Science for Artists

Inspiration and Truth

Aspies and Art

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Romanesque sculpture at Vezelay (c.1104).

Excerpt from The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy by Cowen, Tyler (Book – 2010) p.178, 188

I’ve noticed that many art lovers are reluctant to “reduce” aesthetic preferences to neurology, because they feel something uniquely mysterious or something human is lost when we think too hard about the underlying science. The invocation of neurology somehow communicates a sense of cold determinism and a beauty that is distant at best. But rest assured, with or without neurology the mysteries of art largely remain. In fact a look at art through the lens of neurology can open our eyes to greater artistic mysteries and additional founts of creativity. Neurological approaches to understanding art compared to sociological approaches, are more likely to imply art is fun and they are more likely to imply that artistic pleasures are deeply and fundamentally human.

Our particular neurology doesn’t lock us into a particular set of artistic tastes. Individuals can learn to appreciate the cognitive skills and also the aesthetic perspectives of others, but first they need to know something is there to be appreciated. They need to know that strange and different kinds of music are not just a lot of phoney baloney. Sociological approaches to cultural taste often imply that taste differences are contrived, artificial, or reflect wasteful status-seeking. The result is that we appreciate taste differences less than we might and become less curious. Neurological approaches imply that different individuals perceive different cultural mysteries and beauties. You can’t always cross the gap to understand the other person’s point of view, but at the very least you know something is there worth pursuing…

Awareness of human neurodiversity helps us see the diversity of beauty in modern society, even if we cannot perceive all those beauties. As cultural production becomes more diverse, more and more art with be directed at pleasing people with unusual neurologies. More and more of the aesthetic beauty of the world will be hidden to most observers, or at least those who don’t invest in learning. The aesthetic lushness of the world will be increasingly distributed into baroque nooks and crannies, in a manner that would honor a Borges short story…

Dr. Hans Asperger saw the aesthetic side of autistics clearly. He wrote:

Another distinctive trait one fines in some autistic children is a rare maturity of taste in art. Normal children have no time for more sophisticated art. Their taste is usually for the pretty picture, with kitschy rose pink and sky blue… Autistic children, on the other hand, can have a surprisingly sophisticated understanding, being able to distinguish between art and kitsch with great confidence. They may have a special understanding of works of art which are difficult even for many adults, for instance Romanesque sculpture or paintings by Rembrandt. Autistic individuals can judge accurately the events represented in the picture as well as what lies behind them, including the character or people represented and the mood that pervades a painting. Consider that many normal adults never reach this mature degree of art appreciation.

Author: KC

I am Katarina Countiss, a multimedia designer. I like blogs, games, art and technology. I am curious about how things are made.

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