Thursday, May 11, 2006

All Art is Caricature

John Hyman offers a rather cheeky dismissal of the fledgeling "science" called "neuro-aesthetics" in an article on the website "Art and Cognition Workshops." It's a fun read, if for no other reason than the author manages to strike me as nearly as silly as the scientists he's taking to task (something about male brainy types discussing women's breasts as if authorities always makes me giggle), but it did make me wonder about one assertion offered up.

In a nutshell "neuro-aesthetics" seeks to uncover the "the biological basis of aesthetic experience" and how those interested in such discoveries go about it should be the topic of Mel Brooks' next movie. In his article, Hyman skewers two neuro-aestheticists, including one named V.S. Ramachandran:

Ramachandran claims to have discovered ‘the key to understanding what art really is’. He also calls this key ‘[a] universal rule or “deep structure”, underlying all artistic experience’ and ‘a common denominator underlying all types of art’. [4] He writes as follows:

"The purpose of art, surely, is not merely to depict or represent reality – for that can be accomplished very easily with a camera – but to enhance, transcend, or indeed even to distort reality. … What the artist tries to do (either consciously or unconsciously) is to not only capture the essence of something but also to amplify it in order to more powerfully activate the same neural mechanisms that would be activated by the original object."[5]

By ‘the original object’ Ramachandran means the object represented by an artist: for example, a man or a woman, the interior of a room, a landscape, and so on. His hypothesis is that the works of art we enjoy activate the neural mechanisms that are normally activated when we see the kinds of objects which they represent, but they activate these mechanisms more powerfully.

But why should a distortion of reality have this effect? Ramachandran’s answer, which he describes as ‘the key to understanding what art really is’, is that this is an example of a psychological effect called ‘peak shift’. He writes as follows:

"If a rat is taught to discriminate a square from a rectangle (of say, 3:2 aspect ratio) and rewarded for the rectangle, it will soon learn to respond more frequently to the rectangle. Paradoxically, however, the rat’s response to a rectangle that is even longer and skinnier (say, of aspect ratio 4:1) is even greater than it was to the original prototype on which it was trained … this principle holds the key for understanding the evocativeness of much of visual art."[6]

Ramachandran’s favourite example of peak shift in art is the way in which the female figure was represented by classical Indian sculptors. Figure 2 [from Edward_: see left side, image below] shows an example from the eighth century, a sculpture of the goddess Kaumari. This kind of sculpture, Ramachandran says, is essentially ‘a caricature of the female form’. And he adds this:

"There may be neurons in the brain that represent sensuous round feminine form as opposed to angular masculine form and the artist has chosen to amplify the ‘very essence’ of being feminine by moving the image even further along the male/female spectrum. The result of these amplifications is a ‘super stimulus’ in the domain of male/female differences. "[7]

So Ramachandran proposes a generalization about art and then postulates a mechanism to explain the generalization. The generalization is that ‘the purpose of art … [is] to enhance, transcend, or indeed even to distort reality. … not only capture the essence of something but also to amplify it’. More pithily: ‘all art is caricature’.[8] And the mechanism which explains the biological function of art is peak shift. In this way, Ramachandran explains a profound and pervasive part of human life in terms of a simple physiological mechanism, which can be demonstrated in the laboratory with a rat, square, a rectangle and some cheese.

Hyman then goes on to dismiss Ramachandran via discussions of pigeon experiments and photos of Pamela Anderson, an exercise only slightly less ridiculous than what he's critiquing, but I did pause while reading to wonder about the assertion that "all art is caricature." To get the party started, I'll offer the following juxtaposition of the Indian sculpture used as an example by Ramachandran and a more contemporary work of art:

OK, I see no point in trudging out any musty arguments about whether Currin's work is "art," so let's just get to whether all art is actually caricature. It's probably better to leave abstract work out of the equation here as well, to avoid making this so complicated my brain squeezes itself out my ears in self-defense.

