Comments on Two Earlier Statements:

Issue #1:

Ton Kruse has asked me to comment on the following statements that I have made earlier.
 1. All manifestations are true, all representations are false
 2. Art education is not an education but a mental disease

1. - All manifestations are true, all representations are false
I'm not sure exactly how this statement came into being -or even if it is original. The first half
(regarding manifestations) I have taken from Sufi religious texts -and I see my interpretation in this original context -which I hope includes the original meaning without opposing it in any way.

Here are some dictionary definitions of Manifestation:
A perceptible, outward, or visible expression

The action or fact of showing something

Outward or perceptible indication; materialization:

A manifestation of something is one of the different ways in which it can appear <>
Manifestation's origins are in religion and spirituality because if something spiritual becomes real, it is said to be a manifestation. The word's usage has spread to include all aspects of life. "The submarine is a manifestation of da Vinci's sketches." "The crowd's cheering hysteria was the manifestation of years of allegiance to the now victorious soccer league."

The second half of the statement (concerning representations) I added to contrast with the first half. However, I have the feeling that I have seen it (once) associated with the first half -but have been unable to find it again.

Here are some dictionary definitions of Representation:
One that represents: such as an artistic likeness or image

The description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way. <>

The expression or designation by some term, character, symbol, or the like.  <>

You can describe a picture, model, or statue of a person or thing as a representation of them.  

Representation comes from the Latin repraesentare meaning "bring before, exhibit." A representation is an exhibit, whether it comes in the form of legal guidance or in the form of artistic expression. The act of representation has to do with replacing or acting on behalf of an original. Elected officials serve as the representation for their constituency -or at least it's supposed to work  that way.

So the difference between Manifestation and Representation should now be fairly clear:
A "Manifestation" is directly connected to that which is manifested (like a boot-print in the mud and the boot that made it) -while a "Representation" has no direct connection to that which is represented but merely stands in its place (as a cabbage may represent the moon in a model of the solar system).

We could say that a Manifestation has a "Forensic" relationship to something -while a Representation only has an imaginary relationship. By "forensic" in this case, I mean that the original object or event can be reconstructed from the evidence manifested. However this is not true of a Representation of the same object or event -because the representation involves a substitution and this substitution involves an interpretation of the original in order to validate the substitution.

Representation plays a very important role in Western art:
Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else.[1] It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements.[1] Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.[1]Bust of Aristotle, Greek philosopher

For many philosophers, both ancient and modern, man is regarded as the "representational animal" or animal symbolicum, the creature whose distinct character is the creation and the manipulation of signs - things that "stand for" or "take the place of" something else.

However, the 'substitution" aspect of representational art has also made it a subject of historical criticism.

The Japanese are reputed to warn that we should not confuse the moon with the finger that points at the moon, Indeed, the very nature of Representation implies that (unless a thing represents itself) there will always be a gap between the representation and that which is represented. So we can never rely directly on the representations for information regarding the original. If we are to understand the original from the representation then we shall need to understand what the original creator of the representation thought were the essential qualities of the original and why they chose to represent it in the way they did.

This presupposes that we already know the original -which makes the representation a rather dangerous and potentially misleading pedagogical tool.

Presumably, it was for these reasons that Jews, Orthodox Christians and Muslims declared representations as taboo objects.
It is for this reason that I added "all representations are false" to my original statement.

It is also the 'second hand" nature of representations that makes them so dangerous if used to investigate something -because the "substitution" aspect also introduces a subjective "propaganda" bias into any communication using them. Every representation is tainted by the biases and presuppositions of the person who created it.

However, if we accept that "manifestation" is an ontological question -and representation is an epistemological question -then it would seem that we may have a neat solution to both the problem of the relationship between ontology and epistemology as well as between "true" and "false".
Ultimately, every image can be seen either as a representation of the object depicted -or as a manifestation of the process that created that image, So it is incumbent upon us to view manifestations (of the process that created them) and not as reliable evidences (of the things they are supposed to represent).

2. -Art education is not an education but a mental disease

Originally this was a kind of self-promoting advertising slogan I sent in an email to the director
of the college where I was teaching at the time. Originally, it was immediately followed by the
text "but don't worry -because we can sort it out". Nevertheless, it eventually lead to my dismissal.

Apparently I am not the only one to use this technique:
"All is Giving" Public Art Space in Groningen advertised a lecture "Reviving the Corpse of Art" on 8 November 2013 by Michael Paraskos: 
In this talk Paraskos presents a scathing attack on a mainstream art world where collectors, critics and gallery curators have turned art into nothing more than the plaything of corrupt bankers. But artists have not been innocent in this corruption, he suggests, as many of the most well known artists today are as immoral as the wealthy oligarchs who buy their wares. This is exacerbated by an art education system that seems to have withdrawn from teaching art practice in favour of a particularly
nihilistic concept of art. As a result, he claims, the essential material

nature art object is diminished, while the art theory used to justify this nihilism grows ever larger. According to Paraskos we live in an age when art is dead, and it will take an almost superhuman effort to reanimate its corpse. But we can do this, and drawing on radical anarchist theories of art, Paraskos offers a plan to do so.   <>

Apparently, Michael Paraskos was also born in England (as I was) -so I wonder if there is not some cultural trait exhibited here: Perhaps in some cultures provocative statements can bring
successful promotion -while in others they bring dismissal and unemployment.

