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Is the artist an extremophile?

Guy Levrier

13 March 2010

Since the advent of quantum physics, it is shown that the material universe is participatory and that it incorporates the whole psychic reality. That's a huge surprise to the scientific community that suffers from this fact a frontal attack in its traditional approach of strict separation between reason and spirituality. Thus, the observer, the observation and the observed form a whole, implying the emergence of the psyche into matter. Everything relates to our awareness of compliance with the observation: for us, only the real observed is real. Nature always keeps some sort of mystery, and never reveals all. Thus, we have a purely anthropocentric view of this reality, which may well be perceived quite differently by other people. We no longer observe our universe, but we share its experiences. The universe is self-aware through us.

In this field of consciousness, the artist questions himself in depth, especially on that agonizing source of creativity he perceives within himself, and which provides him with both the greatest doubts and the wildest expectations. Gauguin expressed this by the title of his famous painting "Where do we come from, what are we, where are we going?" In our time, he hopes to find an answer in the world of science and philosophy.

The extreme is beyond all measure. This is the feeling man withdraws from the contemplation of the cosmos in which he appeared, since he tries to scientifically define its limits, and that, precisely, Hawking shows us that it has no limits. So, in this world of matter which is unlimited with respect to us, we are all extremophiles, a term that characterizes how anthropocentric is our relationship with our habitat: Specifically, we consider the other habitats in terms of what we would consider "extreme" for our own existence. Such is the case for environments deprived of oxygen, in which organisms proliferate, which would be entitled to ask specifically about the possibility of our way of life under aerobic conditions.

Thus, what is normal in a certain environment seems to be too extreme and consequently abnormal in another, depending on the field, whether it is space, life, cognitive, etc... In the realm of life, which interests us most and that of space, we are suddenly challenged by our terrestrial habitat which becomes hostile to the way we mistreat it, and which requires us to already develop new survival strategies that go as far as envisaging the colonization of other planets. The artist himself, is voluntarily his own limit in an interactive experience between matter and mind, which should lead to his gratification by the emergence of aesthetic pleasure. Consequently, as an artist, my research is a philosophy of the Whole, of the harmonization between the inside and the outside, in compulsory correlation with Science, through the metaphor.

Personally, thanks to quantum physics, Bell's theorem that any reality can only be non-local, was my first inspiration in abstract art. In this regard, I note that everything is extreme, especially its strange character, contradicting all logic, while it proves that it is so far the most accurate physics of our history. According to Hawking and Hertog, at the origin, the universe was so small that it could only result from a quantum event. Young's double slit experiment was the subject of an initial quantum interpretation, which reveals that, when a single photon passes through these slits, it interferes with itself, as if it were two waves. According to Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics, this interpretation means that the photon simultaneously follows all possible paths and it is the “sum over histories” that is the trajectory that we observe. Hawking and Hertog applied this scheme to the evolution of our entire universe: all these trajectories ("sum over histories") are possible, with all their probabilities, as a particle going from point A to point B follows all possible trajectories.

But, if that were not strange enough, what we perceive depends on the experimental device that we created for the observation: if we use a photon detector to determine through which slit the photon has passed, it does not interfere with itself and creates only a single point on the film. Thus, the mode of observation used for the photon changes the nature of its trajectory, and, according to the Hawking and Hertog's moment decides what happened 13.7 billion years ago. So that, by our observation, we are creating our own history. This theory can be validated only by a detailed observation of the CMB on the one hand, and the discovery of gravitational waves, on the other hand, in a future that remains to be defined. How can we be more extreme in our quest for understanding the environment that gave us birth? If this theory is validated, what is it that is real? A complete abstraction? It is impossible anyway, according to quantum theory and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to know everything about our universe.

"God does not play dice", says Einstein to whom this physics, contrary to Bohr's views, was either false or incomplete. "If we can develop a theory of the Whole, we will know God's plans", said Hawking about research on super-strings. When the greatest scientists supposedly at the top of rationalism are reduced to invoking God, they must truly perceive themselves as amenable to such a higher authority that it is the only one that can tell the truth. "The ground gave way under our feet!" Quite an extreme predicament once again, such that every human being, whether conscious or not, is an extremophile.

How, as an artist living in such a universe, do I characterize my own extremophilie? Very badly, thank you, there's nothing like an artist to feel trouble in his skin, always riding the line between the zenith of serenity and the nadir of suffering, where he finds his source of creativity, and where he feels his lived experience as a double extremophile, by adding to his simple living being status, a duty to create beauty, in this magnificent universe that created him, in which he lives love, and which he strives to understand. As for scholars, it is still God who will be the reference: "God does the same thing as me, He creates," says Picasso, some colleagues preferring to let him claim his authorship of such a statement. "Picasso the clown," "Picasso's fun," "Picasso mocks us," say others, including art historians of repute. In contrast, it seems so simple, so spontaneous for Nature, to be beautiful. She seems unable to do otherwise, and especially not to suffer. Beauty is truly the universal law of nature. Is it for her the result of an intention, a paramount obligation? At the very least, it is always our model. Would suffering in the creation of beauty be Man's prerogative ?

This is precisely timely, in such troubled times beyond all expression, if we judge by the reactions of rejection of contemporary art by the general public, to which we owe our Art. Here and now, everyone is suffering: the creative is both the worker and his own judge - very uncomfortable - and his public, which should be able to recognize if it is indeed this art from which he expects to receive the Supreme aesthetic gratification, without having received any prior information or training.

In his perpetual "storm in a brain" experience, the artist intends to create an authentic reality of which he can be sure. For the "others" to follow, which is certainly preferable to "Hell is other people". To the extent that only the observed reality is real, and that the essential criterion for this is the beauty that the artist creates, he has accomplished his mission. Whatever the mystery of creation, whether universal or artistic, we need clarity while being familiar with the mystery, and therefore assuming our strange extremophilie.