Sergio Patricio Valenzuela Valdés TTT2020- Conference
Abstract: Attractors cause attraction, collision, repulsion and distraction between different poles of charged energies. Latour makes a metaphor about these attractors in society and politics by defining many layers of interaction between the poles, decades after quantum physics observed strange attractors in chaotic systems of particles. Initial conditions could make a difference in terms of observation of strange attractors in art practices, where artists have the access to continue their own art practice, and who have also faced the art market and non patronage within a competitive society of succession. The proposal observes an isolated artist, connected virtually to the environment, but losing social skills, because of social distancing. Isolation in artists is present here and now in today’s societies, with society’s own practices infected by worldwide news, porn, violence, loneliness and a vacuum in daily life routines. What kind of attractors proceed in an artist’s own art practice while in isolation, at home in a shared “WG”(shared flat) , without the resources to develop their own art and without the possibility of success and social empowerment? Which kind of strange attractor could possibly define the steps and procedures of this new generation of artists who don’t feel supported and who feel isolated in their “home” artwork? This paper attempts to observe this idea based on a few cases by comparing interviews with artists isolated by Convid-19 in 2020 in different countries.
Bruno Latour re-arranges the political engagement under certain parameters between citizens in globalization time in “Down to Earth Politics in the new climate Regime” (1), where the author discloses a differentiation between attractors in the axis of global and local as the poles. Moreover the author classifies an attractor called “Terrestrial” as being related to the consciousness of human kind linked with earth and nature, instead of with the neoliberalism grown in the last decades. Latour releases another perspective for modernity and globalization when followers got close to final arguments about climate change and “how dare you” (2) in Greta Thunberg speech at the UN, for example.
In a certain way, the anticipation from Latour about attractors in the sphere of social sciences addressed the complexity of interactions in terms of today’s contents , and how this complexity is sent from thinkers to machines to be solved. For example, quantum physics observes “strange attractors” in chaotic systems of particles. Maybe this is what Latour used as a metaphor about the attractors, about the power of agents in society and politics that define the interaction between the poles (global and local) with non congruence in terms of the modernity’s achievements. So then, being conscious about the planet as something not just belonging to the human kind, already defines a one human-kind-earth and is a big step in terms of political addressment. This can be seen specifically in terms of how capitalism uses natural resources, but on the other hand how territorialization and nomadism again takes place as part of the hot topics.
Physics defines attraction (3) as a force between bodies made by the magnetic fields with different charges. In understanding force (4) as a push or pull between bodies, it is necessary to have two “bodies’’. Attractor : “a state or behavior toward which a dynamic system tends to evolve, represented as a point or orbit in the system’s phase space.” (5). Definitions that arise in physics is movement between objects made by a force. As far as this force is bigger the object can move faster or even orbit. However what about attractions that are more “aggressive”, like collisions for example, where these objects can collide. The exchange of energy caused by the crush of bodies in physics is called collision of particles (6). Another possibility is that the bodies repulse each other, called in physics repulsion (7) where magnetic polarity makes bodies repel from one another. All these forces can also be used within the metaphor of attractors if the parameters are clear enough to understand which forces and what bodies are being moved. Perhaps, What causes attraction is the difference in polarity (negative - positive poles) in what Latour addresses as a third “terrestrial attractor” as the climate change and mother earth connection, something that Muñoz-González reported about Latour claims : “a balance between human activity and natural processes’’(8). Perhaps the Terrestrial attractor is not only a political statement about territory or about the Interplanetary space race (9). Perhaps it is connected with other non-scientific or speculative thoughts called “law of attraction”: “the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on which uses the power of the mind to translate whatever is in our thoughts to materialize them. (9) Furthermore, it defines four types or orders of attractors, where a person must become an attractor. First order POINT attractor is a single perception or fixation. Second order CYCLE attractor never-ending loop. The third, TORI attractor – which provides for a dynamic flow of energy. A fourth STRANGE attractor is the chaotic actions.”(10)
Instead of this “paranormal” theory of attraction, strange attractors could make a difference in the “initial conditions” from the observer’s points of view of one phenomena. This Is because if the person has to be an attractor as well, it means the individual already has to force ‘the conditions of one situation into a movement, where the “strange attractor” could be the one that could start a random behavior and generate a chaotic dynamic out of the power of attraction from the ‘attractor person’. If we applied this into the “Terrestrial” idea, the “attractor person” has been forcing the earth on personal benefit resulting in “climate change’, as part of one issue of earth behavior. It becomes a strange attractor factor for others to perceive.
From another perspective, attractors cause “distraction” (11), thinking away. Attractors can make individuals distracted, where they cannot focus nor be in a contemplation/concentration mode. This is something that cinema or traditional theater, opera and ballet have made with the black cube and the stage/screen, but on the other hand, audiences go to cinemas or theatres to get distracted from their own lives and reality, using something called entertainment, therapy, media anesthesia, mass control or many other names related with media.
Perhaps it makes a difference in terms of observation if strange attractors are activated into the field of art practices. Today artists are focused into their own practice, because of many factors: pandemia, wars, migration, political assignments, financial struggles, gender persecution or even the lack of access from institutional requirements and other personal reasons (death, depression or anger). All of this makes it difficult to continue their own art practice. Even if they continue, they also have to face the art market and non patronage within a competitive society of succession.
In a worldwide context, where a pandemic has killed more than a million people, society’s structures are threatened by social restrictions on human to human contact. Today it favors human-machine development. Within this paradox of globalization and climate change, humans have been forced into confinement and work telepathically from home. Things that artists used to do, like working in studios or in ateliers where the social interaction could be present for specific reasons: lobby, sales, project meetings, art fairs, exhibitions openings, talks, for example are no longer possible. Artists are now isolated at home.
