Art appreciation and ramble

Again, drawing from Charles Murray.

The first, most elementary proposition is that people vary in their knowledge of any given field. That much seems beyond dispute.

The next assertion is that the nature of a person’s appreciation of a thing or event varies with the level of knowledge that a person brings to it. All of us can easily think of a range of subjects in which our own level of knowledge varies from ignorant to expert. If you know a lot about baseball, for example, you and an ignorant friend who accompanies you to the ballpark are watching different games when there is one out, runners on first and third, and the batter is ahead in the count. The things you are thinking about and looking for as the pitcher delivers the next pitch never cross your ignorant companion’s mind. Is your friend as excited by the game as you? Having as much fun? Maybe or maybe not, but that’s not the point. Your appreciation of what ids happening is objectively greater. You are better able to apprehend an underlying reality inhering in the object, and it has nothing to do with your sentiments.

-Charles Murray
Human Accomplishment

Mostly agree!

I think this can be analyzed further. I think art appreciation can be described as the highest caliber thing on the grounds that it has the highest information complexity. So there are simply more details to wrap your head around while forming a single, coherent picture of what’s happening. It’s relatively easy to comprehend every decision made by each actor in a baseball game. It’s much more difficult to understand every decision made by an artist, because there are more of them. The ability to acquire a lot of knowledge is determined by mental speed, study time, engagement level, and having a high enough mental caliber to keep the information flow laminar rather than turbulent.

On the other hand, it’s not enough to have a lot of information. It’s important to also have the information properly sorted hierarchically in your mind, and discriminated by value. Weighting each detail in this matrix correctly, and appropriately for the immediate situation, is the source of discernment and therefore predictive ability. Take the Trump election cycle for example. I did pretty well but I was wrong about the political violence this summer (there has been relatively little) because I didn’t weight social mood as the most important factor, which I should have remembered at the time. The ability to sort information hierarchically relies almost entirely on mental caliber and mental energy.

Last, there’s fluid intelligence. There’s this thing you can do sometimes that feels like a mental explosion, where an entire dynamic situation makes sense all at once and the outcome reveals itself like watching a Rubik’s cube solve itself in your mind’s eye. It’s accompanied by a feeling like pure enlightenment and wonder mixed with deja vu and a bump of cocaine. It requires fluid intelligence above the threshold necessary for the activity (higher for art, lower for baseball). This faculty probably relies more on mental speed than anything, but it requires the pre-existence of a well-organized matrix of mental models. Without the mental models, the flow state wouldn’t be possible.

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About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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6 Responses to Art appreciation and ramble

  1. Lazer says:

    Tye Dye Swastikas?

  2. mendicant says:

    Most of what’s said here is most relevant if the artist’s referents are widely known cultural works and historical/scientific facts, as opposed to obscure trivia, or his own invented mythos. Shakespeare is still widely read because he followed this rule for appreciability. Reading Pound’s cantos, or most of Blake’s longer pieces, without footnotes can be exasperating even for the erudite.

    At some point the artist’s work progresses too far into Glass Bead Game territory, and lack of broader relevance makes the effort necessary for appreciation unworthwhile. Narrowly self-referential complexity is wankery.

    I suspect most of mathematics fell into this trap after the death of Henri Poincaré, but that may be my own bias due to inability to grok the stuff.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >At some point the artist’s work progresses too far into Glass Bead Game territory, and lack of broader relevance makes the effort necessary for appreciation unworthwhile. Narrowly self-referential complexity is wankery.

      100%. Art is not about citations, it’s about aesthetics. There can be no such thing as post-modern art, it’s a contradiction in terms.

      >I suspect most of mathematics fell into this trap after the death of Henri Poincaré, but that may be my own bias due to inability to grok the stuff.

      According to Michael Woodley of Menie, that field has been declining drastically on the high end of accomplishment. There are no Eulers in the world today.

  3. Aeoli Pera says:

    Yup. The most important sort of knowledge for success, as far as I’ve encountered.

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