Saturday, May 28, 2016

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] scathing review of Ryoji Ikeda's art project from CERN residency

Dear Roger & Fellow Yasminers,

One of the crucial differences between art and science is that art represents and expresses the views of the artist. Art also involves a viewer or receiver. As Duchamp used to say, the viewer completes the work of art. But this isn't merely Duchamp's opinion: this is a fundamental proposition of symbolic interactionism as a method in the social sciences, and this is the core understanding of hermeneutics. For a deeper discussion of these issues, I have posted Herbert Blumer's concise, elegant discussion of the methodological perspective of symbolic interaction in the teaching documents section of my Academia page at URL:

The clarity and precision of the natural sciences arises from the fact that the equations and propositions of natural science reflect and represent a world that should be the same to all viewers. While there are often differences of opinion about the truth, correctness, or value of what any one scientist or research team may represent about the physical world, there are also reasonably common standards that permit us to reach a common view over time.

One of Albert Einstein's great papers of 1905 was his paper on Brownian motion. He published this at a time when no one was yet able to physically see an atom. Many scientists doubted the physical reality of atomic theory — and this included a great many scientists who accepted the hypothetical use of atomic theory for heuristic or didactic purposes while doubting the physical reality of atomism.

Einstein's paper, "On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat"
examined several well-known physical and chemical facts, drawing together well established evidence to demonstrate the physical reality of atoms. As a result, many scientists who had been skeptical about the reality of atoms became convinced that atoms were, in fact, real. You can read the paper (in Satchel 1998: 71-98) for yourself on my Academia page at URL:

The key issue between these two kinds of discussions is the difference between the ways in which we can understand human beings, how they think, how they behave, and what their behaviour means — including those forms of human behaviour that include speech acts, and the artefacts of behaviour in the form of written texts and works of art.

Not only do human actions change over time, but the meanings of human actions change over time. What's more, the understanding of human actions, human artefacts, and their meaning undergo translation by everyone who hears, sees, or participates in any action.

An atom of carbon will be the same as any other atom of carbon in the universe. Gravitation is the same force wherever we can look and wherever we can measure it. Certain predictable factors account for measurable differences — different isotopes of any element, differences in the strength of gravity on the surface of a large planet as against the force of gravity in space outside the pantry atmosphere.

In contrast, my idea of a good beer may differ to the ideas of those five people at the table next to me. I'll order a bottle of India Pale Ale from the case and not the refrigerator while the next table has five frosty glasses of house lager on tap. Someone may enjoy Aaron Copland's film scores while someone else might prefer Danny Elfman's work, and yet another person might enjoy them equally. One viewer may love Ryoji Ikeda's work and another may not. I am puzzled about the multimillion dollar sums that Jeff Koons's work take at auction when someone can buy a beautiful print by Dieter Roth or a painting by Dick Higgins for a 5-figure sum.

It is for this reason that I read Jonathan Jones's review of Ryoji Ikeda's Supersymmetry installation without too much feeling either way. The artist responded to scientific ideas, but Ikeda's installation is art and not science. It is very much the same thing as a musician composing works to reflect a sense of what early astronomers called "the music of the spheres." Jones's review tells me what Jones thinks — it doesn't tell me what I think.

I haven't seen the installation for myself, so I have no idea about it from first-hand experience. I did read the review, but the review doesn't seem any more harsh than other kinds of reviews. If you want to read some truly withering criticism, take a look at Nicolas Slonimsky's Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time. I suppose that a similar collection may exist for visual art, but I haven't seen it. There are two interesting books of rejection letter from publishers and others, however. One is Bill Shapiro's Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive. The other is Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent by Andre Bernard.

Duchamp used to say "posterity will be the judge." We'll eventually find out whether Ikeda's work or Jones's opinion prevails.



Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia


> On 2016May27, at 22:13, Malina, Roger <> wrote:
> Yasminers
> Here is a very very negative review of Ryoji's Ikeda's art installation resulting from his cern residency
> Should art respond to science? On this evidence, the answer is simple: no way
> Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda's installation Supersymmetry is inspired by his residency at Cern -
> but signifies little more than that physics is weird. Isn't it time we stopped expecting artists to understand the complexities of science?
> this is very much along the lines of my colleague Jean Marc Levy=Lebond's book 'Science is not art' where he attacks
> much of the mystification of art science practice
> the review ends with:
> Art<> and science, we feel, should have something to say to each other. But perhaps they speak different languages after all. I don't speak the language of science too
> well, either, but I do know one thing: it is concerned with the wonder of nature. There is a depressing lack of wonder in this technically sophisticated but intellectually and emotionally empty art.
> would be interested in Yasminer reactions= has anyone seen the work ?
> roger malina

Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

SBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.
HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").
TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.
If you prefer to read the posts on a blog go to