These “isolated artists”have been forced to connect virtually to the environment, a situation that creates depression, anxiousness and loneliness and the losing of social skills all because of social distancing. Isolation in artists, like taking part in art residencies, before the pandemic was one of the activities that allowed artists to go deep in their own practice and focus on something specific, always with the risk of finding nothing new or of finding totally changing techniques, projects and development. Today’s societies with their own practices are infected in the pandemic context by worldwide news, porn, violence and a vacuum in daily life routines, “Coronavirus isolation causes surge in sex toy sales.” (12) based on sexualization of social media and so much information that is consumed in isolation. What is the impact that all these referents and daily inputs shape shift the practice of artists in isolation?
So then isolation and confinement request a plan with much more focus on the artist’s own practice and how to avoid unproductive hours stretched by no-goal “entertainment”. Therefore, the question is how isolated artists continue to focus on their practice? For these”isolated artists” could there exist specific “isolated attractors”?
In regards to these questions, I sent artists in different locations a questionnaire about confinement and one of the most contrasted as I expected was the British artist Patrick Church (13) living in NYC and Adan Harris Allwood (14), to the question How has it affected your art practice? Church answered: “I have definitely had more time to ‘sit still’ and refine my work. To be able to have that time to reflect as a creative person in a city as fast paced as New York was pretty special. I feel as though I have definitely become more proactive creatively during quarantine.” On the other hand Harris said: “Everything has become incredibly slow, almost still. And being in my house or room most of the time has had an unusual effect on my work, although what has happened is that by being still I’ve been able to tap into a side of me I was always moving away from. I’m now working on music, something I’ve never thought I could do but now I’m forced to be with myself and the noises I make. I feel like I have no choice but to let that consume my time. It is hard work but it’s welcomed.”
To the second question: “Have you found that it has amplified or focused or blurred your goals and do you get easily distracted by other things?” Church answered: “I don’t really get too distracted from my work, I feel as though I am pretty consistent at the moment… however that can change. I think it has definitely focused me, I am able to set goals creatively which I think is really important.” In this case Harris said: “It takes putting in the hours of the day to a craft to not get distracted, I’ll allow myself snippets of the day to let my focus wonder off but looking at the clock and counting how many hours I’ve worked and how many I have left,helps me to keep my concentration. Treating my time on lockdown like another job even.”
In the last question, the artists gave information that perhaps changes the idea of isolation with the question: Has this isolation changed your way of doing, approaching, making or processing your ideas? Church answered: “Having my husband at home who has normally been in an office has been wonderful. We work together on the fashion brand and having him here in isolation has enabled us to execute our ideas in a much more intentional way.” And Harris, from another perspective answered: “When as artists have we collectively been allowed to take so much time to work on ourselves/our art? It’s rare. There’s barely any jobs out there and soon less it’s looking like. Isolation gave me a huge window to realise this is a perfect time to build a body of work and not feel guilty about taking a time-out from the world to make it.”
In comparing the answers of the artists isolated by Convid-19 in 2020 in different cities (NYC and London), one of the interpretations used to distinguish which kind of attractors proceed in their own isolated art practice, according to Church is the internet. Isolation is potentially something that makes his own business stronger than before, understanding that production and isolation are compatible, In the case of Harris, his own practice changed and switched from one practice to another (Visuals to music), perhaps finding out his ultimate practice that he has to develop now.
On the other hand, in reading the answers from both artists, a question surfaced. Which kind of strange attractor could possibly define the steps and procedures of this new generation of artists? I believe the answer is clear. Now that most everyone has experienced the isolation and distancing of working at home, artists better understand that the particularity of working isolated is nothing special. This increases the possibility to be part of a new schemata of societies and democracies that highlight the old version of a working man crossing the city and coming back home, late evening tired and hungry. Perhaps the work artists pursue finally could be more visible in terms of internet, distribution and access. Using platforms for selling their own visual spaces with no gallerists with contracts and art fairs. And in modern times, perhaps we have never prepared ourselves better than now to a toxic war, climate distarser or space traveling.
If attractors create distraction, perhaps the “Clock - attractor” in the case of Harris makes an everyday force to possibly avoid a “strange attractor”, on the other hand for Church, the “husband” as a possible attractor is clearly more than a force of distraction and is potentially in favor of the goals and planned aims. Distraction for these artists is outside everyone’s routine life and that makes them feel not running in the correct wheel. Patterns to follow and normativities have been tested, and artists are reacting by using what they know how to use the best—their own narcissism and power to continue doing their best.
So then, Latour may be correct. The land, the outside, the planet, the earth is distracting. It is a concern that even artists have to avoid to continue working, producing and finally sharing new paradigms once again.
(1) Latour, Bruno. Down to Earth, Politics in the New Climatic Regime
(2) Tunenberg, Greta . Speech UN 2020: “How dare you”
(3) Dictionary.com. Attraction definition.
(4) Physics classroom. The meaning of force.
(5) Dictionary.com. Attractor definition.
(6) Dictionary.com. Collision definition.
(7) Dictionary.com. Repulsion definition.
(8) Book review. Down to Earth, Latour.
(9) The Mars space race.
(10) Physics of the law of attraction.
(11) Oxford dictionary. Distraction noun.
(12) DW news. Corona and sex toys sales.
(13) Patrick Church site.
(14) Adam Harris Allwood instagram.