Practical Theory. Multiple Conversions in Units of Information: understanding the initial forces that defeat us when we sit down to write or draw.
Man, that title heading sounds like a mouthful doesn't it? Well don't worry, the concepts involved are actually relatively simple to understand, its just that I have a habit of using neologisms to describe all of the various phenomena that we tend to encounter during the creative process because not only does it make it easier to talk about what's going on, a lot of them can be simplified to three step functions that can then be understood in the same way that mathematical expressions are. To give you an example of this, thoughts become ideas, and ideas become concepts when the information density passes beyond the threshold in which their method of expression begins to change. Or as I would write it in my research notes, Thoughts, Ideas, Concepts, when does one change into another and how do we recognize them? I spent an entire night running that particular thought experiment through my head and the theories that I came up with . . . well, here some of them are.
Now, whether we wish to become writers or artists, and the only real distinction I make between the two has to do with the nature of how our work expresses itself, is a writer uses words to describe the properties of an object, while an artist uses images to illustrate the properties of an object. Both writers and artists have areas in the creative process where certain techniques can and do overlap, but in terms how we approach that process, hoo boy, artistic development is very similar to Zero-Point Evolution in the fact that even the tiniest variation can and does lead to massive changes in first, second, and third generation iterations and . . . I spent a lot of time reading anything and everything that ended in the suffix ology when I was a kid so while I may not have any letters after my name I'm technically what's referred to as a polymath, or if you want to get really specific a generalized specialist. But anyway, in terms of being able to put our ideas down on paper there are three things to be aware of while we attempt to enter the open state.
First, a blank white sheet of paper absorbs our field of vision in a way that it actually overwrites any and all images we may be holding in our minds. Computer screens are even worse for this because the white that we see isn't actually a physical surface but is instead made up of particles of light and that means while our visual processing centers are trying to make sense of the information we're seeing, its also being scattered at the same time as its being absorbed. Ever wonder why its so easy to get distracted while looking at a blank canvas or why you have to fight to stay focused on maintaining the thought or image in your mind? Yeah, this is one of the reasons why and the discipline it takes to overcome this phenomena can be enormous. There is a simple solution though and it can be summarized as, try to remember. Think of an image you recently saw and hold it in your mind as you move your hand across the page. This is slightly different from the point to point transfer method that artists us when sketching objects as a visual reference works differently from an internal reference as physical objects have static properties while internal references can operate without the need to obey physical laws.
Which is a fancy way of saying, it looked better inside my head. While my answer to that statement would be, of course it did, because ideas inside your mind don't have to make sense, they just have to look good. Its also one of the reasons why we experience a sense of emotional disgust when something that we've become invested in fails to live up to our expectations. And of course the resolution to that particular bit of emotional quandary is to remind ourselves that its not that the idea wasn't any good, its just that we haven't acquired the ability to execute it properly yet, but I've digressed.
The second thing to be aware of, is how we translate an idea inside our minds into the mechanical actions that recreate it on paper are dependent on the physical properties we wish to express. You see all artistic mediums are in essence a memory storage device, and their ability to absorb information depends entirely on a process called amelioration, which is how a stain spreads through a piece of cloth and binds with the fibres but hey, moving a pencil across a page is all about pushing graphite particles into the tooth of the paper so similar process. Its just, when we consider how the paper acts as a reciever, and our minds as a transmitter, the fact that my thoughts are travelling through my fingertips to the keyboard is another example of weird psychic telemetry. That means typing is in essence the mechanical action, while the act of reading is what allows us to reconstruct the thoughts, ideas, and concepts inside our minds. Mostly, there's actually a great deal of degradation going on as in terms of the memory transfer processes that are involved the tacit, explicit, and implicit levels of awareness that are required to understand what I'm talking about requires a degree of shared experience in order to make sense of it all, but that's the same thing that happens whenever we watch a video of someone drawing a face. Egocentrism aside, the knowldege of how they did what they did has to be both seen and felt in order to be understood as that's how esoteric and exoteric information is conveyed and its one of the primary reasons why learning to be creative is initially so difficult. You see whenever we rely on things like learning through reinforcement and recognition rather then discovery we have nothing to compare our own experiences to, so when we attempt to modify our own behaviours and are forced to make things up as we go along doubting our own abilities becomes an almost default state of mind.
The third thing to be aware of, is that because all artistic expression is path dependent on our ability to reconstruct memories, transcription errors occur throughout the process whenever we make multiple conversions in units of information, which can of course be illustrated when we express the word one, the number one, and the idea of one, through the use of symbolic representation. Isn't semantics fun? Okay, to try and break that down into something easier to digest, the Japanese character Icchi, stays the same throughout each conversion, the number, the word, and the idea are all written the same way, but in English? Nope! The word one when written is different from when its being expressed as a symbol, which is in turn expressed differently when its considered to be an amount, and while the only thing that's really changing is the context, with each additional action that's required to keep track of the conversions the complexity of the information that's involved starts increasing exponentialy, and all of that tracking requires, you guessed it, memory! Active, passive, long term, short term, it doesn't matter, once our memories start to scatter and we have to try and reconstruct them, they're never quite the same as when we first tried to recall them, and when we then start to compare them, well, we're lucky if reality doesn't suddenly shift on us, but most of the time what happens is that we start to rely on emotion in order to assert our version of events and then all hell tends to break loose when others try to examine them because without the right words expressing ourselves becomes an overwhelming prospect. Add in social and cultural dissonance and you can begin to understand why a lot of artists have difficulty explaining their methods to people. Me, I started out wanting to be a writer before I branched out into art, so not only does that mean that I had to learn proper sentence structure, but the use of rhetoric, syntax and a whole host of other literary devices in order to be able to make my meaning understood. Now since writing requires an almost purely internal perspective, its a much less demanding discipline then being able to draw which as I mentioned before, requires us to obey certain physical laws. For an example of this, a sentence only has to contain a predicate in order to make sense, but an image of say a mountain, has to fulfill multiple criteria in order to be recognized as such. What stems from this is that art is both a visual language, and a language that is expressed visually. So yeah, that means logograms and pictograms are being combined into a proto-language whenever we first set out to draw. So if you've ever wanted to study linguistics, have a field day with that one I know I did.
Until next time folks, have a good one.
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19 August 2016 at 10:45:35 MDT
Practical Theory, an artist's guide to understanding the hidden world of art, is a blog in which I'll be discussing all the weird, strange and semi-mystical things I've encountered while researching the emergent principles inherent in the transdisciplinary nature of art. So if you've ever wondered why art works the way it does, or if your just a fan of seeing if words can be weaponized in a way that can make people's head explode, check it out!