Always best to start with a definition, I find, so:
Caricature - A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.
Now clearly, the editing process that takes place while making art could indeed be defined as a series of deliberate one can recreate any object exactly as it appears in real life so choices are made and those choices do indeed represent exaggerations in one direction or the other. However, the intent of the artist is clearly not universally "a comic or grotesque effect" so does this fall apart? If we accept that definition, perhaps, but let's look a bit closer:
The history of the word caricature takes us back through the centuries to a time when the Romans occupied Gaul, offering the blessings of civilization to the Gauls but also borrowing from them as well. One such borrowing, the Gaulish word *karros, meaning “a wagon or cart,” became Latin carrus, “a Gallic type of wagon.” This Latin word has continued to roll through the English language, giving us car, career, cargo, carry, and charge, among others. Caricature, another offspring of carrus, came to us via French from Italian, in which caricatura, the source of the French word, was derived from Italian caricare, “to load, burden, or exaggerate.” Caricare in turn came from Late Latin carricre, “to load,” derived from the Romans' Gaulish borrowing carrus.
Now I think you could make a more convincing argument that all artists attempt "to load, burden, or exaggerate" such that their work carries some significance (and yes, even as I type this I realize I'm bordering on being guilty of the same sort of angel-on-pinhead-counting fruitlessness I'm blasting Hyman et al. for. but...all this did allow me an excuse (weak as it may be) to juxtapose the Currin with the Indian sculpture, and isn't that rationale enough really? No? OK, let's salvage this train wreck of a post with a boiled down question: Is there representational artwork for which one cannot claim the result came via loading, burdening or exaggerating (i.e., distorting) the original? In other words, is all representational work actually caricature?


Anonymous Karl Zipser said...

I know V.S. Ramachandran and I can say he has done a lot of interesting and provocative work. But art is safe from explanation by scientists. Scientists cannot even explain why red looks red. They can explain what wavelengths of light will produce this sensation, and how this can be altered by context. But why we have the sensation of red, or of anything, is a total mystery.

5/11/2006 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I've never seen a real person as flat as a photograph.

he says all art is caricature. You elect to ignore abstraction in analyzing his statement. This is like saying all art is caricature except that which may not be. Is all representation distorting? Of course it is. Is all art representational? That is a real question. Abstraction sets out, at least in some minds, to avoid representing, but to be 'something' You can't ignore the very area that seeks to answer his question.

He thinks he is more objective than artists, but isn't. He is too inside the subject matter to really see it, buys his own prejudice without questioning his authority to judge what is and isn't art. Artists have struggled with this question for millenia, been charged with the crime of copying nature or distorting reality when at the next table philosophers and psychologists agree that reality is completely subjective anyway, that it is a miracle that any communication happens at all.

The only way to have a conversation like this is to put blinders on so as not to be distracted by actual art and the murkiness of reality. Otherwise, noise swamps the signal. But to exclude the noise is to have a fantasy discussion about a representation of reality, a caricature, if you will.

5/11/2006 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

There is of course a major logical flaw in Ramachandran's argument. If "The purpose of art, surely, is not merely to depict or represent reality – for that can be accomplished very easily with a camera," then he must only be talking about art (painting, sculpture) that co-exists with photographic means. If not, then this argument is anachronistic. What is the date of the classical Indian figure he uses?

Anyway, about caricature, couldn't we just say that representation is altered by subjectivity? That is, character, not caricature.

5/11/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Nice rant Tim!

I'll try not to ignore abstraction wrt to this issue when I have more time. But what do you define as "actual art"?

5/11/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"actual art" would be as opposed to a caricature of 'art' which is what he is using for his analysis.

5/11/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

I would say the purpose of art IS to represent "a" reality.

5/11/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger JD said...

For me, the Indian sculpture feels more stylized than caricatured. Stylization is certainly a kind of exaggeration or distortion, but perhaps without the implied satire of caricature. These people who try to define art in reductive, scientific terms always crack me up. If art is about exaggerating reality, then yes, what about abstraction, as mentioned above? And even in terms of representational art, what about photography and Realism? I don't know if distortion and exaggeration are such helpful frameworks in which to view a Velasquez, a Manet, or a Homer. I wonder if a more helpful concept is mediation, in which our visual experiences are re-framed through artists' subjective metaphorical lenses.

5/11/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

I second Karl's comment about V.S. Ramachandran. "Peak shift" is a very interesting, exciting discovery. It certainly isn't laughable. Only when Ramachadran extends the study of such behavior to art apreciation does it seem untenable.

