Art & the Objective and Subjective Realities

The greater reality is largely unknown.

The objective reality is largely unknown. There are a few known aspects of the Universe through which we humans navigate, such as the Physical Laws— which enhance our perceptions about the objective reality but, does not disclose to us what it is, or why it is.

I have a few artist friends that argue for the existence of objective art. It seems to me that, what they have mistaken for objective art is simply an acquired taste for the “original,” the “complex,” and the “insightful”. Taste however, is no standard for objective reality, and layering or complexity only alludes to it. It is therefore, easy to mistake matters of taste for objectivity.

Acquired tastes originate from the cultures we humans have constructed, and are all subjective. The only conclusion one could derive is– the more onion-styled a thought, or a piece of art– the closer it is to alluding to the objective reality. Taste may be strengthened through exposure to better ways of doing or perceiving something, and gives the illusion that the better way is the way. Throughout history there have been many “better” ways in which to create– write, paint, orate, etcetera, but the “best way” is not the objective reality– the “best way” is only the more innovated and refined of the bunch. There are many “better ways” to come.

Taste is subjective. I may enjoy the novel Hunger by Knut Hamsun because I “feel” the writer’s spirit and appreciate the complexity of his literary style and storytelling– and I may enter fascination through wormholes of thoughts as I progress through the pages until the very end– but all this means, is that my experiences have led me down a specific path in which this sort of data is palatable. I experience within the story, both mind of writer and protagonist, unraveled in all their intricacies, and am elated at the adventures of the Unnamed Vagrant of Hamsun’s tale. In my humble opinion, it is good storytelling. I taste the world created at the hand of another and this flavor sets the stage for my accumulating more data of its kind. The avenues of the mind extrapolated by language is beautiful– such creations inspire me, and is admirable. Still yet, it all remains subjective. I can say, I love Hunger because it is a complex and unique novel– but these mentions and Hunger are no indication for the standards of objective art– it is only the standard for a certain type of human taste– and tastes vary.

There are many films and writers whose work I had to acquire a taste for– for instance, I fell asleep numerous times attempting to watch the great Fellini’s La Dolce VitaThis may be a beautiful and organic film created by Fellini, but I could not get through it the first few times I saw it. It took me a while to see the beauty of this film, but beauty, as well as art, are subject to opinion, reliant on whether one “gets it”, and is subjective. It’s all a matter of acquired taste– solely based on one’s exposure to the best of the best. Again– the best of the best is not the objective model.

The case for objectivity often continues when artists claim a work is objective because it is a “stand alone” product– meaning it is great without knowing anything beyond the product– but what is great about it, is again fueled, by acquired tastes. The work exists without an observer– but with an observer,  it is subject to appreciation derived by standards set by the observer.

Most of our ideas on the objective reality are subjective– and these ideas tend to morph with the arrival of new data. We have minimal details of the big picture. As the quote famously attributed to Lao Tsu goes,

For those who try to grasp, it’s gone.

The greatest of scientists and philosophers will submit to not knowing what reality is in its entirety. That stated, standards are important– things need to be measured and compared, excavated and discovered– but standards are tailored to human experiences and interests. We must not forget that our best model for uncovering reality– the Scientific Model, is also subject to bias. Let us kindly remind ourselves of that humbling message by Carl Sagan:

Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

We humans exist in a shroud of uncertainty and cannot be absolutely sure about anything much. The objective reality we create is largely a product of human subjectivity. More exploration is needed, and even then, we may only ever, glimpse the greater reality– but know, that whatever It is, we are part of it.

 

Cheers to the many avenues of exploration!

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