I sat at the window until 3 am reading, since Mark fell asleep on the couch, and then just slouched like a zombie to bed without bothering me much. Something I wrote earlier made me think about something, and I couldn’t let it go.
I was talking about maths in art, and it is true that maths is at the heart of human art because human beings always seek patterns. What is maths but the tracing out of the patterns of the universe? And what is art if not the attempt to experience those patterns?
When art is not a pattern it becomes dissonant and chaotic, and the enjoyment of it comes from the challenge of listening to it. Sort of like with books. Most people read books in order to escape, to have a few hours entertainment with the least amount of effort. For me, I like those books, but I also like the books that are hard to read.
Not hard in a sense of convoluted and poor communication skills, but hard in the sense that I need to work my mind to take in what is being said. There is a difference. Reading badly written, convoluted, and impenetrable books is just boring drudgery. Books that have clearly communicated thoughts that are hard are fun.
But even in those books, isn’t the challenge to sort them into an order of the mind, to categorise the content into neat little boxes that we later can point to and offer a brief summary? Sort of like the essays I write in school where we strive to interpret long dead authors in the light of modern thinking, and have zombies in Jane Austen books?
It seems so human to do that, to bring order to the chaos. To seek patterns. To recognise the underlying structure, even where there is no such structure. For instance, when dad wants to explain economy, as a research field, he likes to use the analogy of the “seven million monkeys in the field”. The monkeys will broadly do things at certain times of the day because they are diurnal creatures. You can prepare for those broad strokes, but you can never know how large an effect it will have if Bonzo the Chimp starts to jump up and down, beat a stick in the ground, and scream and shout. It could be ignored, or it could lead to a coup d’etat against the leadership. You can never prepare for that. Yet, arguably, economy is a major influence in our social lives. We want there to be a pattern, when there may not be one. An element of a pattern is interpreted as an all-encompassing pattern; as a universal law.
And what is music if not tones set to a fairly rigid time formula? What is painting if not a work of perspective and geometry? What is theatre if not a lab-experiment during a set time? What is writing if not meter and numerical lexicality?
So, when the mathematical background of computer graphic shaders stare me in the face, and when I twist dials and turn knobs to increase luminosity in a three dimensional geometric space, is that really so different from what I’ve always been doing as the artsy geek that I am? Except now it was starkly clear.
Can humans even understand the concept of a disordered universe? Is there a mathematics for random noise?
Is there art for mere entropy?