25 April 2007

Will to Art

I've written about artistic intent, originality, authorship etc. on a number of occasions. Those exercises are interesting, but today we are faced with something of a conundrum in the form of a Jean Arp collage.

That's Arp's Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance 1916-17.

To make this collage, Arp apparently dropped the blue and white paper scraps onto the lager, gray paper and then "further developed the collages by arranging the pieces automatically, without will."

Now that's really something. Is Arp saying that he is able to overcome free will? I think he must be, because if he was a determinist that would be stating an irrelevant, obvious fact. Why bother? I don't think he did. I think Arp thought he had a will that generally got in the way of the automatic process he favored.

So we've now come to the $50 question (except the $50 is fake). Assuming you've got free will (and those of you who follow my husband's blog know that he's been thinking a whole lot about that lately) can you shut it down? Can you will not to will? Isn't that like thinking about not thinking?

Well, Arp thought he could, and according to MoMA's page about this collage, it was by willing not to will that Arp's subconscious was able to allow a more essential, natural composition to emerge. Yeah.

For a while I've been thinking about doing a series here at Impart Art where I go through and recreate the works of other artists, and every time that thought crosses my mind this collage comes with it. But now that I've gotten myself good and confused about free will and whether I can will myself not to will, well, I don't think I'm interested.


kat said...

maybe that's when you do things subconsciously. sometimes if i'm doing something but my mind is wandering i snap back into and look at what i've done and it's not necessarily what i would have done if i had been focusing. i'm not sure if that's what you meant or if that makes sense.

Dad said...

I do like the colors and it is nicely symmetrically asymmetrical and freely free of will.

Matthew said...

The non-free will crowd would argue that it is part of the illusion of free will that the concious mind thinks it has it, but the subconcious mind doesn't. Therefore, yielding to the subconcious is not a meaningful variable for determining whether or not a creation is stemming from free will or not.

However, the idea does serve to give valuable highlight to the main point of free will. Are you capable of choosing whether or not you will be subject to the laws of nature? The anti crowd would say you aren't, either at the concious or subconcious level.

Also, the idea of allowing a random process to take over isn't relevent to free will as a random process is not any more departed from free will than a deterministic one. Niether one is "free will".

Mary Ann said...

Matthew, while those are all interesting ideas, they are too mired in the deterministic perspective to answer my question.

If there is free will and we all have it, can we will not to will? This question could better define what it is the determinists would say we don't have.

Dad said...

Ah, the unanswerable question again asked.