Sunday, 1 November 2015

Art Born of Perception


"[...] our senses falsify for us the real nature of the world." - Marcel Proust
We do not perceive the world as it is. I alluded to this fact in my very early post A Brief Anatomy of Perception but you need not take my word for it. Evolutionary scientists have pointed out that we not so much perceive reality as reconstruct reality via our sensing organs linked to our brain in the same way that computer software makes a list of indecipherable numbers and coding look like a user-friendly interface. These scientists add, moreover, that mathematically no species is evolutionary fit when it perceives reality as it actually is

What greater justification and explanation for art? We are artists by nature, i.e. co-constructors of perception and reality, or, at the least, we are genetically wired to give form to perceptions that are themselves surface and erroneous yet absolutely key to our survival. Perception is not truth but, as someone has said, art is a false way to get at the truth. The altered perception which much art gives voice to is just as much a reconstruction and valid interpretation of reality as everyday sense perception. 

As Heidegger so wonderfully noted, art is about setting truth to work. And the truth is that perception is not truth, that which is, that which gives meaning, but can be more or less aligned to it. Art reminds us that reality is something other than sense perception, or photographic imagery, and that things have a reality and shape other than how we immediately perceive them which is the greatest justification for creativity one could hope for.