What the Art Can Teach the
By Mike Freedman
The World Wide Web is a new
and important medium for textual, audio, interactive and visual communication.
Web developers can learn much from research on visual art's impact on
human physiology and psychology. Significant evidence now indicates that
visual art can impact
us at a very emotional level, act
almost like a drug to bring us pleasure, produce healing physiological
changes and bring us new perceptions and new ways of thinking.
Although the web is new, some
of its power comes from its use of images to tell stories, which is an
ancient human activity. Cave drawings created 20,000 years ago in Lascaux,
France told stories and were signed with handprints. Online technologies
allow us to create bigger, better cave walls. How big? Visit http://www.gpsdrawing.com/gallery.htm
to see work as big as the sky.
Visual images and symbols also have the power to affect people emotionally.
In Aesthetic Realism and Picasso's Guernica: for Life Dorothy Koppelman
write that "When the fascist bombs struck the Spanish town of Guernica
in the middle of the night of April 26, 1937, the horror Picasso felt
was like lightning striking him; and that light is in this painting."
You can still sense that emotional light, even in low-resolution versions
available online, such as http://faculty.dwc.edu/wellman/Guernica.htm
In "How Much Art Can the Brain Take?" http://www.mit.edu/~pinker/art.html
Steven Pinker, Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes that art can push our
pleasure buttons: "The visual arts are one example of a technology designed
to defeat the locks that safeguard our pleasure buttons and to press the
buttons in various combinations. Vision solves the unsolvable problem
of recovering a description of the world from its projection onto the
retina by making assumptions about how the world is put together. Optical
illusions, including paintings, photographs, movies, and television, cunningly
violate those assumptions and give off patterns of light that dupe our
visual system into seeing scenes that aren't there. That's the lock picking.
The pleasure buttons are the content of the illusions."
The content of popular art, Pinker argues, is often rooted in biological
need. "Everyday photographs and paintings (the ones that most people hang
in their living rooms, though not necessarily the ones you would see in
a museum) depict plants, animals, landscapes, and people. Many biologists
believe that the geometry of beauty is the visible signal of adaptively
valuable objects: safe, food-rich, explorable, learnable habitats, and
fertile, healthy dates, mates, and offspring." Paintings that show lush
environments, such as those by Cuban artist Thomas Sanchez, who presents
incredibly verdant scenses, are enjoyed by diverse audiences.
Physician Michael Samuels (
) writes that art is associated with healing and spirituality and can
impact autonomic nervous system, hormonal balances and brain neurotransmitters.
"In fact it is now known by neurophysiologists that art, prayer, and healing
all come from the same source in the body, they all are associated with
similar brain wave patterns, mind body changes and they all are deeply
connected in feeling and meaning," Samuels writes. "Art, prayer, and healing
all take us into our inner world, the world of imagery and emotion, of
visions and feelings."
Images can express new concepts
that change the way we think. The Guatemalan artist Dario Escobar created
what at first looks like a traditional paper New Year Hat. But the hat
uses a military camouflage pattern that both celebrates and mourns a world
at war. Often conceptual visual art works make us re-think what conventional
images mean. We do a double take - and in that moment we understand through
a new way of thinking. Another example from Escobar can be seen at http://www.sdr-arte.com/de05.html
The computer and online technologies are being used to create complex
new images and environments. Innovative artists are using the Internet
to explore new ideas and rethink the connections between technology and
art. Sites focused on today's online art include:
The new MOCA - http://www.museumofcomputerart.com
Digital Salon http://www.digitalsalon.org
Visual artists, like web developers, are on a mission of discovery. For
pioneers, in art and online communication, freedom of expression is always
at risk. Example of censorship in art can be found at the Free Expression
Network at http://www.freeexpression.org/censorship/censorship-art.htm
An interesting junction of banned online art and information can be found
in art banned by DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) because,
as this site's anonymous author warns, "it contains the source code to
an "illegal circumvention device." It should be noted for those in the
U.S. that viewing or possessing any of these files is probably illegal.
With that said, here's the art and how I did it: http://mnemosyne.csl.psyc.memphis.edu/home/chipmanp/dmca-art.htm
Online business leaders with important stories to tell, can gain inspiration
and insights from powerful works of art, from cutting-edge works of contemporary
and conceptual art to the oldest human images, to help foster new perceptions,
thoughts and ideas. This will require both effort and courage.
With response rates declining for virtually all forms of online communication,
it may be that concepts that push the boundaries of convention are most
likely to lead to new ideas and break through media clutter to connect
with audiences. As Roy H. Williams, a fearless advertising wizard, wrote
in the Wizard of Advertising http://www.wizardofads.com/,
"the risk of insult is the price of clarity."