Nancy -- I was intrigued by this reference in your most recent post:
"I'm thinking about Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking Fast and Slow and the fallacy of availability - we believe what we hear over and over, whether it's true or not..."
and would add a slightly different but supportive notion from the visual arts to Kahnemann's idea of repetition as a 'fallacy of availability.'
In his book "The Paradoxes of Art: a Phenomenological Investigation" (2004), Alan Paskow writes that "When we view a painting, we posit both the essence and actual existence of a depiction as truly real." . . . "The distinction between ... what is 'merely fictional' and what is 'actually real,' are not so sharp as virtually all Western philosophers have unquestioningly assumed..."
What Paskow is saying throughout his articulate and well-defended book, is that the creation of realistic looking things, people, landscapes, etc. in the illusionistic pictorial space of painting provides those depictions and whatever themes they engage, no matter how fantastic, with a sense of being real that is largely indistinguishable from our sense of actual, non-imaginary reality. Applied to the long history of art and religion, one can imagine -- particularly before science planted its slow-growing seedlings of doubt -- that the form and substance provided by painting to ancient narratives of the supernatural, giving them appearances, has served to convince onlookers of their true reality.
This insight of Paskow's has resonance with the advent of modern art in the mid nineteenth-century, and as well with its linkages to the current art-science movement. In nineteenth-century art the notion that true reality could be envisioned by an imitation of appearances came under attack. This implied a tacit rejection not only of former structures of painting's pictorial space but also, more importantly, of former ways of understanding the world that painting had empowered.
Metaphorically, pictorial and illusionistic space is to the painted object, as imaginary and supernatural space is to science. After Cezanne, an erosion of illusion in painting accelerated, and a movement toward the concrete in painting -- painting as a real object rather than an illusionary window -- can be interpreted as having symbolized a decline of confidence in the imaginary (e.g., supernatural) brought about by dramatic advancements in science during the same period. This deconstruction and rearrangement of pictorial space took on various forms and degrees of deviation from past artistic orthodoxies, but the overarching intent was clear: to construct a new way of picturing the world that was based in the epistemologies of real space. The collaboration between art and science is a direct descendent of those earlier artistic movements and scientific discoveries that faced away from the window of illusion and unshackled the notion that what is real is vastly more intricate in its emotional abundance, than what is not.
Two weeks ago the Williamson Gallery at Art Center College opened an exhibition called REALSPACE, in which this theme is explored further ( http://williamsongallery.net/realspace ). I was pleased to find resonance with its premise in Nancy's post, and wonder what others might think about this idea of a longer historical relation between modern art and a slow decline of confidence in a concept of the supernatural.
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