Art Selection Criteria by Jean Constant

Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
Selection criteria for a comprehensive visual appreciation methodology

Jean Constant European Society for Mathematics and Art Visual Communication Program, Northern New Mexico College

ABSTRACT The Greek philosopher Aristotle proposed three ways to categorize and evaluate art in its larger perspective: Logos, persuading by the use of educated knowledge and reasoning; Ethos, convincing by the character of the object and its author; Pathos, persuading by appealing to the viewer's emotions Like many quotes from past authoritative figures, Aristotle’s words can be interpreted literally or figuratively. The Bible stands as one of the most perplexing examples of this unresolved, yet ever present dichotomy outlined by M.Terry in his writing [1]. Our proposal will narrow its focus on the figurative appreciation of each concept, as we believe the context and particular of the environment in which we live today lends itself well to the larger interpretation of the philosopher’s reflection on art. Art criteria will be looked at, not as consumable, but from the perspective of the producer of visualization and in terms of the means by which one develops an effective and well-understood statement. Creating art with utmost comprehension and mastery of the craft will obviously impact positively the recipient as well. To sustain this effort, we will appraise what producing art today implies, and how we can improve on a collective effort that represents the accumulation of all past and present knowledge in the field, regardless of geographical of cultural context. We do not claim in such a short presentation to offer definitive answers to a problem that has cofounded humanity since the dawn of time, but we hope this alternative approach to a situation affecting art as well as science in today’s chaotic cultural environment may bring some positive elements of consideration into a healthy and constructive debate. INTRODUCTION Art, like science, has been the object of an unceasing intellectual assault by a peculiar but not uncommon bourgeois ideology that exalts the notion of subjectivity to diminish or remove any and all meaning from this form of expression and its intrinsic qualities. By “Bourgeois” we are referring to the ideology that had permeated the western culture at the turn of the French revolution and attempted to eradicate as a threat to the welfare of capitalism all that was not directly controllable or quantifiable in terms of immediate or future material profit. The concept of “subjectivity” in art today is still lingering in many circles bound willingly or not to a political, philosophical and educational system that may not appear to be in the best interest of humanity as a whole and is using this tool to divide and conquer what they cannot own.
1  -­‐  6  

Many among artists and scientist have long agreed the term “subjective” applied to art is misleading if not self defeating. The enormous amount of knowledge accumulated over centuries of study in a field that has involved so many for such a long time is a testimony to a debate that continue to captivate philosophers humanists scientists and artists such as Kant, Schelling, Read and many more [2-3-4]. There might be differences of opinion, of perception based on the particular physiology of each viewer, the environment and the setting of the display, but individual consideration are of very little value when applied to the production of art relevant to the shared consideration of scientists and artists laboring to further the understanding of our complex environment as outlined in J. Dewey “Art as Experience” [5] All will agree that a 5-year-old will not react the same way to the Sistine Chapel or the Hagia Sophia as a 30-or a 60-year old. It all starts with a combination of size, stage of physical development, background experience mixed with pre-establish neural set up that will influence the person’s appreciation one-way or the other as amply documented in Jungian theories [6]. To stay within the scope of this expose, we will look into art as the sum of the collective human experience built over thousands of years of careful observation and articulate criteria by which art can be produced and shared to be beneficial to both the producer and the supporter of the arts [7]. In doing so, we hope to clarify and reaffirm the nature of the collaboration between science & art, show the similarities and relevance of a common intellectual approach in mapping out the environment as we perceive it, and hopefully encourage actors in both areas to explore further the field in which they excel and collaborate better in a common enterprise to explore and understand our ever-changing environment. I- LOGOS In the first chapter of Poetics, Aristotle wrote, "Just as color and form are used as means by some . . . the voice is used by others; . . .the means with them as a whole are rhythm, language, and harmony." These three elements, whether they are combined or employed separately, constitute the means of representation [8]. Good art starts with skilled representation. Whether an abstract concept or a realistic illustration, an effective visual representation is built on knowledge, on the cognition of the material investigated, on expertise of the method by which it is depicted. Mastery of the perceptual parameters that affect how well the proposition is received, understood and appreciated is a key component of the creation process. The meaning of [logos] has evolved since it was first used to refer broadly to the concept of knowledge and order. Knowledge as we understand it today applies to the sum of the individual personal experience as well as the collective aggregate of all past and present experiments conducted in any given field of investigation. From the Egyptian pyramids to the Greek architects, sculptors and masters of the Renaissance, and closer to us, the color oriented experimentations of the impressionists or the investigation of form by the cubists, one will easily agree that art in this context is not an act of random visualization but a concerted effort at exploring and understanding the depth of our perception and building meaningful imagery based upon past experience and keen appreciation of the environment. Visual expression is based on personal observation as well as critical understanding of the many disciplines that endeavor to understand and map out our common environment. Studies in cognitive sciences by B Julesz among many in the neuroscience field reinforce the core concept that understanding visually induced emotion is based on the study of phenomena that create perception [9]. One has only to look at the relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and the build-up of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa to appreciate how closely observation of nature, abstract investigation and formal representation can meet in a statement that is still convincing centuries later.
2  -­‐  6  

