The major works of modern art, produced in France from
the end of the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth
century, were born in a crucible where mysticism and modern science
were mixed together. According to Arthur I. Miller, Cubism, to take one example, was born from a marriage between the theory of relativity and theosophy.*1 With a hint from four-dimensional geometry and the idea of an “astral
plane,” from which things can be seen simultaneously from all directions,
cubist forms were created by relativizing and combining different aspects of form. Various kinds of mysticism, including theosophy, were tremendously
popular between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century,
and the first stirrings of the new science also occurred during this period.
Einstein’s theory of relativity was an incredibly novel idea, although it was still an extension of on classical physics. That was how Einstein himself saw it.
The type of science based on the old dynamics is now known
as linear science. It is science without the arrow of time, science that can only make
statements about phenomena without relation to time. The science that progressed along this path envisioned a description
of the world in the form of a single equation. It had to be elegant and simple, like E = MC2.
Science was driven by the concepts of evolution and reductionism. Similar impulses stimulated modern art. Influenced by the theory of materialism garnished with the ideals
of Marxism, artists used minimal materials and physically reduced forms. The progress of Modernism was in a parallel relationship with
the progress of modern science.
Although the mystical and spiritual concerns of early Modernism
have been carried on by some artists, for example, Joseph Beuys,
they eventually lost their vitality. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle disturbed and demonstrated
the limits of all science based on classical dynamics, and a more complex,
non-linear science appeared. This development had the effect of weakening
Postmodernism wanders endlessly through multi-layered
structures. Its journeys are aimless and without goals, like the stairways depicted
This could be likened to the cycles of Samsara or transmigration, which contains no concept of progress. What is the position of Postmodernism? It is that each discrete context allows a privileged viewpoint
that only refers to meaning in a higher context. There are an infinite number of such higher viewpoints and, therefore,
no viewpoint is superior to any other viewpoint. Ken Wilber, in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, wrote that taking the average of all these viewpoints
will not create a relationship between them. This in itself is only one peculiar privileged viewpoint. But because of the nature of such viewpoints, it results in self-contradiction. Thus, no superior viewpoint exists, except one’s own. Wilber says that the postmodern poststructuralists substitute a state
of frenzy without a viewpoint for literary and political criticism.*2 The impulse started by the breakdown of a conscious viewpoint in Cubism
progressed and changed, leading to the crossing of boundaries between
different types of art and the relativization of cultural values. There is certainly some sort of meaning in this process, but it ultimately
ends in nihilism. The ebbing of a concern with higher values is probably related to
the present slowdown of spiritual advancement. A new modernism is necessary in order to restore the impulse toward
progress in culture.
Because of the reductionist character of Modernism, physical
works of art must inevitably disappear. Reductionism contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is a way of thinking that makes physical emptiness logically necessary. That is why Yutaka Matsuzawa’s “final art,” sculpture without form and
painting without color, is undoubtedly the final form of Modernism. A single theoretical thread connects the artistic developments from Minimalism
to Matsuzawa’s “final art.” Modernism reached its final stage with the beginnings of Matsuzawa’s conceptual
art in 1964.
Eventually, Matsuzawa arrived at what he called “quantum art,” a
previously unexplored territory. In his “Quantum Art Manifesto,” he states, “This art cannot appeal
directly to people’s senses. They cannot see it or touch it directly. This art can only be known or understood by direct intelligence, that is,
the operation of thought – judgment, reason, and the formation
Oh! It is a making special through intelligence leading to radicalization.”*3 Matsuzawa aims at becoming a transcendental person in a world where human
beings have been eliminated, meditating transcendentally on the limits
of the nth dimension. Will he make the ultimate leap to consciousness only? Recently, he is putting his concepts into written mandalas in the form of a square grid, nine lines of nine ideographs
each. This form is a gate of passage from a higher to a lower world, read in
a spiral moving right from center. It represents the practices undertaken by a bodhisattva in order to
save all sentient beings. Matsuzawa’s art consists of acting on the audience through these mandalas and performances. This art of a single gesture or a few words has a catalytic effect, calling
up images and concepts that criss-cross and interact, leading us to an encounter with an unknown world. Through this art, Matsuzawa moves beyond point zero at the ultimate
limits of modernist reductionism.
