on the definition used to identify what is art. In the same locality there are several highly prominent art dealers who have been very economically successful not one of whom has given any evidence that they understand what art is or that they care to. One might appreciate, however, the honesty of one of them (Forrest Fenn) who stated that it made no difference to him whether he sold plumbing or works of art. (In other areas of his professional life his honesty has been questioned.) But such attitudes do, regretfully, dominate and more careful analysis of the art product and evaluation of its production is often dismissed as boring, irrelevant and unnecessary. Contrary-wise, however, it is in exactly this careful and painstaking procedure of analyzing the nature of the product and evaluating its affect upon us that the real value of the work emerges. It is of less importance that people agree on the value of a work of art than that they engage in trying to communicate the

significance of that value. It is in the sharing of observations about a work of art that the value of that work is uncovered. In an environment that seems to be increasingly and varyingly in flux it would seem to be an important characteristic of human behavior that open-ended experimentation is sought and valued as one way in which, as a community, mankind might come to, at least, a symbolic understanding of where and who he is. This interpretation seems historically consistent with those historians and critics have placed on such earlier periods of art production such as the renaissance, classical Greece and the paintings of Lascaux and Altamira. Paul Henrickson, Gozo 2005

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