It took Michelangelo years of study to come to the point where he could safely evaluate the quality of the marble he was to use. Deep knowledge of the tools of his trade was what allowed him to develop ideas and create new forms within the physical constrains in which his vision was articulated. One can argue that the same approach (knowledge) needs urgently to be applied to newer technologies today, as there is a not an insignificant risk that with only spare knowledge of the communication sciences, the practitioner may easily become a random producer of automated images of various quality, never truly relevant to a discourse that aims to celebrate and enrich human expression. Logos - Knowledge and sound understanding of physical laws relating to the field of visual expression such as study of form, composition, light and color do enrich visual statements. Kandinsky’s observation in “Point and Line to Plane” stand as an acute mapping of those processes that weigh in the debate from the perspective of an art producer rather than an art theorician [10]. Comprehending the medium and its language creates a richer experience for the viewer as well. Knowledge makes art statements more meaningful and very relevant to a discourse based on collaboration between art and science. II - ETHOS Aristotle wrote in Poetics, "It follows, therefore, that the agents represented must be either above our own level of goodness, or beneath it, or just such as we are;" Ethics will not be discussed in terms of any given moral framework but as the inherent integrity of the process by which art is created. Relegating art to a simple act of subjective expression and visual representation as a succession of accidental coincidences as we often hear in our daily environment may be equivalent to agreeing that random expression is just as good as any form of coherent language. Ethos is the fundamental element that legitimates a creator’s investment in the larger field in which he expresses himself. Ethos may not sound like an attractive concept at first as it is often associated with conventions of a moralistic and social nature: Populus, as some elitists would want us to believe, is more attracted to the artist as a clown (Dali) or the mentally unbalanced individual (Van Gogh). This unhealthy characterization insures it relegates any ethical proposition associated with art as redundant and ensures an alienation that diminishes and devaluates the commitment and sincerity of the artist’s discourse. Interestingly sciences have been under the assault of this same pretense that also claims that all creations are the result of random intuition - negating or undermining the fact that it takes tremendous knowledge and solid sense of professional ethics to reach the point where intuition can happen and be recognized as a valuable asset in the development of any given theory. The rationale behind the promotion of such caricatures of science and art pertains to forums that have little if nothing to do with the purpose of advancing the perception of Science as a tool that benefits a common good. Ethics, in this light, is a valuable instrument for scientists and artists alike to insure the integrity of their statements and reclaim their rightful place in society as a whole. Ethics as the expression of an honest and educated effort will ensure both the worthiness of the actor’s commitment to his task and the credibility of the image-maker in a fractious environment. Computerized imagery is fast becoming the most prevalent mode of creation today. How many more Moebius strips do we need to be exposed to before we can agree that art is more than the random expression of a computerized algorithm and that machines do not have the wherewithal to make
3  -­‐  6  

significant informed statement unless their author knows and applies the process by which to integrate scientific knowledge with sound visual communication requirements. Ethics in this particular environment becomes all the more relevant as ignorance can easily hide behind the sophistication of the programs. Producers of images that apply to their process a good sense of ethics will ensure machines continue to be used to express the best and more congruent expression of their personal quest as Naim June Paik often referred to in his multimedia installations [11]. Ethos does encourage producers of visual imagery to explore all available means of informed knowledge and incorporate them to the best of their ability in their statement to make it relevant to the discourse of art in the larger context of collaboration between science and art as exemplified by J. Smidhuber’s “low complexity approach to art” at one end of the spectrum [12] III - PATHOS Pathos represents an appeal to the audience's emotions. We will not discuss the larger implication of emotion and artistic sensitivity, a subject studied at length by philosophers throughout history: David Hume (Of the Standard of Taste) [13], Georg Hegel (Lectures on Aesthetics) [14] and the many other universal thinkers who participate in the conceptual aspect of this debate of the mind. We will narrow our interest in Pathos from the perspective of the many scientists and artists that have explored objectively the nature of emotion and occurrences that create a particular reaction on the subject, can be reproduced universally, produce better visual statements and engage the viewer in a worthy visual experience following the well documented template created by J. W. Goethe in his “Theory of colors” [15]. Emotion in art today is best understood when looking at multimedia productions. Images are mixed with sound and time elements to deliver a product where narrative and sound sustain the imagery. Hitchcock complex mastery of light is amply documented in his notebooks [16], or the visual narration of Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio’s collaboration with composer Philip Glass [17], make for cogent examples of contemporary technology put to the service of the larger expression of art and universally effective use of visual communication. Science has given artists powerful tools in the understanding of the mechanics of emotion. Studies of optical phenomena investigated at the turn of the past century in experimental psychology (Wundt [18]), in physiology (Helmholtz, Hering [19]), or psychology (Bongard [20]) has provided objective background information from which modern appreciation of the physiology of emotion has been developed. Further investigation of color theories by artists Itten [21], Albers [22] and reflection on the nature of geometry in creating lines and shapes help understand what makes good art universal, timeless and relevant in all circumstances from the geometrical use of space of the Aga Sophia basilica, the effectiveness of sound in medieval cathedral architecture or the contextual and spatial conceptualization of the Frank Gehry's Diller building, in Manhattan. [23]. Studying and understanding the physiology and objective components of Pathos will help the artists communicate better and more successfully as all emotions are based on common physiological attributes. The viewer will also benefit from reviewing works not so much in terms personal and individual attraction that may or may not be shared by anyone else but from a larger more inclusive perspective. CONCLUSION

