Poets, photographers, sculptors and painters know how to read. That might seem commonplace. What I mean is that the knowledge dancers have of the movement of their bodies in space is embodied in this group of artists in an acute visual field, and the skills and traditions to pattern it deeply. What is normally taken to be a mood of colour, for instance, is a depth of information that can be read — not by spectrometers and other exquisitely conceived tools but by the eye.
In Western culture, these observations are commonly taken to be aesthetic, that is to say the concern of art. Should they be described in language which seeks to recreate them as intellectual models rather than emotional ones, they are called spirit, and left to religion.
That split indicates a bias at the heart of many common perceptions of art and science. Remember, artists and poets can read the rose hips above as easily as they can read a painting by Gerhard Richter or a poem by Olena Kalytiak Davis. They can read the autumn knap weed below.
The romantic split, which says the colours above have a mood, or the aspen leaves below are full of spirit, is a component of individual consciousness. It has a cost. The poets and artists who have learned to read the world can read the romantic moods in the leaves below easily. More importantly, though, the framing of the leaf by the camera was an individualizing aesthetic act that moved the image of the leaf into human space, so it could be read humanly.The viewing of that aesthetic image, and of the choke cherries below …
… is a secondary abstraction. There’s no doubt that the moods of colour can be read at great depth by this method, or that new taxonomies could be created based upon these colour moods. That would also, however, be a statement about individuality — a trap that poets and artists might not want to enter.From their traditions, many scientists describe the current age as the age of the Anthropocene — one in which humans determine the fate of most species on the planet, and are responsible for thousands of extinctions. It is, however, also the age of Gaia, the concept that the earth is alive… … and looking at herself. In such a conception, sight is not an individualizing impulse, but something written into the very energy structure of the planet. It doesn’t lead to individual perception. It’s not romantic. It’s not measurable by scientific procedure, but it is measurable by gesture. These gestures are called art, or poetry, which the culture that set them aside from classification and logical enquiry terms emotional responses. They are, however, part of the substance of the world, as is the distorting lens of human attention attached to them.The human gaze it is called, by highly-inividualized people who would like there to be no gaze at all. What poets know is that that too is a gaze, and a very chill one. The work is to see. If you see yourself there, don’t shut your eyes.Change your self to align with what you see.