Unreal Nature

August 24, 2015

Conjectural Modeling

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… these models then take hold and serve the expansion of knowledge, not so much because of their unshakable connection to demonstrable fact, as because a community of critical peers recognizes them as opening fruitful new sets of questions …

Continuing through A Fine Disregard: What Makes Modern Art Modern by Kirk Varnedoe (1989):

… Just as the time managers reinterpreted Marey as the prophet of smooth efficiency, Ozenfant saw evolutionary theory as revealing, not a world of struggle and conflict, but a refining progress that eventually ground away unproductive variety to hone organisms down to their best, most economically functional design. The anonymous forces of mass utility worked in a similar way, he felt, to shape the same kind of inevitable, necessary forms.

Marey_manWalking
Étienne-Jules Marey, Man Walking in Black Suit with White Stripes Down Sides, 1883

… These artists and thinkers felt that the imagination of modern cultural creators could be in touch with the same essential laws that determined mechanistic efficiency.

Mondrian_CompRYB

Piet Mondrian, for example, clearly rejected the details of naturalism and the subjective “confusions” of Cubism in an effort to arrive at an art of impersonal authority, in touch with basic truths; and though his avowed sources of inspiration were in theosophical mysticism, many felt the results were as spare and “necessary” as open-span steel frame construction. Similarly, Brancusi eliminated all trace of gestural touch or spontaneity in sculpture, and his polished purity of shape and surface seemed to unite folk intuition with the sleekness of modern machines.

Brancusi_bird

… The pairing of fragmentation and repetition as the previous century saw it would submerge and disappear, because the oppositions it embodied — between particular instances and general laws, between individual wills and collective order — would have been dissolved.

… Recent thinking holds that science provides our best measure of truth, not because of its particular hold on some set of indisputable facts of nature (we have too often seen that these are subject to drastic change and reinterpretation), but because as a discipline it has a highly developed tradition of proposition and criticism — what the philosopher Karl Popper called “conjecture and refutation.” In this regard, the process of constructing models of unseen things is recognized as a primary means of discovery, at least as important as the procedures of tracking nature’s traces that guided positivist science: a large part of both molecular and cosmic physics consists of virtually nothing but such conjectural modeling.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] And these models then take hold and serve the expansion of knowledge, not so much because of their unshakable connection to demonstrable fact, as because a community of critical peers recognizes them as opening fruitful new sets of questions, and as organizing experience in a freshly challenging way.

… If we find such worlds of form initially narrow, it is because we are being led by the art to extend our sense of the potential in things we may commonly ignore or take for granted. Such art constricts our field of view in order to enlarge our horizons.

My most recent previous post from Varnedoe’s book is  here.

-Julie

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