Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Insights in Tracey Emin’s bed


Have you ever noticed how much human wisdom is fragmented into detached insights? Many insights can't be stitched into a coherent whole because they don’t quite work in all circumstances. Important pieces are always missing from the jigsaw. Piecemeal and incomplete often seems to be the only way.

Yet that doesn’t stop some people from carrying on as if their opinions are a kind of cosmic superglue, as if they are the binding principle. The magic glue is an agenda, allegiance or prejudice which usually comes down to Me. I am the magic glue. Me. Me. Me.

Yet detached insights are one of the most fascinating features of human life. The very existence of blogs and blog readers illustrates that.

It’s like mapping an infinitely complex and infinitely vast terrain. Features are observed and mapped, but a definitive map is never drawn, never can be drawn. The joy of mapping lies in doing it. Forever exploring. It’s one of life’s inexhaustible delights.

Fragmented insights aren’t how we build societies and institutions though. Social life needs fixed maps even if they lead to the most bizarre attempts at social or political navigation. Our need for social structure is not entirely compatible with our search for truth because of the fragmented nature of so many important insights.

Yet after centuries of effort we have managed to bind many physical insights into maps of reality. We call it science and when it comes to mapping physical reality it has no compare. Science may not cover every aspect of our lives and we still have climate science to deal with, but has proved its worth as a means to combine numerous physical insights into reliable maps of reality.

To my mind the arts seem to have taken on board the success of scientific insight to the detriment of artistic insight. As if there is no such thing as artistic insight so anything goes. As if the artist no longer dares hold a mirror to reality because science does that too well. So instead we get stunts, hyperbole, political posturing and some truly ghastly celebrities.

Yet there is obviously such a thing as artistic insight because we’ve seen it for centuries in everything from Shakespeare to political caricature, from literary satire to the subtle suggestiveness of the visual arts.

We don’t see it in Tracey Emin’s bed though.


CherryPie said...

In Emin's bed, nightmares abound!

James Higham said...

Why did I look at this just before breakfast?

Sackerson said...

Surely skid marks are a form of scientific (or at least, sociological) evidence?

A K Haart said...

Cherry and James - yes, after I'd finished the post I looked at the bed and thought how horrible the whole stunt is.

Sackers - forensic evidence of an artistic crime scene?

Demetrius said...

But, where is the hot water bottle? Surely there is meaning in the absence of a device to bring warmth and comfort? Does this mean a sense of deprivation? Apartness? Pray bring me a brandy Harris, I feel faint.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - good point. Maybe needing a brandy is the message behind this piece.

Demetrius said...

BBC2 afternoons have been running repeats of back Who Do You Think You Are and one was of Tracey, which I had saved with the others. It skipped the paternal Turkish ancestry and concentrated on a maternal line. These turned out to be Travellers whose area was Shakespeare and Elgar country by the name of Hodgkins who specialised in broom making. So it is possible that Elgar's mum and Britten's family may have used them.