So what has art become -and what could it be?
art, artifact, artificial, artful
art, artist, artisan

Apart from the commercialization criticized by Paraskos above, "art" supposedly has social (and
cultural) implications: Although I've never heard a coherent explanation of why this is. Indeed,
even the concept of "culture" seems to be shrouded in mystery and incomprehension.
In my view, "culture" is the collection of material and immaterial resources available to the group that share the culture -and used to enhance their chances of survival. This includes the provision of material needs such as food, housing and clothing (using locally available resources) -but also the conceptual tools (such as language, belief and knowledge systems) required to safely negotiate the complexities of their daily living situation.

In this definition, globalism, by definition destroys the uniqueness of the local -and so fundamentally undermines the diversify of potential cultures on the planet. I also believe that without this diversify, we end up with a conceptual mono-culture that is just as vulnerable to destruction as agricultural mono-cultures have proved to be,

In this context, art becomes part of the social discourse that not only defines the culture but
also acts as a medium for its development. However, within a single society we may find several
different cultures -and, under optimum conditions, these should all contribute to the richness and
creative complexity of the dialogue within and between different societies.

I do not believe it is possible to have a single global culture -or even a single set of global
rules that could satisfactorily encompass the diversity of human nature and spirit manifest through the experience of living in different social and physical environments -without descending into global fascism.

How on earth can one expect people living on, or near the Equator to live in the same way as those
living around the North Pole -or those in remote rural areas to live in the same way as those
living in the cities of San Francisco, London, Timbuktu  or Rio de Janero?

So, "art" via the cultural dialogue should form an interface between the individual and the group -perhaps also through the dialogue between object and any meaning ascribed to it.

In such a vision of art, there are many layers of interpretation (outside the commercial aspect):
  • -Cultural aspects (communal language, communal experience)
  • -Representational aspects (epistemological research?)
  • -Aesthetic aspects
    • ontological research?
    • structure and meaning?
    • complexity and diversity?)
  • -Physical/Mental interface
    • -Spiritual (informational) aspects
      • interface between mind and object
    • -Divination
      •  -> ritual
      •  -> communication
      •  -> education
      •  -> removal of propaganda aspects
By "divination" I mean the interpretation of artificial physical objects -rather similar to the way scientists interpret natural objects to gain further knowledge.

Within such a vision of "art" I see so no place for the belief that:
  • -Anybody can make art,
  • -Anything can be art:
    • So, it is not up to the viewer to decide on the meaning of an art work
  • -Art is special and both art and artists deserve special treatment financially and socially.

At art school in England, I had  already started experimenting with hand drawn rule based images (that later became the basis for my first computer experiments with computer generated images).

The reaction of one of my teachers was that by using rules to determine my imagery I was putting art history back 50 years.... and this was around 1966, so quite a long time ago.
Yet I haven't seen an improvement -indeed, perhaps the situation now is even more poorly structured and out of control than ever before.
Unfortunately the term "art" seems often to refer mostly to visual art -so there is a cleverly
encouraged confusion between the specific and the generic -which is apparently a western cultural phenomenon. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, for example, martial arts are considered to be an important art form -and dancing too. Visual art seems less important there -and certainly in the secular form so popular in the west.
Music and Literature, Film, Theater and perhaps even Architecture may also be included as "arts" -and yet each of these have different standards of knowledge and skill required to be considered a competent practitioner.

Most of these are collaborative arts -and I suspect this is why they demand higher levels of communicative and cognitive skills than those expected of the visual artist,working alone in their private studio.

Around 1972,
I came in contact with the Institute for Sonology (then in Utrecht) as part of my
search for a place to study the potential role of computing in the creative artistic process. I was
amazed and enchanted to discover that music seemed to be a much more intelligent area than the visual arts.
In an informal discussion with my mentor, Dr. Werner Kaegi, we talked about two systems of creative invention:
One system was based on the idea of maximum knowledge of the governing system enabling one to find "errors" (gaps or inconsistencies) in the system --the exploration of which would aid creative invention.

The other system was based on ignorance: One "invented" new things -simply because one had no knowledge of their prior existence.

In my experience, Sonology seemed to be based on exploiting knowledge -while the art college where I later worked in Holland seemed to be based on exploiting ignorance.
 At the time, I was somewhat isolated and assumed this was a Dutch characteristic -but later I discovered the problem was mush more widespread that I had feared.

While in Sonology books such as Hofstadter's "Esher Goedel Bach" seemed extremely relevant to the artistic dialogue, in the visual arts such things seemed totally beyond comprehension -and thus irrelevant to visual art.

Around 1984 -Apple introduced the Mackintosh Computer -and George Orwell's predictions seemed to be coming horribly true.

There seemed to be a conspiracy between educators, governments, commercial manufacturers and the general public to wipe out any understanding of how things worked in society.  The computer was no longer a thinking brain used by humans to probe deeper into the nature of the universe -but was being sold as a kind of "genie in a bottle" that would solve all your problems -with no need to bother about how such things worked.....

