THE GALIMATIAS INTERVIEW (PART FOUR) – Art and Mathematics

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GALIMATIAS: But if art is to save humanity, mustn’t it be a bit more pragmatic?

ADKIN: There is plenty of pragmatic art around now. But it’s not saving anyone … No … Definitely not. The less pragmatic art is, the better.

GALIMATIAS: But surely, one of the prime causes of art is communication …

ADKIN: Perhaps the prime cause. Communication might be the very essence of art, but wrapped up in art’s communication is the question –what must be communicated by art? – or – when is communication art and when is it not? Communicating an interesting story is not a priori art. The communication has to be given another cause, which is bigger than the mere need to communicate itself, in order to make it art.

GALIMATIAS: The Big Question, for example.

ADKIN: Yes, the Big Question … or the final cause … something that will create a resonance and lift veils that reveal landscapes that open out into realms that take us beyond the story itself …

But I’m starting to feel the direction of this conversation is seeping into dangerous areas – as if I were actually suggesting some kind of methodology for artists.

All I’m really saying is that art needs to have questioning artists if it is to remain a meaningful phenomenon.

GALIMATIAS: And implying that you think art should remain a meaningful thing.

ADKIN: Ah yes, of course … but each artist to his or her own method. And there are many different methodologies to choose from. But the important thing is not to let the methodology limit the scope of creation. Use as many different methodologies as you like. If the methodology is any could it will not be a closed circle. That means that you can colour your work with different approaches.

GALIMATIAS: Like a collage?

ADKIN: It doesn’t have to be so extreme. If we look at theatre, for example, it is undoubtedly, since Stanislavsky, the most methodologically based of all art forms.

GALIMATIAS: Especially if we consider that students in art schools these days are encouraged to abandon aesthetic principles and shun drawing.

ADKIN: But while the plastic arts abandoned methodology in the 20th century, the theatre world suddenly embraced it and preached the importance of the laboratory. Stanislavsky created a Husslerian transcendental phenomenology for theatre based on the power of the interrogative …

GALIMATIAS: Which you use yourself in your writing …

ADKIN: … in a different way, but, yes … However, I firmly believe that taking Stanislavsky’s approach to acting or directing is not enough … as did Meyerhold and Brecht, and Grotowski … and none of them are completely satisfying either. When an actor gets too much Method it becomes impossible to act and we have to teach them how to act without thinking … This is not to say that learning the methodologies is bad … or that a painter should not learn how to draw … Knowledge – like the Big Question in novel writing – has to be confronted. But also, like the Big Questions, it has to be wrestled with then left alone.

All musicians know that there is an excruciating process of mechanical repetition needed in order for your body to learn how and where to place one’s fingers on the instrument. And that this torturous process has to be endured before one can ever play anything well. Yet the actual playing should only happen when you’re able to play without thinking where your fingers need to be at all.

GALIMATIAS: I’ve heard you say several times that the essence of art is music.

ADKIN: Yes, and the essence of music is mathematics. Theatre is all about rhythm and harmony, and so is novel writing and painting. And good art will always have its geometry. Art is linked inextricably to mathematics because mathematics is our first abstraction of the universe and art is the same thing. Language also is music, is mathematics. Best not to forget that.

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2 thoughts on “THE GALIMATIAS INTERVIEW (PART FOUR) – Art and Mathematics

  1. Surely all art derives from nature and music being the essence of art is, like mathematics, an inherent element of nature. A manifestation of our natural world.

    Excellent discussion by the way.

    RR

  2. Mathematicians speak of beautiful things such as infinity, and this drives physicists to despair.

    And what about musicians? Are they mathematical magicians themselves? Is, for example, Penderecki’s Polymorphia art? Is it even music? Rather than having the geometric elegance of a Bach fugue, it has the logic of radioactive decay, and though Penderecki later dismissed the avant-garde, the question Polymorphia poses still lingers: Devoid of harmony and rhythm, are polytonal soundscapes not as metaphorically visceral and artistically relevant as the dark, foreboding clouds found in the cinema or in novels?

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