In fact, I would argue that he may be more right than we'd like to admit. Certainly, there are many variables at play, and the human programming arguments do not account for them all, but biological determinism gets a bad rap in some communities, the arts being one of them. Attacked as reductionist, regressive and even dangerous, many of the hypotheses put forth by biologists and anthropologists are quite valuable.

Though Ramachandran's suggestion that all art is borne of the impulse to sign and exaggerate is deeply flawed - and as Tim said, requires blinders - we are chemical, programmed animals and doubtless our attachment to images and heroic/totemic narrative is wrapped up in our evolution and wiring. Sure, it's easy to laugh at the poindexters as they study mouse behavior to "discover why men like big breasts" or what have you, but each little piece of the puzzle contributes to overall illumination.

5/11/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Here's my take on all this, and, because I know you're curious, I'll note that I've been thinking about this for a while before Ed's post asking about it, so my thoughts are pretty well formed.

The human nervous system makes its map of reality based on editing signals it receives. In the course of a minute your nervous system is bombarded with an enormous number of signals: The pressure of the chair you're sitting on, the fabric of your clothes rubbing against your skin, the photons slamming into your retinas, and so on. Your nervous system is processing uncountable signals every instant. The only way for this to be made into a coherent view of the world is for your nervous system to throw away most of the incoming signals. So at some level your brain is making a choice, of sorts, of what information to include and what to discard. And most of it is discarded.

What's kept gets processed, sorted, modified, and edited further still. And your nervous system is doing this constantly. You don't even realize how much it's doing. Sometimes, if something goes wrong, you do notice the operation of your brain. For instance, I have a short-term memory problem, where my brain fails to move things from "active" processing into short-term memory. So you might say to me, "Please get me the glass off the counter," and I'd get up and get to the counter and then wonder what I'm doing there. My brain's operations revealed!

Anyway. This is what makes up your map of the world, this amalgamation of your sense impressions. So your remembered experience of an object, place, or person is a representation of that thing, not the thing itself. Which is possibly obvious, but let's just say it for clarity.

Art is, likewise, a representation. Abstract or otherwise. One thing art does is access your memory of sense impressions by activating some of the same pathways as some person, place, thing, idea, action, or what have you in your experience. Or perhaps art can activate impressions you haven't stored yourself -- perhaps it can create an impression similar to that of someone who's seen the "real" thing. So, for example, maybe you've never seen the George Washington Bridge at night, but my painting of it can make you feel similarly to how you would if you had. (If it's that good a painting, which it probably isn't.) And it's possible, I guess, that some art activates entirely different pathways from anything: Art can be about nothing but itself.

So, in short: A painting can evoke the feeling, the impression, of a person, let's say, by giving you the parts of that person which you would have edited for yourself anyway.

This to me is different from caricature. Caricature is about loading, exaggerating, burdening -- the typical "big nose" caricature is the cliche -- while art -- which can be about loading and so forth -- can also be about reducing, editing, distilling, and purifying. Caricature aims to evoke a certain feeling or thought by hitting you over the head with it; art can do that but also can aim to evoke a feeling or thought by clearing away distractions, tightening focus, or encouraging meditation.

5/11/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I am remembering something Charles Ray does for his first year students. He has everyone look up 'sculpture' in the dictionary and then they discuss what they find. Too narrow, ambiguous, confining, out-of-date. The dictionary definition of sculpture doesn't work, so let's move on.

The last thing he says, usually under his breath, "when they get what you know about so wrong it should make you stop and question what they are saying about what you don't know about."

Never trust an 'expert'.

5/11/2006 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Ramachandran's work sounds interesting. Too bad he trivializes his findings by coupling them with a simplistic definition of "art".

Much of the art that's been done over the past century has been about challenging accepted defintions of what art is. The definition itself is a moving target. Ramachandran would be better off presenting his theories about our instinctive responses to certain stimuli without making that leap into the "art" realm. Doing so undermines what might be otherwise valuable insights.

I assume Ramachandran had to take some humanities courses for his science degrees, and I had to take a few science courses when I was in school studying art. So, here's my explanation of evolution: "All organisms really just want to express themselves. The ones that survive are those that are able to mutate creatively, adapt to their environment, and hook up w/ a good gallery before they graduate from school."

