An Uncertain Analysis

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Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher (1623-1662) stated ‘We desire the truth, and find in ourselves only uncertainty’. Centuries later the English philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) reframed this statement in ‘What men want is not knowledge, but certainty’. Life is certainly uncertain. That is why it is important to reflect on the way we might deal with this concept.

A linguist will say that ‘uncertain’ has many meanings, which are not known beyond doubt, not clearly identified or defined, or not even constant, they are indefinite, indeterminate and problematic because it is not certain to occur, or not fully reliable and thus untrustworthy (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uncertain). A mathematician will calculate his probabilities to show how certain we can be of something. A physicist will surely be aware of the uncertainty relation of Heisenberg, and in general, statistics bring relief in many sciences to the major problem of not knowing 100% for sure.

And then there is the artist, who embraces uncertainty, because

+ uncertainty leaves space for things to happen

+ uncertainty brings an uncertain outcome

+ uncertainty is seen as a productive element

+ the ambiguous brings new perspectives in discussion

+ uncertainty makes the art unsure of its communication value

+ uncertainty is evidence of the human condition

+ and uncertainty is a valuable knowledge in life

… now I have to note that I am not certain that I have listed all benefits yet…

Does this mean that the artist is an uncertain person as well? I do not know, but I hope not. Dealing with uncertainty does not mean that you can not be in control of some essential parts in your life. Although it might be temporary, your conscious choices do matter as long as you accept that lots of things are not in “your hands”. Leave those matters to other forces and do your uncertain things with full dedication, says the artmaker while unfolding, mixing up and zooming in again.

So, uncertainty is a virtue, as the wonderful book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by Bayles and Orland also learns us:

Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward. Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next. Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself (Bayles and Orland, p.2).

Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides—valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides—to matters you need to reconsider or develop further. It is precisely this interaction between the ideal and the real that locks your art into the real world, and gives meaning to both (Bayles and Orland, p.31).

Where the scientist asks what equation would best describe the trajectory of an airborne rock, the artist asks what it would feel like to throw one. “The main thing to keep in mind,” as Douglas Hofstadter noted, “is that science is about classes of events, not particular instances.” Art is just the opposite. Art deals in any one particular rock, with its welcome vagaries, its peculiarities of shape, its unevenness, its noise. The truths of life as we experience them — and as art expresses them —include random and distracting influences as essential parts of their nature. Theoretical rocks are the province of science; particular rocks are the province of art (Bayles and Orland, p.105).

I took the liberty here to cite these important quotes, trusting this uncertain analysis is just what it is: an attempt to make some discovery about me, my art or the world around us…. quite imperfect and certainly uncompleted

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to be continued.

 

Source:

Bayles, D. and Orland, T., (2016) Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Santa Cruz, CA; Saint Paul, MN: Image Continuum Press.

 

a certain circle