The world cannot be reversed. In
other words, time cannot go backwards.
In spite of the efforts of Newton and the physicists who have followed
him, most of the world remains complex and impossible to measure. Phenomena that are determined in a linear fashion, that is, phenomena
that can have the same motion in reverse time, are extremely rare. This fact became decisive in the 1970s when it was found that a peculiar
active order can be born in the gap between passive order and chaos.
In an open system
far from equilibrium, a peculiar non-linear phenomenon occurs that
is irreversible. In molecules that ordinarily collide and interact at random, a small fluctuation occurs and high-level self-organization begins.
This is the nature of the famous dissipated structures discovered
by Ilya Prigogine. According to Prigogine, the farther matter is separated from equilibrium,
the more intelligent it gets.*4
This sort of non-linear science produces a world view different from
the mechanistic world view that has prevailed since Descartes and
Newton. Classical mechanics and the physics derived from it were decisive theories
in the machine age but they could only explain a small part of the
world. Nature does not move like a windup clock. It is a fact that chaos exists in the world we live in, and it is from the zone of disorder, instability, and diversity on “the edge of chaos” that a new and higher order can emerge through a small fluctuation.
The paradigms of science must be changed along these lines. Life on the earth and the economics, politics, and culture created by human
beings are endlessly undergoing transformations, moving from chaos to order
and from order to chaos. In dealing with these transformations, the new science has caught
a glimpse of a macro factor driving evolution.
Paradigm of Flowing Movement
Suppose that a fractal structure with numerous folds
like an n-dimensional fold can be maintained in empty space and that
all phenomena are enfolded within this fold. How can this state be achieved?
If a drop of ink is placed in a viscous liquid that
fills the space between two concentric cylinders, and the small cylinder
on the inside is rotated, the ink drop will be attenuated to a point where
it cannot be seen with the naked eye. The ink will become a narrow thread, forming a circle like the rings
around Saturn. After the first drop of ink is rotated several times, a drop of
a different color of ink is rotated several times. Repetition of this process creates an image of enfolded total flow.
This is a model of total flow that the physicist David Bohm has used to
make an alternative proposal of the nature of the universe, rejecting
previous atomic theory as incomplete.*5
The memory system of the brain, as presented in the conclusions
of the brain scientist, Karl Pribram, shows remarkable affinities with
this concept. Pribram claims that the memories are preserved throughout the
system of the brain like a hologram but at the same time individual memories
can be retrieved from separate parts. In this theory, the brain can be thought of as a computer using a
hologram as the medium of memory.*6
Let us go back to the model proposed by Bohm and increase the speed of
rotation of the inner cylinder. As the speed passes the limit at which
it is possible to maintain a stable increased flow, a fractal
structure like a wall in space appears. Empty space may be able to support a
structure of this kind.
Yasushi Kajikawa, who worked together with Buckminster Fuller in
his later years, did important research into synergetic topology. He has described how a regular dodecahedron constructed only of the
lines forming the sides can be rotated and folded into a regular tetrahedron. The folding can be done in four ways: rotating to the right or to
the left, and turning the regular dodecahedron upside-down and rotating
it to the right or to the left. Kajikawa has proved mathematically that with these four ways of folding, the arrangements of the sides that come together at the apex of the tetrahedron are all different, so there are four ways of breaking its symmetry.*7 If, as stated by Fuller’s disciple, Amy Edmonson, space contains “certain
spatial characteristics” like the regular tetrahedron and the regular
dodecahedron, this folding model shows by analogy how transformations of
spatial structure are possible.*8 As the symmetry of space-time
is broken, space is transformed into a different structure through the
creation of a vortex. In this case, topological transformation is done in the form of
Flowing movement like the turbulences formed in water or air
is not generally well understood. A German expert on this kind of motion, Theodor Schwenk, has studied the
macro movements of liquids. He has shown how extremely sensitive forms are created on at the interface between liquids of different kinds, for example, of different densities or temperatures. The forms created by these vortices, spirals, and meanders are the
prototypes of the forms of organs of living creatures.*9 The muscles between the human shoulder and hand resemble the forms
taken by water flowing in a pipe bent at a right angle, and a pattern of
fluid flow is engraved into the surface of the scapula. The forms created by flowing liquid are quite different from those of a machine as sembled from separate parts, and they resemble ancient patterns like those created by the Celts or the Jomon people of Japan.
