Science, Art and Why We Should Try Harder

There are two things I am thinking about right now. One is this article from a recent New Yorker magazine about scientifically altering planet Earth in case of an atmospheric meltdown. The other is a recent photography show at TEAM gallery. The former terrifying in the possibility that we might need to eventually grow clouds in the sky just so we don't all die, the latter terrifying in the fact that art is still often applauded if it is about sex, sex and animals even, sex and animals and bright colors, even in the face of the aforementioned problems circling the globe...

I don't want to be too down on contemporary art. I think some people make great, meaningful work. I think some artists are really great graphic designers/thinkers. I also think some artists working now are good at capturing the party/spectacle that a lot of the American art scene has devolved into...And I even think the artist whose show I am a little bothered by makes some important work too, in the past he has chronicaled groups of (naked) people and places outside of our normal existence, making artifacts of subcultures and sublandscapes. But closing down a block for a party to sell really expensive sexy sexy naked pictures of people laying about with animals is a little orgiastic, the label of "art" a thin veil of civility. (Seen here are the color fields that provide the backgrounds of the photos in the show, photos whose titles usually refer to the background color...)

In the article about "geoengineering" there was a profile of a scientist who has constructed one of the most hopeful inventions I have seen to date: a kind of inverse smokestack lined with honeycomb shaped bricks coated in amines (nitrogen based organic compounds?  am I getting that right?), which can literally take the carbon dioxide out of the air through a process that uses heat (heat that can come from the manufacturing that is causing the CO2 release), invoking a process that can actually filter, and recycle, the very thing we have been polluting the atmosphere with. This invention is far more beautiful and important to me in the grand scheme of creativity right now...and I don't see a block party in its honor.

I am not saying people should shun contemporary art, art can spark creative ideas. It can make a scientist think in a new way, moving ideas from gallery to lab, a cultural conversation that we should always be having or at least on the verge of. Art can be a locus for ingenuity and cultural progression, a place to better humanity. Why would an artist working today settle with anything less than a beautiful expression of ideas? Who knows, maybe monkey genitals do have an idea? (Something about our likeness to beasts? Which can also be seen in the riotous publicity & atmosphere surrounding this show!) And maybe even these pieces will spark an idea in someone that is far greater than themselves...but just think of what ideas could flourish if the artistic community, a place where people do look for innovation, variation and cultural advancement, were working on a higher intellectual plane? What ideas could be sparked outside of the museum or gallery if the museum or gallery were filled with ideas?



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.