Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

22May/11

Art Life Continues to Eclipse Book Riffing – for another week or so

Terry Bailey and Goh Kurosawa will perform June 10 2011 at Fireside Concert Series in Newbury Park, CA

 

I have so many stories to continue now! I will post more images of my Digital Eclectic art show, which runs through June 17 and had its reception last week. I will get back to riffing on Proust Was A Neruoscientist, too. And on to the new books I am reading - by Freeman Dyson and I've started Cutting For Stone as well as reading more books on Learner-Centered teaching (of which I am a big proponent). In the meantime, I am doing some new music work. Performing with Goh Kurosawa and a few other friends at the Fireside Concert Series in Newbury Park on June 10, and, you understand - I need to spend some time practicing!

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16May/11

I curate a digital art show: Digital Eclectic

Creation and installation of interactive sound and light boxes displayed with Terry Bailey's Digital Olympia

Sometimes one life lived by a multimedia/new media artist, me, casts a shadow over another of her lives. I don’t refer to a dark, negative cast. More like a temporary solar eclipse. In this case, my art is eclipsing my book riffing. But instead of disappearing from my literary blog until the eclipse passes, I thought I’d bring my art world into this space temporarily. I have, after all, been riffing a great deal lately about creativity and science. And my “whole” as a creative person plays a large role in my riffing on any subject.

A month ago some of the students in the WEB and interactive media design department I manage came to ask me to visit their sound design class. They wanted me to see the interactive sound boxes they were building with their instructor, Mike Winter.

About the same time, at one of those interminable and political staff meetings that one often sees played out in movies and novels about academia, one of the directors of another department at the college commented that we directors should not call students when they receive bad grades or have attendance problems, because the students perceive of a call from a director as a negative, authoritarian thing. He was making a case, instead, for peer or faculty mentoring, and believed the students would be more likely to answer and respond positively to a phone call from someone other than a director.

I did not speak up in response to his proclamation at the time because I was in one of those non-participatory moods. I was, rather, in an observational mood, and what I was observing was how he so easily convinced his audience of what I believed was faulty reasoning.

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1May/11

Okay. Walt Whitman and Neuroscience.

"The moral of this book is that we are made of art and science . . . .any description of the brain requires both cultures, art and science." (Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, X)

It's kind of funny if you really think about it. Reductionist theory. The idea that we would understand something by cutting it in half and half again - until we got down to it's smallest part. Or, the idea that if we just had a strong enough magnifying glass we could look "into" something and, in that way, looking down down down, discover the truth of it, its essence. I mean, let's say that the atom (or any particle below/inside it) had turned out to be the smallest part of the material things in the universe. Then what would we have known or done? What would it have meant? "Ladies and gentleman, this is the smallest part of the universe." And someone would have to ponder of course: "And your point is . . . ?"

The fact is that we drilled down and down and kept finding smaller parts. At some point the stuff was too small for a lightwave to even see it (it was shorter than the wave!). So the meaning of what it was became pretty unreal as it no longer even existed in our visible universe. But, here is the other important thing: by the time we have broken the thing into the trillions + (possibly infinite) particles that compose it, we are also incapable of grasping or understanding what all those component particles, taken in tandem, could possibly mean apart or together anyway.

This particularly struck me as I sat in a lecture at Caltech the other night on neuroplasticity.

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