5/11/2006 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger brent hallard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/11/2006 09:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Auvi said...

Great post Edward !

Caricature works by exaggerating some qualities and leaving out others. I think for a lot of artists, their practice has parallels with the goals of alchemy: extracting/distilling an essence of a thing, then processing that essence to cause it to undergo a transformation. The first part is similar to caricature, but the second is something different, and is not accounted for by Ramachandran's analysis.

(Disclaimer: I am neither a hippie nor an alchemist)

5/11/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Science has some answers about why we shouldn't walk into lamposts.
More reading on brain function and perception here: Mark Changiz has extensive PDF papers on the topic

Ellen Dissanayake has written a much more interesting study on why we make art (PDF teaser with one of the chapters) It caught my attention and I'm waiting for delivery of her book Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why

5/12/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Whoooo boy... Edward has certainly opened a HUGE can of worms and tendrils with this one. A grocery list of my reactions:

* The intersection of cognition, aesthetics, and meaning excites me deeply.

* At the same time, I find myself a bit frustrated and depressed by the apparent gulf of understanding between the arts and the sciences. Ramachandran's bombastic claims (despite the genius of his lifetime of discoveries, including his work with peak shift) as well as a number of responses to this post thus far highlight these fissures.

* In science, communicating and instilling deep, thorough understandings is essential. Even in the enthusiastic responses presented above, there are a number of profound misconstructions that lead us far afield from contemporary understandings of neurobiology. Science is more than just a logic game of "pretty air castles."

* Lastly, since the communication of information AND nuance is essential to science--and scholarship in general--there is tremendous import placed upon the use of words and language as a medium. In many scholarly fields, the precision demanded of language approaches that of mathematics. This means a lot of time is spent on definitions and semantics. In the soft sciences and the hard (??) humanities, semantic practices dominate the field. The deeper we get into the humanities, the further we get from viable datum and into anecdote, the more this emphasis on semantics begins to feel like petty word games. I already see the conversation falling into a rut over the word "caricature" and trying to hold Ramachandran to his bombastic assertion about a key to art in general. To be frank, I don't think Ramachandran or a large portion of his intended audience can get beyond the pejorative notions of "abstraction," much less share our understanding of the term. Hence his leaning on the misnomer: caricature. And his bombastic claims? Pffft. For better or worse, that sort of showmanship happens a lot when new scientific fields are being pioneered. Were wasting time critiquing what is for the most part artifacts of the internal politics of scientific institutions. The real meat here is peak shift and unfortunately the nuance of this phenomena is NOT communicated well by the original article critiquing Ramachandran's work.

Peak shift has little to do with training a cognitive system. From Hyman's critique you'd think this was Skinner behaviorism all over again. It's not. This discovery has to do with broad physical biases within neurological systems. In some cases, these biases could be shared across a large population, a trait of the species almost. In other cases, they could be as unique as a fingerprint, perhaps in part accounting for the wide wide range of aesthetic taste.

One way to think of this peak shift: go all the way back to Plato and his idea of essentials, such as a dog that embodies the essence of dogness more than any dog that ever lived or a chair that embodies chairness more than any chair that could ever be manufactured. For Plato, these embodiements of the essence of a thing represented a divine apex that converged over and above any possible earthly experience of a dog or a chair.

Now, to explain what peak shift represents, let me introduce a metaphor from printmaking. In multi plate printing, especially with offset CMYK printing, you can encounter misregistration, where say the Magenta plate shifts away from the image, not being where you'd expect it to be and making for a strange reality. Imagine a map of Platonic essences in your brain. Now let one of the printing plates slip in registration a bit. Some of those essences no longer sit where you’d expect them. They are somewhere off and over to the side from what we'd think. For example, for some poor sap out there, a dog with antlers would be the most doggy dog he ever did see. And remember, this isn't something that comes out of direct learning. This is something that exists in the little understood physiology of the brain. Don’t fixate on the boobs so much. Look at other realms where caricature or exaggeration has taken hold, such as cuteness. Why do so many cartoons, stuffed animals, toys, etc. have big big eyes? Why do we call those features infantile? Why do many of us involuntarily coo “Awwwwwwww” when we are hit with a wave of nauseating cuteness? Culturally learned, like the postmodernists would have had us believe? All biological like some staking out territory for neuro-aesthetics might claim? Or a bit of both?

