The HON 385 seminar course will engage a selection of artworks that were made to serve as instruments of philosophical speculation in Western Culture. These mysterious works, also found in other forms in every culture, awaken in us the wonder and precariousness of our human condition. Complexity Theory brings together theories of evolution, development, thermodynamics, and embodied understanding. It helps us understand why the whole can be unpredicted by the parts (more is different), why a universe where energy and structure are inseparable means our world is dynamic (everything trembles), and why unpredictable forms can emerge at the edge of chaos (self-organization). We will consider the visual arts as part of a history of emerging complexity that began billions of years ago; a history we can tell only in our time; a history that is rapidly becoming our new "origin story". We will consider artworks by Piero, da Vinci, Bosch, Vermeer, Turner, Goya, Duchamp, Pollock, Rothko, Martin, Marshall, Walker, Puryear, Abramović, and Ai Weiwei. (Click to view more.)
This seminar is designed for the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford Honors students, and Complexity Minors.
Chaos, Complexity, and the Visual Arts
PowerPoint talks with commentary
"In short, our understanding is our mode of 'being in the world.' It is the way we are meaningfully situated in our world through our bodily interactions, our cultural institutions, our linguistic community, and our historical context. Our more abstract reflective acts of understanding ... are simply extensions of our understanding in this more basic sense of 'having a world.'"
- Mark Johnson-
The Body in the Mind
"It is one of the most remarkable achievements of thought, of self-scrutiny, that the most anxiety-prone animal of all could come to see through himself and discover the fictional nature of his action world."
- Ernest Becker -
The Fragile Fiction
"Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges."
- Jorge Luis Borges -
Borges and I