Page 25 - Studio International - December 1969
P. 25

Technolo            gy                    hotchpotch  of humanist  or  utilitarian  moral   activists, and it is rarely direct or predictable.

                                                                                               The fine and applied arts of the past responded
                                                    beliefs. Literature, with a few exceptions, has
          and art g                                 tended to reflect states  of  human  centreless­  with full vitality to such physical or techno­
                                                    ness rather than map new centres  of signifi­
                                                                                               logical  issues  of  the  day  as  horsemanship,
                                                    cance  for  human life.  How can we make  up   optic�, anatomy, clockwork, steam locomotion
                                                    our minds about the optimum ecological use   and  photography-each  of  which  has  in  its
                                                    of material resources-when most  of us have   time effected both the phys_ical and the cul­
                                                    no idea  what,  if anything,  makes  life  worth   tural  environment.  There  are  plenty  of  big
                                                    living at all?  Yet a social critic and anthro­  issues today for the artist to tackle, wringing
                                                    pologist  like  Dr Edmund  Leach tells us that   out  and  interpreting  their  significance.  Of
                                                    science has put man in the position of a god.   course, when one talks of an artist 'confront­
                                                    Science  ( the  argument  goes)  has now  made   ing issues',  one is using a kind of shorthand.
                                                    possible  many  things  that  were  in  the past   The  artist,  like  everyone  else,  does  not
                                                    considered beyond man's control; so we must   respond to abstract 'issues' but to the experi­
                                                    be quite calm and unsuperstitious, and make   ence  of  being a certain  person  in  a  certain
                                                    the wisest possible decisions about our future.   time and place.
                                                    The  actual  situation  is  that  man's  quasi­  I use the word artist simply to mean someone
                                                    divine powers are being usurped by politicians,   of superior imagination or clairvoyance which
                                                    bureaucrats, military strategists and corpora­  is expressed through some medium or other.
                                                    tion  men,  against  whose  pressures  only  a   In  the  act  of  co-ordinating  his  technical
                                                    minority  of  scientists  and  technologists  are   resources  he  has  to  co-ordinate  his  own
                                                    prepared to make a stand.                  instincts and  intelligence-that  is, his psycho­
                                                    The delicacy of moral questions in a scientific   logical  resources;  and  to  do  this  can  be  to
                                                    context  may  be  illustrated  by  the  following   enact new possible meanings for human life.
                                                    sentence  from  a  neurological  paper  in  the   The  artist,  then,  is  likely  to  become  the
                                                    Penguin  Brain  and  Behaviour  series  (vol.  4,   'minister'  of  a  higher  ecology  of  his  own
                                                    p. 15 7). Describing the post mortem examina­  making.  Art  has  always  conveyed  that  the
                                                    tion of eight cats' brains, the authors (Dewson,  physical factors in life-continuity and growth,
                                                    Noble  and  Pribram)  write:  'Electrode  tip  the  struggle  for  survival,  the  satisfaction  of
                                                    placements  [were]  verified  by  noting  the  basic drives,  and so on-have  an element in
                                                    location of the electrolytic lesion made at the  them which is more than physical. The social
          Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;   time  of  sacrifice'.  This  use  of  the  word  sciences  are  quite  inadequate  to  give  an
            And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared   'sacrifice'  appears to  be common in science.  account of the full significance of these non­
              with toil;                            Now sacrifices are usually made to some kind  physical  factors.  One  sociologist  has  written
            And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell:   of supreme being, and one wonders whom or  that the field of urban  sociology  'is  a  major
              the soil                              what  these  experimenters  had  in  mind  in  battlefield for those who stress the impact on
          Is bare now, nor canfootfeel, being shod.   immolating  eight  of  that  proud  species,  the  urban  life  of  "objective  conditions" -the
                                                    cat. Man? Science? The greatest happiness of  external  environment,  population  structure
          And for all this, nature is never spent;   the  greatest  number?  I  am  not  quarrelling  and  the  like-and  those  who  emphasize,  for
            There lives the dearest freshness deep down   with their choice of the word 'sacrifice', which  instance,  the role of social or cultural values
              things ...                            conveys, as 'slaughter' would not have done,  as a key determinant of the so-called objective
                             (Gerard Manl ey  Hopkins)   a  proper scruple  for  ecological relationships.  conditions and of human action in general.'l
                                                    But  the  implications  behind  the  usage  are  This dilemma, if resoluble at all, is unlikely to
          What have th done to the earth?           significant at a deeper level than that of pro­  be resolved within a sociological framework; it
          What have th done to our fair sister?     fessional ethics.                          is classically the field of the  artist.  Merleau­
          Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her   Ecology should give us all the answers, in fact;  Ponty  has  some  penetrating  words  on  the
          Stuck her with knives in the sight of the dawn and   but an ecology that takes account of the full  subject:
          Tied her with pincers and dragged her down.   needs and resources of man in nature, includ­  'It is impossible with man to superimpose a
                                       (The Doors)   ing what can only be described as the spiritual  first layer of behaviour that one calls "natural"
                                                    or  metaphysical.  Buckminster  Fuller,  one  of  and  a  fabricated cultural or  spiritual world.
          Hopkins'  fine  affirmation  of  the  inexhausti­  the few sages of  our day,  writes in  Operating  All is fabricated and all is natural with man,
          bility of nature will n9w seem to many under­  Manual for  Spaceship  Earth  that  the  task  of  so to speak, in the sense that there is no word or
          guaranteed. In part one of this article, which   comprehensive designers is the 'metaphysical  conduct  which  does  not  owe  something  to
          appeared  in  September,  it  was  argued  that   mastering of the physical'.        simple biological being and which at the same
          the  balanced  ecological  use  of  material   We come back to the artist. Once he was the  time does not steal away from the simplicity of
          resources will be hard to achieve for a society   servant of a religion or of the state, if often a  animal life,  and  divert  vital behaviour from
          that  lacks  belief in  non-material  ends.  Most   wayward  servant.  Most  of  our  instinctive  its path, by a sort of escape, and by a genius
          religions, if not all, are profoundly ecological   knowledge  of  Christian  doctrine  is  indebted  for the equivocal, which could serve to define
          in  proposing  a  detailed  and  higher-than­  to  the  iconography  of  Christian  art-the  man. Already the simple presence of a living
          material ordering of man's relationships with   Incarnation, the Resurrection, Paradise, etc.;  being  transforms  the  physical  world,  makes
          the  living  world  and  the  inanimate  world.   though there are plenty of religious artists like  "foodstuffs" appear here, elsewhere a "hiding­
          One has only to think of the Christian symbol­  Bosch  whose  transformations  of  traditional  place",  gives  to  "stimuli"  a  meaning  that
          ism of the lamb, the fish, bread and wine, the   material  are  stunningly  individual.  Today,  they  did  not  have.  Even  more  so  does  the
          Nativity in a stable; or of the poetic strength   the artist is more his own master in a sense;  presence of a man in the animal world.'  2
          of the Anglican burial service. Religion might   but  he  is  equally  important  and  powerful.  A  good  start  towards  the  formulation  and
          be described as a transfigured ecology.   His  potential  impact  on  society  is  in  the  expression  of  what  I  have  called  a  'higher
          Nowadays most  of us in the  West live  by a   longer  term  than  that  of  social  or  political  ecology' could be a knowledge of exact physi-
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