Before I go, a parting shot in favor of interdisciplinary curiosity: I know science raises the hackles of many artists. But don't let its voodoo intimidate you today. Applied neuroscience will NEVER EVER explain away art. But it could provide insight into how and why we react the way we do.

Large amounts of research have been done into a wide array of drugs. Many could tell you what chemicals alcohol metabolizes into and why you experience both highs and lows while drunk. These same folks could also name one of the best blockers of dopamine reuptake in the nucleus accumbens. As intriguing as this information is, it doesn't stop you from getting high should you imbibe. The mechanic’s manual is always different from the pilot’s handbook. Such is art.

5/12/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

You are describing analogy, see Hofstader, If you can imagine a set of dials and switches, each one linked to a 'quality' of an object then we construct analogy by varying the settings of the dials and switches. A good analogy holds most dials steady and varies one or two. A lot of thinking is making these sort of comparisons and a lot of creative thinking is playing with the dials and switches to see what happens. Hofstader's angle is can a computer learn to think this way. He points out, as have others, that the computer can't insert new dials at will, the brain can, but he has produced some pretty profound information about creative thinking, and with a somewhat hobbled sense of what art is, too.

Am I missing a distinction?

5/12/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

The mechanic’s manual is always different from the pilot’s handbook.

James, I couldn't agree more. My take from Edward's post (Hyman's paraphrase of Ramachandran), is that the mechanic's manual contains some travel writing on a region the author has only read about. I think art and science can both feed and illuminate each other. But it becomes a problem when someone who has deeply studied one area assumes they have expertise in another.

5/12/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Tim said:

You are describing analogy, see Hofstader... ...Hofstader's angle is can a computer learn to think this way. He points out, as have others, that the computer can't insert new dials at will, the brain can...

Am I missing a distinction?

I'm assuming you are referring to Douglas Hofstadter and FARG. (The Copycat model is pretty darned interesting... despite shortcomings.)

The distinction would be this: Hofstadter as you pointed out wanted to create functional computer models to test ideas about creativity and cognition and their intersection with artificial intelligence. His working conclusion is that a computer, as we've architectured them thus far, cannot introduce new dials, switches, etc. As you pointed out, the brain can.

Ramachandran, et al. are probing in one way or another how and why the brain can do this. What attracts that complex system (us, as cognitive individuals) into perpetually novel territory. If the brain always found optimal solutions and then stopped, creativity might be dampened. (When I say dampened here, I mean it in the mathematical sense.) Peak shift introduces one mechanism for competing sources of feedback. Peak shift is about when internal feedback does not match up with real world feedback, when internal ideals are not necessarily the best specific solution for an individuals experience. In a sense, it is one mechanism explaining competing desires.

My understanding of the research to this point: It is entirely unclear how or why peak shift occurs. Is it due to evolutionary artifacts? Is it in our DNA and a result of how the brain emerges during fetal development? Is it something that can emerge overtime from the "white noise" of the brain? Or is it simply a necessary reality of a computational system with massive massive fanout between short parallel circuits? (The average brain cell contacts between 1000 and 10,000 other brain cells. We currently have NO idea how to program an electronic device with a similar degree of parallel fanout. IIRC, few attempts have been made at limited circuits with fanout in the high double digits.)

5/12/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger brent hallard said...

Wow, what good reads.

Higher is better.

I do wonder why an empty basket holds more than a full basket, and to prove it there needs to be this physical filling of the basket, which then allows no room again, until you empty it.

I think
high aesthetic valuing is filling and emptying without needing to make half empty half full judgement empty full.

5/12/2006 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Susan Constanse said...

I just read the article on the Art and Cognition site. It seems to me that:

There is some confusion between charicature and inconogrphy. Most traditional, cultural arts, as sited in the depicted Indian sculpture, fall into the classification of iconogrphy than a portrait based in realism and that the work needs to be seen within its cultural context.

The scope of the scientific study is too limited to be able to make the broad claims that it is making. The relatively recent advent of photography has impacted representational art, but only in the last 190 years. It seems that this study is not taking the aesthetics of art prior to that date into account. It also seems that it is culturally biased to the aesthetics of Western European art.

