I need to nuance the discussion about unity a bit more. If we think that an artwork is one whole, integrated, single thing, that’s a purely human assessment, and doesn’t really have a material basis. Take any two things and put them side by side—are they then two separate things or one thing? If you put a frame around them they become one thing with two parts, but the frame is a mental operation, a matter of perspective, and a human function that we developed for survival—to categorize, group, classify, distinguish, separate and name. To act on the world—at least to know what our actions are and to repeat them—we need to shape in our minds the stuff we act on, something that happens automatically. So by virtue of the frame or pedestal an artwork already has a minimum unity. But more important is the feeling of unity, which is something that only exists in and for us. There is no actual unity, only a feeling of the same, and many lovers of art look for that and like it—maybe all at least some of the time. We need to feel that there has been some working through that led to wholeness and singularity, though it can be pretty minimal, it doesn’t have to be forced. My conclusion is that a state of disunity is exactly the same. Objectively there is no such thing, but we can make it feel as if there is, and that is just as important an artistic goal. The bias in favor of unity is very powerful, and why that should be so is something I don’t understand. All I can say for now is that it must be possible to feel that there has been a working through that allowed the parts to break free. But then they will be tamed again because proper working through entails building the entire piece. Does anyone else feel this crazy frustration? My escape from the madness is to turn away from problems of part and whole and stress the organic development of the thing according to its own tendency, whatever that may be in any particular case. Organicism feels easier and more natural, but parts will always break off and re-attach no matter how we work. The large black area below is a hole in the sphere.

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One Response to Disunity

  1. Eli Bornowsky says:

    Logics of Worlds

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