Complexity as an Alternative Possible Reality

American Dreamers CCCStrozzina

A new exhibition on the American Dream and alternative realities--organized by the CCC Strozzina in conjunction with the Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, New York, USA) and curated by Bartholomew F. Bland--got me thinking about the role of alternative realities in art and complexity science.

Here is how they describe the show on their website:

Does the “American dream” still exist? The exhibition (9 March–15 July 2012) comprises a reflection on the work of artists who use fantasy, imagination and dreams to build alternative worlds to the increasingly complex reality of life today. Some condense the essence of reality into miniaturised systems while others expand outwards into space, and yet others feed on fantastic, dreamlike images or reflect on such symbolic themes as the home and the family, or the mass media imagery, which play even today a central role in the construction of the myth of the American way of life.

Looking at the fantastic art in this show made me realize that there has always been a tradition within art (literature, plastic arts, music) for those who find joy, solace or comfort in creating alternative worlds to the one's in which they live--such a tradition ranges from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to fantasy comic books to J.R.R. Tolkien to Warhol and the surrealist movement.    In many ways, for most of us at least, such an alternative universe is the world of childhood, days spent lost in fantasy.  (And, for some of us, like myself, a conscious decision is made to live there permanently--ha! ha! My family and friends--smiling--still tell me that if my head was not attached i would have lost it a long time ago.)

The creation of alternative universes and realities is, however, not an entirely benign activity.  In the hands of visionaries, it can lead to profound advancement, as in the case of Einstein or Martin Luther King.  In the hand of ideologues, it can end in fascism or political violence, as in the case of Hitler.  Still, in the hands of others, such as Foucault or Derrida, it becomes mostly private, an inside joke, if you will, that is not meant for everyone.

Complexity has its alternative realities and visionaries as well.  One example is the theoretical physicist, Fritjof Capra, who uses complexity to create an alternative vision for the planet grounded in deep ecology.  Another is Francisco Varela, who grounded his study of cognition and life in Zen buddhism.  Yet another is James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis's Gaia theory, an alternative view of the mother earth as one big network of interconnection, human beings included, alive and interdependent.

In my recent art work I have likewise been interested in using complexity science to explore and create an alternative fantasy world.  The focus of this world is my exploration of a new artistic cosmology, one grounded in new ideas about eco-architecture (including the work of Hundertwasser and, more recently, Tom├ís Saraceno), painting (from Michelangelo and Da Vinci to Picasso and Hockney to Benjamin Edwards and Matthew Ritchie), and the link between individuals, societies and ecological environments.    

Here, for example, is my First Dinner Party for the 21st Century, as an example.  This is the photograph I developed, which I am currently turning into a painting.  I am still developing the cosmology surrounding it, but Click Here to see a previous post i had on an earlier version of this photo assemblage.

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