I think this study might indicate more about learning to associate pleasure with shape. i.e. if a 3:1 ratio is good because it gets me a biscuit, the maybe 4:1 will get me a bigger biscuit.

5/13/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger brent hallard said...

An aguement with 'balaced out' props:

To go back to the images posted by Edward: The Currin and the 'better', let's take a closer look! The Currin has these boobs. They (pre)dominate the picture. Their roundedness and breadth are not duplicated in any other parts of the painting. Looking at the round, the sculpture, you notice how the potato is replicated throughout the image. In a sense there is a harmony of size of potato parts at the elbows, knees, locks, and so on, also through the replication of the bulbous knots in the hair—all, as we read, in hierarchical synchronization presented spatially queer—to produce our shock schism vis-à-vis a motif duplication. This clearly points to the discrimination between the two images, Currin’s and “” in their length of stay, and quality of communication.

Let us turn to a Dutch master. The extreme is in that each aspect of an image lay in care and juxtaposed rest. Again there is hierarchy in the extreme. Non-organic offers the same quiet charge as the organic. Motion (envisaged and psychological) is further in state of alarmingly quiet paradox; are 'in the extreme' played off.
These extremes carry on and are duplicated in the paradox of flatness to spatial complexity in a Cezanne landscape--the duplication and all-over of mark making, again, and as well, extremely well, in the life of a painting, mark making the dimensional hitch—is Van Gogh. To skip, or to jump, again: Is it not amplified in the nature of an all-over Pollack, the man who proclaimed that there are no chances, offering also the extreme, the statement 'I am nature', backed up by an extreme body of work? The key running though all these artists activities is the extreme, but also a harmonic, and hierarchic, unifying, unusual, paradoxical, love of conflict—throughout, for the sake and glory of harmony.

Susan, I think that's Skinner.

5/14/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the very Best thing about this whole post is the juxtaposition of these 2 images! Wow! --food for thought! --and enough said!

5/14/2006 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Very awesome reads, everybody, Chris Rywalt, you've got it DOWN.

It freakin' annoys me the way that non-artists, and indeed, many artists, assume that art is merely a 'representation' of something 'out there.' Representational or not, an art object is an OBJECT, with its own integrity (or lack thereof), creating its own set of discrete wavelengths and vibrations in the space around it. Thus the distinction between 'abstract' painting and 'representational' painting falls to the ground; all paintings are doing something in the physical environment, regardless of whether or not they trigger any symbolic associations in the viewer.

Thus a powerful painting can knock you down at forty paces, while a piece of amateur kitsch fails to register past the wallpaper. Great art causes the receptive viewer to momentarily transcend the subject/object duality; it is, therefore, mystical.

Nothing could be farther from caricature.

5/14/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Susan: i.e. if a 3:1 ratio is good because it gets me a biscuit, the maybe 4:1 will get me a bigger biscuit
Brent: Susan, I think that's Skinner

And Fido. Every dog knows this.

5/15/2006 01:30:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Interesting post, as always, Edward. While I'm skeptical of the study's conclusions, I can see why a brain scientist would want to study the neurological basis for art. Every society has created art, even in isolation. That strongly suggests there's something hard-wired in our brains that makes us want to do that.

But I don't understand his emphasis on representational art. A lot of art over the centuries has been abstract. Contrary to popular belief, abstraction wasn't invented at the Cedar Tavern.

5/15/2006 03:17:00 AM  
Blogger dj_enkidu said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/02/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger dj_enkidu said...

I think Ramachandran makes good points about the peak shift, but his generalization "all art is caricature" is too shallow, or actually just wrong. By saying that, he doesn't only exclude all abstract art, but also all other artistic genres after 1960's. Of course, we are not discussing here about what is art, but I have the impression that Ramachandran only takes "aesthetically presurable representions of reality" as art. Maybe to fix him, everywhere he mentions the word "art", we should replace it with "aesthetically presurable representions of reality". He isn't really discussing art (since he seems to have a shallow knowledge of art history), but "Beauty". So, maybe his question is to be rephrased as: "Is all beauty caricature?"

BTW, anyone read Colin Martindale's book "Clockwork Muse"? I heard it had some similar issues regarding the peak-shift and creativity..

6/02/2006 07:58:00 AM  

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