Tuesday, June 29, 2010

my friend + yours, erwin schrodinger

I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss something near and dear to my heart. I was recently reminded of Erwin Schrodinger's [1] text on philosophy and metaphysics, My View of the World; I thought I might share some of his work and my interpretations with you.

I began grad school this winter, and by mere chance, I picked up the aforementioned text and started to read. Finding Schrodinger’s interpretation of historical conditioning and ancestral memory profoundly influential I began to apply his ideas to other facets of my still-superficial inquiries. Obviously, I have a great deal more to read and learn, but the instinct is that Schrodinger's conditioning in congress with Riegl's kunstwollen* could be very powerful tools in discussing some of the more...challenging...pieces we're looking at programming next year (I'm talkin' Fluxus). But I digress, and that is another post for another evening.

Primarily addressing issues of metaphysics and consciousness, one of Schrodinger's more resonant ideas seeks to illuminate for the reader the notion of ancestral memory, specifically the idea that a single person carries with them the attitudes and experiences of their ancestors. In typically poetic fashion, Schrodinger writes: “…each of these bodies was at the same time blueprint, builder and material for the next one, so that a part of it grew into a copy of itself.” Indeed, “no self stands alone.”[2] There is so much more. It is pretty great.

I recently wrote a "thoughts and feelings" piece on some of this stuff, but it was essentially puff. At some point, I'd really like to put some of these things into motion, specifically this type of historical conditioning and its relationship to aesthetics. Someday. For now, I'd say go read Schrodinger. It is a quick little read, but one of the most inspirational texts I've come across in quite some time. I wouldn't be surprised if his name comes up again between now and then.

[1] A quantum physicist of the early twentieth century, Schrodinger’s famous experiment, the so called cat-in-the-box is articulated here, by the ever-reliable source of scholarly import, Wikipedia. It'll do.
[2] Schrodinger, Erwin, My View of the World, trans. Cecily Hastings (Connecticut: Ox Bow Press, 1961) , 26-27

* Excerpt via a bastion of veracity and knowledge (Wikipedia):

"All human will is directed toward a satisfactory shaping of man's relationship to the world, within and beyond the individual. The plastic Kunstwollen regulates man's relationship to the sensibly perceptible appearance of things. Art expresses the way man wants to see things shaped or colored, just as the poetic Kunstwollen expreses the way man wants to imagine them. Man is not only a passive, sensory recipient, but also a desiring, active being who wishes to interpret the world in such a way (varying from one people, region, or epoch to another) that it most clearly and obligingly meets his desires. The character of this will is contained in what we call the worldview (again in the broadest sense): in religion, philosophy, science, even statecraft and law." (1) Essentially, Riegl's kunstwollen offers a new model to understand and "value" art. Rejecting the notion that the "best" art is naturalistic, Riegl suggests that the success of an artistic representation lies in its ability to express the so-called spirit of the times. What is particularly great about Riegl is that he is really making space for non-western art forms by allowing for the "worldview" to inform the way in which the art-object is conceived and subsequently read. Riegl is another one of those people about which I could write virtual page after virtual page. For now, the aforesaid distillation will have to do. As I intimated in the above text, I believe his theories to be extremely useful in looking at various art forms of the 20th century.

(1) Tr. C.S. Wood, The Vienna School reader: politics and art historical method in the 1930s (New York, 2000), 94-95

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