Art, Science and Truth: A revisit to the communication model

Sometimes the pleasure of an artwork comes from not knowing, not understanding, not recognizing.

Wendy Lesser

…the only way to stop the system from working is to stop resisting it.

Slavoj Zizek

I have noticed that the terms art and science have been used more and more frequently.

At first I dismissed my complaints about the communication model as being indulgent philosophical rants without ethical consequence. However, the more time passes…

Some constraints can make the creative self grow. The restraints of the communication model are suicide to a writer. Our gut knows the right words. Constraints should only exist to remove the excess debris to get at the gut. The communication model takes the gut and transforms it into something less human. Taking away language has been a major form of social control throughout history. This is why art has always remained a political act. It is a connect-the-dot version of communication. It is not an indulgent rant for voice has been the one thing to save me. Perhaps even the one thing I have of value. Voice in the literary sense of the word–the personhood held within speech. Our flaws of speech make as much of who we are–give as as much voice–as our clarity. To use only the right words is to be less human.

That is art.

Science relies on scrutiny. Indeed, no idea may be accepted until replicated and criticized by opponents. Science relies on the assumption that truth exists. One cannot–with any intellectual integrity–claim to be scientific without believing in truth or without being willing to have all ideas challenged.

That is science.

That I went from science to art doesn’t mean that I lost respect for science. I was just in it for all of the wrong reasons. Having Haven leaders plan out my future for me while degrading my own sense of knowing was, of course, part of this. So I still read up on science but only as an outsider, would never claim to be scientific, only curious. There is a different truth that exists in literature, but for both art and science to exist, truth must exist.

So I will probably be discredited again for being too critical, for needing better hobbies, for all sorts of things. But I am curious why there is this new need to be seen as scientific, professional, promoting of the arts… There seems to be a need for validation that never existed before. This has created a system that is both more ethical and less ethical. It is more ethical because it cares about the standards of society. It is less ethical because there has been a loss of integrity in being mainly focused on being seen to meet these standards with desperate attempts to hide any evidence to the contrary.

I love both artistic and scientific debates. If someone wanted to engage in a debate on any of my ideas, I would be all in! But not once has anyone been willing to engage with a different side of communication, empathy, existentialism, truth, identity… Empathy in particular I would love a discussion on, for I really don’t understand the purpose of the model or what it is actually saying, nor does it seem to align with any research. Curious?

The consequences of systems that discredit all morality as being black-and-white thinking is also something I would love to discuss.

It is fine to take that approach. But if one doesn’t believe in morality or truth, one cannot be doing art or science. Literature offers moral truths. Science offers objective truths. At least, does its best to uncover these while always knowing that our very humanness will mean we fall short. Perhaps that is why I ended up in art. In art our very shortcomings are our strengths.

And of course the most obvious answer of all–if nothing I have said has had truth, if I am just a nutjob–what reason is there to fear me?

I fear myself sometimes, this is true. But I have learned to meet myself in those moments. That is where art comes from. From being inadequately human. From being both too powerful and not powerful enough. For being.

Reclaiming my voice and even my very name had to always be in direct opposition to the communication model. Few people see why I had to do all of this. I am finally human enough that I need not have everyone see. But voice also cannot exist in a closet. That is a truth in every sense of the word.

And the truth is? I dismissed my complaints about the communication model because I still was searching for a different ending to the story that is already behind me. Still holding onto the notion that if I used the right words… Even my opposition was still conformity. It was not an easily escapable trap. My fault was never my anger, my ways of expressing myself, or my beliefs. My fault was always my attachment.

This is why I have said that the categories make little sense. Every post is about attachment, communication, ethics, writing… The loss of what you never had is the biggest loss of all. Giving up hope of having already had it, that is the biggest act of courage and surrender. It is only by doing that that we may have any hope of a future. Anne Lamott was right. Good Jill Hunting was right. Point out my badness if you wish, I have given up on convincing you otherwise. That is the only way I was able to let go of my badness.

Did I give up invisible super anti-hero pajamas as well? Perhaps, perhaps not. I am not so strong that I never may need such an item. But Talbot and McCuish are no longer opposing sides.

I will let you decide which gets the pajamas.

One last quote on art (yes it is 6am and I have not slept but am at peace with my insomnia)

There are so many things that art can’t do. It can’t bring the dead back to life, it can’t mend arguments between friends, or cure AIDS, or halt the pace of climate change. All the same, it does have some extraordinary functions, some odd negotiating ability between people, including people who never meet and yet who infiltrate and enrich each other’s lives. It does have a capacity to create intimacy; it does have a way of healing wounds, and better yet of making it apparent that not all wounds need healing and not all scars are ugly.

Olivia Laing


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