The idea that one could use a computer to do things without any idea of how it was done -removed
all need for any consideration of what one might call the "syntactic" aspects of society. Formal
riles and procedures were now irrelevant -all one needed was the desire to do something and the
technology that allowed one to do it.

Practical, and ethical considerations became irrelevant -ones wishes were the machines command. We now lived in a world of overriding  and supreme subjectivity -which is now the only basis for any judgement. The misunderstood needs of "progress" destroyed any social sanity that might have been found in tradition, logic -or any other kind of restraining "formality" in ,social systems. ...
The result is a consumerist dream -but an intellectual nightmare -with (I believe) enormous social consequences. Society it seems had somehow forgotten what happened in kiddies stories to those who were given three wishes by a real genie in a bottle. They were just stories anyhow.

In 1964 Sir Leon Bagrit was a leading British industrialist and pioneer of automation. For many years he headed the firm of Elliott-Automation Ltd., which, outside the United States, was the largest computer manufacturer in the world.
In his BBC Reith Lecture that year Bagrit said:
Automation in this true sense is brought to full fruition only through exploration of its three major elements, communication, computation, and control -the three 'Cs'. I believe there is a great
need to make sure that some, at any rate, of the implications to our society of the three 'Cs' in combination are recognized and understood. That is the purpose of these lectures.........

I hope it
is clear from the examples that I have given, that automation is not simply a matter of "hardware", of machines. In none of the cases I have mentioned could one simply buy a computer and use it effectively. The successful application of automation demands a combination of right equipment for the purpose -that is to say, hardware -and adequate thought and intelligence -software. A computer system can be disastrous, if the firm or institution which has invested in it lacks the outlook and the understanding to handle it.......

Our main problem in the successful application of automation
is one of imagination -and I suppose I might say, of courage as well. We must make tremendous efforts to ensure that our economic and political thinking is contemporary with our opportunities and that we are not crippling ourselves with an out-of-date pattern of education.......

I suggest
we shall find it impossible to consider anybody as adequately educated if he or she does not understand at least some science. neither shall we be able to recognize as an educated man, a technician or a scientist, however distinguished, who has failed to develop a substantial interest in the humanities and the arts, or who shows no evidence of being aware of the significance of society and his part in it.  We ought, in other words, to be making  a determined effort to produce better balanced people.......

Later Gregory Bateson also wrote:
"In June 1977, I thought I had the beginnings of two books. One I called The Evolutionary Idea and the other Every Schoolboy Knows
'*' The first was to be an attempt to reexamine the theories of biological evolution in the light of cybernetics and information theory. But as I began to write that book, I found it difficult to
write with a real audi­ence in mind who, I could hope, would understand the formal and therefore simple presuppositions of what I was saying. It became mon­strously evident that schooling in this country and in England and, I suppose, in the entire Occident was so careful to avoid all crucialissues that I would have to write a second book to explain what seemed to me elementary ideas
relevant to evolution and to almost any other biological or social thinking -to daily life and to the eating of breakfast.

Official education was telling people almost nothing of the nature of all those things on the seashores and in the redwood forests, in the deserts and the plains. Even grown-up persons with children of their own cannot give a reasonable account of concepts such
as entropy, sacrament, syntax, num­ber, quantity, pattern. linear relation, name, class, relevance, energy, redundancy, force, probability, parts, whole, information, tautology, homology, mass
(either Newtonian or Christian), explanation, descrip­tion, rule of dimensions, logical type, metaphor, topology, and so on.

What are butterflies? What are starfish? What are beauty and ugliness?"

Perhaps it is not only 'art" that has become a mental disease.....
A basic theme of this text is the relationship between between "Form" and "Meaning" -between "Cause" and "Effect" and "Ends" and "Means".

This is partly intended to get us to consider how useful the concept of "Karma" might be to us in practical terms:
The idea that action and reaction echo through the universe until the ripples caused by our own actions eventfully overwhelm us.
How often do we end up hanging ourselves with our own petard -and can it be prevented?

Could "art" help us to understand the consequences of our (individual and collective) actions in a wider social context -without degenerating into mindless propaganda?
Sometimes, I think of the artist as a kind of detective, looking for clues to solve a crime that one is not even sure if has been committed.

However, in the many detective stories I have read, the detective usually closely studies the state of the body and the environment around the crime scene -looking for clues that might corroborate or oppose any statements given by witnesses. The contradictions are used to solve the crime.

I've never read a crime story where the detective initially views the crime scene and cries: "Oh what a wonderful symbol of the revenge of the bourgeoisie"....
Even if such a revenge might form the main motive for the crime....
But, of course, detective stories are mere representations -although they may also manifest the deepest fears and obsessions of our society.

As one of my students once said: "We are taught to express ideas in images -but not to see images as manifestations of ideas".
However, I believe that without the dialogue between syntax and semantics, cause and effect and ends and means, our interrogation of the world will always remain very limited and one sided.

trevor batten,
Baclayon. May 12 2018


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Trevor Batten
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 Baclayon  2020