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A work like the “The Visitors” has all the strengths of the classical Romantic sensibility, and some of its potential weak points too. It offers a glimpse into a more ecstatic world; you really want to be these people, be invited to this party. It dwells in a kind of self-enclosed universe, spellbound by images of otherwordly artists and majestic decay. Like classic Romanticism, which arose as a kind of personalistic reaction to European industrialization, such a neo-Romantic temperament draws its power as an implicit reproach of the kind of dispirited, non-ecstatic lives we normally live. Unalloyed, of course, this sort of thing might also become a kind of cloying, self-involved theater — indeed, you might even say that Kjartansson subtly thematizes the sense of wallowing in fantasy, since being stuck in art is a theme, both in this film with its endless, trance-like choruses, and in his work more generally. It’s this minor-key background note that lets “The Visitors” resonate as both out of time and of its time at once.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s “Visitor’s” (Artinfo Review)

“… Art is perceived through the senses first, and probably also second and third. Small details have profound sensible impacts, no matter how thoroughly an artwork is motivated by concepts or plans. And though we may not always be drawn in by quiet artworks on silent walls, we cannot have lost our human capacity to be moved. If Freud suggested a structure to consciousness, he also offered a model for its depth: much experience remains beneath our immediate awareness. The entire complex of “feeling”—materiality, sensation, affect, sensibility—is inevitably percolating in our experience (as are thoughts), so we needn’t worry, or even wonder, about whether words will win. 

The question is: do we dare to acknowledge that realm beyond thought, to explore that unmoored ocean of the senses? If we focus too strongly on critical angles or sensationalism, we may miss opportunities to dive more deeply into reality.”

Karen Schiff (Brooklyn Rail article)

“One of most intriguing aspects about art today is its entanglement with theory. In fact, contemporary art practice is now so highly saturated with theoretical knowledge that it is becoming a research practice in and of itself. Artists have not only taken up art criticism and negotiations, they now also integrate research methods and scientific knowledge into their artistic process to such a degree that it even seems to be developing into an independent form of knowledge on its own.”

Kathrin Busch (art & research editorial)


“…I am sure that human beings cannot remain human without art. How, otherwise, can we explain why art has existed among them at all times everywhere, why they have expended so much time, effort, and emotion in its pursuit, and why they are, with their senses, brains, and bodies, so often preoccupied with it? If I ask myself why art has existed everywhere among humans, I have a short and a long answer. The short one is: it is because art satisfies the inescapable human hunger for imagined experience in all of its imaginable variations. This hunger is our need to create, contemplate, possess, and repossess at least the shadow of what we do not have fully enough to satisfy us. Art is the instrument we use in order to give virtual presence to everything that interests us but is not effectively present enough to overcome the restlessness of an imagination too idle for its own comfort.”

Ben-Ami Scharfstein (Art Without Borders excerpt)

How does this practice reflect current educational and learning theory research?
Current research and theory supports this use of artistic practice as a framework for learning in its emphasis on giving the learner choice and control, using the learner’s experience and prior knowledge, and seeking ways to motivate learners by offering much more open-ended, task-oriented activities. Here, one of the key benefits of using artistic practice as framework for learning is that as a student collects or documents, for example, the practice itself provides fairly immediate feedback. This quick response to practice is a core characteristic of effective “flow” experiences—optimal learning experiences as noted by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly—and is vital as it leads to learners shifting from being extrinsically to intrinsically motivated to learn. It is also central to developing mastery over performance. This notion of built-in feedback is also primary to constructivist learning theory. For example, Vygotsky’s influential theory of learning as a socially? mediated process of “scaffolding,” where learning is fundamentally constructed and based in interaction, is central to the idea of using artistic practice as a framework for learning. As photographer Diane Arbus noted, “photography was a license to go wherever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do” and in the process use the camera to learn about the world around her and create her own interpretation and vision.

-The warhol (artistic practices as a framework for learning)

But what of the collaboration between science and the arts? Are we really prepared to live with a permanent cultural schism? If we are serious about unifying human knowledge, then we’ll need to create a new movement that coexists with the third culture but that deliberately trespasses on our cultural boundaries and seeks to create relationships between the arts and the sciences. The premise of this movement—perhaps a fourth culture—is that neither culture can exist by itself. Its goal will be to cultivate a positive feedback loop, in which works of art lead to new scientific experiments, which lead to new works of art and so on. Instead of ignoring each other, or competing, or co-opting each other in naïve or superficial ways, science and the arts will truly impact each other. The old intellectual boundaries will disappear. Neuroscience will gain new tools with which to confront the mystery of consciousness and modern physics will improve its metaphors. Art will become a crucial source of scientific ideas…At the same time, the sciences must recognize that their truths are not the only truths. No single area of knowledge has a monopoly on knowledge. As Karl Popper, an eminent defender of science wrote, “It is imperative that we give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it is beyond our reach.” The struggle for scientific truth is long and hard and never ending. If we want to get an answer to our deepest questions—the questions of who we are and what everything is—we will need to draw from both science and art, so that each completes the other.

-Jonah Lehrer (Seed magazine article)