Art, a reflection of the past or the future?
As art historians or artists, we need to be aware of knowledge developing at an accelerating pace. We need to know about the current state of science even if we are not scientists; just as we keep ourselves informed about politics without being politologists. Being aware of scientific advances permits us to see afar, to imagine the future with a certain optimism and to get inspiration for creative works of arts. Groundbreaking art could be born from a reflection of the future (which will become the now), a reflection of where we would like to be, in brief, the vision of a desired now that opens to infinite possibilities.
Unfortunately, the Dominican Giordano Bruno, also a philosopher, poet, mathematician and astronomer, was executed in 1600, for being aware of the infinite vastness of the universe. Bruno was tried for heresy for daring to believe that in this vast universe of many planets and many suns, reincarnation was possible. A terrible bond fire was set up on Campo di Fiori in Rome, one our favorite piazze in Rome, today under the surveillance of a bronze statue of Bruno. The vastness of this universe was painted by many Mannerists and Baroque artists such Pozzo, Romano and Le Moyne, showing the relative tininess of human beings.
Today, there are a few living Brunos and one of them is Max Tegmark who just published Our Mathematical Universe, My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (Knoph, New York, 2014) in which he talks about parallel universes… yes universes. Just as Bruno and Newton in the time of Baroque, his predictions are based on mathematics. Parallel universes are not a theory, but a prediction of a few theories, and these tell us that there are many universes stacked to each other; we are only a conglomeration of atoms in this multiverse. Atomic reorganisation of our body might be possible after death in one of these many universes.
« I do not believe in this » said one of my students during my contemporary art history class, just like the contemporaries of Bruno said the same thing. As an art historian and an artist, I strongly believe that we need to investigate these new cosmological ideas as they may offer a starting point for making art in new ways. If science evolves, why not art?
In July, during our painting workshop in Provence, we will be painting the landscape. Now, shall we paint the landscape with conventional eyes, or with cutting-edge ones, just like Cézanne painted the landscape at the eve of the discovery of Einstein’s theory of relativity? Cézanne was certainly a visionary when he started to atomically decompose the Mont Sainte-Victoire.