BOOK REVIEW by
Art as Information Ecology: artworks, artworlds, and complex systems aesthetics
Duke University Press, 2021
by Nohra Corredor/2021
Early November 2021 we received a copy for review of Jason A. Hoelscher's new book "Art as Information Ecology" from Duke University Press/October 2021.The book is a welcome addition to the subject of Art Systems.
I am sitting at my desk, reading ART AS INFORMATION ECOLOGY. In front of me there is a stream of knowledge carrying the millennia's QUESTION: WHAT IS ART?
Exploration towards comprehension
Art AS Information? What happened to Art AS Experience? Am I now in the world of pure LOGIC? What happened to the world of EXPERIENCE? Can they be mixed and matched? Are they transferable? Are boundaries to be crossed? How can I navigate these waters (processes)? I may need a sextant and most probably, I may have to use as well, a parallax perspective (astro) in order to explore the tool-box of distinctions with differences and to enter the world of audiences accordingly. A parallax perspective is adopted if and when the apparent displacement, or difference in the apparent position of an object is caused by actual change (or difference) of position of the point of observation.(Oxford English Dictionary). And I am only in Chapter ONE: Art and Differential Objecthood.
Chapter TWO: Aesthetic Entropy Machines. Here Hoelscher's theory of Art AS Information Ecology becomes a 'category' by incorporating its own processes and adding them to the concept of Information Ecology accordingly. For example, in order to develop a process for ephemeral/permanent differences in the artworks differentiation process, Hoelscher introduces artworks/artworld feedback loops to artworks by Frank Stella, Robert Morris, and others artists. At this point, I ask: Who could be the recipients of this 'artsystem' of ART AS Information Ecology? human beings, artificial intelligence (AI)? or both? Are the Artists at Work included? Difficult tasks ahead. Question/Answer/question/answer/question/answer generating more question/answer arriving finally at Complexity Theory? Not an easy path: "Differences that keep on differencing...The flow of information in motion has been primary the focus of the book so far..."(Hoelscher).
We have arrived to Chapter THREE: "Butterfly Effects in Information Space". Enter the world of Information in Motion where "a coding of artworks and art experience become crucial here...(Hoelscher) Who writes the codes? According to Hoelscher, the coding belongs to
Enter Chapter FOUR: Information Efflorescence and the Aesthetic Singularity. The QUESTION OF Aesthetics...At this point one thing that is unclear with his emphasis on difference is what role in the discussion on Art and Aesthetics does the universal play. He introduces here the concept of 'transversality'. However, it seems unsatisfactory to achieve an appreciation of the universal in the Kantian tradition. Nor does his earlier discussion of aesthetics in Kant confronts this question. Likewise, Hoelscher examination of Kant on teleology and purpose in Art does not addresses this problem of difference and the universal in Kant's theory.
Enter Chapter FIVE: Aesthetic Amplification and Adjacent Possibility. The QUESTION of Boundaries: artworks/artworlds. The question arrives once the artworld is aware of its complexities. We are now in front of a monolith trying to roll across infinite categories of artworks by accelerating its motion and trajectories and founding in its way an Information 'artsystem'. How to cover these areas? It is here where Hoelscher introduces the concept of the 'adjacent possible' constructed by the world of possibilities. By crossing, picking, differencing, transforming, incorporating artworks into the artworld an 'artsystem' can now be developed. With Hoelscher's Aesthetic Amplification and Adjacent possibilities, an 'artsystem' can be in place encompassing the Possible, the Virtual, The Real.
Enter Chapter SIX: "Complex Unities and Complex Boundaries"
It is time to take a pause. The attempt to combine/to integrate/to relate the world of Aesthetic Experience with the world of LOGIC deserves a moment of reflection. At this point, I may have to consider the possibility of differentiating an Art System from an Art Information System, from the point of view of the audiences: the Audience of One(viewer), the Audience of Many (general public), and Audience of Few (the artworld). To find the difference that makes a difference(Bates/Hoelscher) it will be wise to distinguish between Logic and Aesthetic theories and practices, meaning 'the degree of abstraction involved', as described by Alfred North White,1938/Lectures/Understanding.(1) Readers of Hoelscher's book will encounter different theoretical approaches to the interactions between artworks, the world of art, and artworlds in this Chapter SIX. Hoelscher wraps up his argument for understanding what kind of Art System we may be encountering with artworks/worlds-of-art/artworld's constructions from Art as Information Ecology.
CONCLUSION: Information Entanglement and the Post-Evental Artworld. In his concluding chapter, Hoelscher underlines Art as a Differential Relation of Differential Relations after long descriptions of artwork/artworld convergence. Like a river, the world of art changes all the time, "offering itself as a refractive range of possibilities, as a toolkit of discourse and disciplinary options to be selected (or not) by any individual artist who chooses to try them out. This leads to an essentially non-stop bloom of artistic efflorescence and serial differentiation...art communicates not answers toward closures, but answers toward possibilities" (Hoelscher).This process although often intellectually painful, is a necessary but insufficient condition to exercise the right to understand.
November 10, 2021
(1)"Logic concentrates attention upon higher abstraction, and aesthetics keeps as close to the concrete as the necessities of finite understanding permit. Thus logic and aesthetics are at the two extremes of the dilemma of the finite mentality in its partial penetration of the infinite. Either of these topics can be considered from two points of view. There is the discovery of a logical complex, and the enjoyment of that complex when discovered...The characteristic attitude of logical understanding is to start with the details, and to pass to the construction achieved. Logical enjoyment passes from the many to the one. Logic employs symbols; but only as symbols. Logic starts with primitive ideas, and puts them together. The movement of aesthetic enjoyment is in the opposite direction. We are overwhelmed by the beauty of the building, by the delight of the picture, by the exquisite balance of the sentence. The whole precedes the details. We then pass to discrimination. Both logic and aesthetics concentrate on the closed fact. Our lives are passed in the experience of disclosure. As we lose this sense of disclosure, we are shedding that mode of functioning which is the soul. We are descending to mere conformity with the average of the past. Complete conformity means the loss of life...Apart from detail, and apart from system, a philosophical outlook is the very foundation of thought and of life...As we think, we live." Alfred North Whitehead, 1938/Lectures/Understanding