What is meant by these signs that can be described as a fluid flow
paradigm? Do they predict the advent of new non-linear paradigm? Are they just bubbles that have emerged accidentally in the flow
of the history of science? They have an inseparable relationship to the complex systems of non-linear
science and forms like spirals, vortices, and meanders. When Manfred Eigen discovered hypercycles in the process of glycolosis,
the gap between matter and life was greatly reduced. The breakdown of sugar in the cells is self-organizing, creating a
complex cycle and a circle of unusual motion. In the theory of chaos and
complex systems, a peculiar circle, called an attractor, describes the
movement of the system. It explains the formation of repetitive complex movements, turbulence
and fractal forms like nested dolls.
The creation of a new modernism that will not lose
its impetus toward progress is a necessary condition for the progress
of culture. It cannot be a form of reductionism. It must lead to self-transcendence, a necessary condition of evolution. The dynamics of self-organization is the only paradigm that fulfills these
conditions at present. Erich Yantsch gives three conditions of self-organization.*10 The first is an open system. In a closed system, energy reaches equilibrium and self-organization does
not occur. The second is disequilibrium. This condition implies the existence of a flow of energy, such as
heat or physical mass, toward the interior of the system. The system must be vitalized with an inflow of energy.
The third is the existence of positive feedback, known as a self-catalyst. With a self-catalytic function, the system and the materials formed in it accelerate its own process of organizing itself. “Positive” indicates a quantitative increase in the plus direction. In reality, however, the system would eventually break down if it only functioned to accelerate self-organization. Negative feedback, which regulates this generative function, is also necessary.
A new order must be precariously established in the balance between
these two functions.
Can we create an art of this kind?
It would be an art that is not closed toward others, does not plagiarize
from others, and does not lose its self-referentiality. It is also necessary to create a condition of disequilibrium, an element that might be described as “heat,” in our culture. These are the tasks faced by art today.
Previous modernism was based on two major elements, science
and mysticism. Earlier in history, art was something that could harmonize the spirituality
of religion and the materialism of modern science. If art loses
spirituality it faces “death.” It can only play the role of a jester in relation to science or be a subcultural
king without clothes. A culture that
retains the impulse to progress must be based on non-linear
science and cannot be reductionist. It must also create a new spirituality. This is the new Modernism that I dream about, a non-linear Modernism.
Perhaps I am sowing the wind.
Will people reap the whirlwind as a result? Will they gather rice stalks with no grain in them? All I know right now is that in order for self-organization to occur we
need a “fluctuation,” a perturbation like a breath of wind.
Arthur I. Miller, Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes
Havoc, Basic Books.
Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, Shambala,
3. Yutaka Matsuzawa, “Quantum Art Manifesto,” To Spiritualism – Yutaka Matsuzawa 1954-1997, exhibition catalogue, edited by Hajime Morita and Sanae Murata, Saito Memorial Kawaguchi Museum of Contemporary Art, 1997.
Friedrich Kramer, Chaos und Ordnung, Deutsche Verlags – Anstalt GmbH, Stuttgart,
5. David Bohm, Fragmentation and Wholeness, The Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation, 1976.
6. Ken Wilber, ed., The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes, Shambala, 1982.
Yasushi Kajikawa, “Symmetry Breaking Processes of Dodecahedron, ”
The Land of Doragon, Onomichi – Symbol and Forms, exhibition catalogue,
edited by Shinji Umebayashi, Onomichi Municipal Museum of Art, 2000.
8. Amy Edmondson, “Synergetic Geometry,” Synergetic Circus: R. Buckminster
Fuller’s Sea of Intuition, exhibition catalogue, edited by
Rumiko Kanesaka, Alternative Museum, Tokyo, 1989, p. 3.
9. Theodor Schwenk, Sensitive Chaos, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, 1961.
10. Erich Yantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe, Pergamon Press, Ltd., 1980.
||Emergence and Movement Op.5 2008
left Nobutaka Ueda
right Yutaka Matsuzawa
photo Hiromasa Naganuma
A example of the dissipative structure
Implicating Rheo Movement by David Bohm
photo Nobutaka Ueda
||Vortices by Torus
photo Nobutaka Ueda
Implicating Rheo Movement Op.8