4  -­‐  6  

Science often believes it can dispense with the verbal arts, and humanities avoid science. …The same cognitive/verbal skills serve any subject of inquiry…What matters is that these generic skills be strengthened. The consequences for our educational system could be profound (Fahnestock 1999, p. xii). Professor Fahnestock’ s comment in the context of Higher Education and the Rhetoric of Science stands true for all endeavors that aim to produce meaningful visualization. Logos, Ethos, Pathos, three universal principles that carry to this day the same fundamental significance they had two thousand years ago when looking at art both from the perspective of the image maker or the connoisseur of esthetics. Today’s environment allows all field of investigation to communicate, collaborate and benefit from each other’s interaction. Newer technologies allow scientists to make forays in visual expression. Artists using the digital medium gain access to a wide knowledge inventory that would have been challenging and mostly out of their reach in past circumstances. Science provides us with a tremendous amount of objective data that, used with each component of Aristotle’s definition of art, ought to help develop a well-balanced, non-objectionable, non-controversial opinion that will benefit all involved in the process, promotion and consumption of art. It could also be a dynamic and positive incentive to counteract and set aside the self-defeating stigma of subjectivity in art production and art appreciation. It will encourage the pursuance of a better, richer and more meaningful artistic statement. Defining and understanding better the parameters by which art is produced is also directly beneficial to Science. One only has to follow the progress of the HIRISE Mars exploration project [24] or the Osirix project in DICOM imaging [25] to see how two seemingly unrelated projects represent a successful collaboration based not on intuition or subjective interpretation of random circumstances but informed understanding of universal laws of nature and qualified expertise in the field of visualization. "Omnis porro pulchritudinis forma unitas est" - Unity is the form of all beauty “said St Augustine. Art that blends and unites Logo, Ethos and Pathos is worth encouraging both for practitioners and arbiters of visualization. Selecting works of art according to Logos, Ethos and Pathos will contribute and enrich the larger discourse on the nature and relevance of art that so many artists and scientist continue to actively map out for future generations. Jean Constant 06-2009 (Revised 06-2011) REFERENCES 1 - Milton S. T., (Revised 1999) Biblical Hermeneutics: Wipf & Stock Publishers. 2 - Kant, I. (Revised 2008) Critique of Pure Reason. Penguin Classics. 3 - Schelling, F. (Revised 1989) The Philosophy of Art. Univ. of Minnesota. 4 - Read, H. (1960) The Forms of Things Unknown. Essays Towards an Aesthetic Philosophy. Faber & Faber. 5 - Dewey, J. (1934) Art as Experience. Perigee Trade. 6 - Jung, C. G. (1966) The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature. Princeton U. Press/Bollingen. 7 - Kandinsky, W. (Revised 1977) Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Dover Publications. 8 - Butcher, S.; Aristotle (2007) Aristotle’s Theory Of Poetry And Fine Art. Kessinger Publishing, LLC.
5  -­‐  6  

9 - Julesz, B. (2006) Foundations of Cyclopean Perception. The MIT Press. 10 - Kandinsky, W. (Revised 1979) Point and Line to Plane. Dover Publications; Revised edition. 11 - Paik, Nam June (1974) Nam June Paik: videology, 1959-1973. Everson Museum of Art. 12 - Schmidhuber, J. (1997) Low-complexity art. Leonardo, Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, 30(2): 97–103, 1997. 13 - Hume, D. (2003) Aesthetics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 14 - Hegel, G. F. (2004) Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics Penguin Classics. 15 - Goethe J. W. (2006) Theory of Colors. Dover Publications. 16 - Auiler, D. (2001) Hitchcock's notebooks. New York, Harper Paperbacks. 17 - Stephens, G. Koyaanisqatsi and the Visual Narrative of Environmental Film. La Trobe University Press. 18 - Wundt W. M. [1923] Principles of physiological psychology. Nabu Press. 19 - Hering, E. (1890) On the theory of nervous action. Zur Diagnostik der Farbenblinheit, Arch. F. Ophthalm. 36: 217-233. 20 - Bongard, M. (2000) Pattern Recognition. Sams. 21 - Itten, J (1970) The Elements of Color. John Wiley & Sons. 22 - Albers, J. (Revised 2006) Interaction of Color. Yale University Press. 23 - Goldberger. P. (2007) Diller@gehry.ny. Conde Nast Publisher. 24 - HiRISE, High resolution Imaging Science Experiment. www.hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ 25 - OsiriX. 2D, 3D, 4D DICOM viewers. www.osirix-viewer.com/

6  -­‐  6