The Source and the Sorcerer


Oothoon’s Palace by Robert Venosa

It’s a matter of trust. When we look for something new to improve our lives, to enrich our scope of experience, to expand our awareness, how do we know what’s good? When the purpose of the thing we seek is to introduce us to the unknown, by what do we gauge its quality and how do we know whether the person selling it to us has our better interests in mind or we are being scammed? Usually we rely on reputable institutions, established authorities, or trusted friends to tell us when we can safely enjoy a thing previously unknown to us because without such a recommendation we run the risk of liking something bad. We risk ridicule from our peers and we fear being cast out of our social group.

The public school system has two main functions, education and socialization. The former is believed to be the primary function of an educational institution but one has only to look at the average American to see that our formative years were not spent devoted to the pursuit of higher learning. The average American retained very little of the academia fed to him in the classroom, and what he did learn he’s either forgotten or never uses in his daily life as a grocery clerk or assembly line technician.

What he has learned is that he and his ilk have a specific place in life. He’s learned that his purpose, his reason for being is to be a grocery clerk or assembly line technician. He’s learned that he is no different from anyone else around him and his place is among those like him. He can however experience more than what he is through the eyes of his heros, select individuals who had the vision and motivation to break away from the pack and discover something new.

An artist is a kind of hero in that he can show us things we never imagined, or at least use his skill to show us a new side of something we already knew. With the onset of desktop publishing came a deluge of band-wagoneers with the enthusiasm to do art but none of the study, training nor sensibilities to do it well. With so many of these self proclaimed artists filtering in to the workforce, filling the demand for art in advertising and media, our senses are bombarded with amateurish and uninspired art often presented side by side with quality work as well as a wide a range of fine art and nothing to differentiate them other than their aesthetic virtues, virtues which escape the unlearned eye whose peers are the producers of the shoddy work. Furthermore fine art is almost always subordinated by the well-funded commercial variety in terms of mass exposure which would increase it’s popularity

What we are left with is a culture that has no way of knowing the difference between pure genius and pure garbage. So it’s a matter of trust. We must trust an authority to inform us as to what we like, or should like, and when it comes right down to it even the most trusted authorities are influenced by mass appeal based on demographic studies. Even the most reputable expert is just one commercial flop away from being just another opinion and one with a bad public reputation at that.

So who do you trust? Is there any one source of reliable knowledge in a field that by definition is yet unknown? How can we guarantee that our discovery is worth discovering? When we look at a piece of art by an unknown artist, on what do we base our opinion of that art? We’ve already established that we ourselves are not qualified to judge, that we are biased by social pressures and influenced by our scope of experience which is dictated by commercial interests.

The answer is simply go back further, not to the authority figure who we’ve shown to be fallable, but further. First stop is the established rules of color harmony, symmetry and balance, contrasts and compliments. But those are the specific rules that every great innovator has deliberately broken in order to provide us with that shocking departure from the expected norm, with that clever, mischievous deviation from accepted standards, with that surprise slant on what we thought we had already seen long ago. so we must go even further back to find the answer to the question,”what is good?”

Yes the sun’s light splits into a perfect chromatic series of colors and the laws of perspective, refraction, shadow and light, symmetry and balance will always be the same when seen through our sensory apparatus. But when you look out into a dense fecund jungle or a starry sky you don’t see those laws being followed to the letter. What you see is a random chaos that seems to arbitrarily decide to order itself and create specific formations that repeat themselves with startling accuracy and consistency. You see the product of an artist called evolution, an artist called decay, an artist called spontaneous coalescence. And these artists are bound to certain rules just as a child in a third grade art class must color within the lines.

This is where aleatoric art comes in. The rules that dictate the formation of the universe through the hands of the natural processes of evolution, decay, etc. are the very same rules that play a part in the creation of aleatoric art. The aleatoric artist lets these rules govern or influence the outcome of his work. And from this ultimate authority one can find certainty in the trueness of art.

As one imposes ones will on chaos it begins an arc, starting out at one end as the conscious will to organize provides us with welcome recognizable structure. The imposition of structure on chaos remains desirable throughout the upward slope, but as we begin to recognize more and more the patterns and familiarity, while the novelty wears thin, the arc approaches its apex and begins to level off. Immediately the imposed will begins to have the opposite effect on the chaos diminishing its value an appeal analogously to the paving over of forests and the destruction of natural wilderness with man made cities and suburbs, until all the chaos is gone and the arc completes.

This arc, known hereafter as the aleatoric arc, is a model which the aleatoric artist must follow and observe closely in determining the ratio of chance to intention in his work. Art that remains near the bottom of the first upward slope of the arc might be un-cropped nature photography. While art that ends up at or near the bottom of the final downward slope of the arc would probably look somewhat like finger painting in mud.

by Ray Cabarga

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