I’m not a big art fan. I mean, I have nothing against it. I guess it’s like pot — fine for other people, but it just doesn’t move me. Though art, at least, doesn’t (usually) make me keep looking back over my shoulder and laugh nervously.
Anyway. But I do have an aesthetic drug of choice — a certain kind of playful art having to do with stuff. That illuminates, or plays with, some aspect of the world. Here is an example — one of Arthur Ganson’s machines.
One of the things that I find so delightful about this is both (a) the visual aesthetics of the objects and their movement (what a beautiful chair!), and (b) the self-referential nature of the thing itself. Here is a massive machine whose sole purpose is to pick up a chair and return it, gracefully, from whence it came. How ticklish.
And yes, of course, Ganson has worked with the Exploratorium as an art fellow, notably creating the Chain Reaction exhibit.
Here’s another thing I like — Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures that walk in the wind.
Again, I feel delighted. This is a technological marvel, but in this case the complicated structure is intended to play with, and iluminate, the natural forces of the wind. The way that it is powered, rather than its intention, is what causes me to feel a fuzzy brain smile. He gave a TED Talk that I hear is pretty neat.
Here’s another. I’ve blogged about this one before. This guy does x-rays of everyday objects. In this case, technology is giving us a literal window into something we can’t usually see… and there is a ghostly aesthetic to these shapes. I feel a certain calmness in these images (perhaps because they’re static, not kinetic as the previous examples). It’s almost zen.
And one last one — I’ve written about Ned Kahn’s work several times. Here’s one example of his work, which generally uses some simple mechanism to illuminate the natural world, generally to show something that is usually unseen. He is painting with simpler materials than any of the other artists, and the results are much more fluid. The aesthetics are not shapes, or function, but rather the curious and ever-changing dynamics and patterns that arise. His installations are deceptively easy, but they are fine tuned to a very delicate point to get just the effect that he wants. He got a genius award, after all.
So, what am I trying to say through showing these works? I think that was makes me feel joy in these works is that there is some illumination, or utilization, of something real. Paintings, in general, reflect the perspective and talent of that particular artist. I have an abstract appreciation of that. But I’m not moved by it. And I think that is the essential thing – that these artistic works make me FEEL something. And if science and technologically oriented art can make people feel some positive emotion — like awe, wonder, delight, joy, or amusement — that is very powerful.
And good. Think of the type of emotion that we feel, instead, in response to images of disaster, suffering, poverty, and war. The stuff of everyday journalism. In fact, the new psychology of positive emotions suggests that (duh) positive emotions help us flourish and add a lot to our lives.
So, this art adds a lot to my life. So did my experience at the Exploratorium, where I experienced, daily, wonder and delight.
What delights you?