Perception, Visual Art and the Brain
The notion of experimental art, therefore, is meaningless. All art
is experimental or it isn’t art. Art is research, whereas
entertainment is a game or conflict.
Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema
Stories abound throughout history explaining the difficulty in characterizing what creativity is and where it comes from. One legend relates that the Greek painter Protogenes, in painting a depiction of Ialysos (the eponymous founder of a city on Rhodes) had so much difficulty rendering the foam on the dog’s mouth that he threw his sponge at the picture. The sponge struck the area in which he had labored in vain and as a result of his emotional reaction, he achieved exactly the effect he wanted. This kind of tale is one of the many myths we can point to when pondering the varieties of conclusions that surround the mystery of art.
In some cases, particularly before the ease of reproduction provided by photography, thinkers who had little or no visual knowledge of the art they discussed contrived views about art and aesthetics. Others, who were familiar with the objects they studied, adopted rhetorical techniques and theories following the academic norm. Both approaches contrast with artists themselves, who are as unlikely to distinguish theory from praxis as they are to produce theoretical statements to explain their work. Thus, as a whole, the composite reveals the difficulty in defining art in a singular fashion. In addition, as is explained in the chapter on synesthesia, connections among the arts confuse the issues further. In that chapter I noted that researchers have found that visual, musical and language-based functions are processed in different areas of the brain. This highlights yet another concern: characterizing processing in terms of localization or specific modalities such as visual art, music and language-based projects still leaves us with a rather narrow focus and yet not all art is media specific. Robust conclusions need to incorporate specific modalities as well as the evidence that art is expansive. In other