A Harvard education for my Uncle Alex wasn’t the trophy of a micromanaged Darwinian victory over others that it is today. His father sent him there in order that he might become civilized […]
“There are many good people who are beneficially stimulated by some, but not all, manmade arrangements of colors and shapes on flat surfaces, essentially nonsense. You yourself are gratified by some music, arrangements of noises, and again essentially nonsense. If I were to kick a bucked down the cellar stairs, and then say to you that the racket I had made was philosophically on a par with The Magic Flute, this would not be the beginning of a long and upsetting debate. An utterly satisfactory and complete response on your part would be, ‘I like what Mozart did, and I hate what the bucket did’. Contemplating a purported work of art is a social activity. Either you have a rewarding time, or you don’t. You don’t have to say why afterward. You don’t have to say anything. You are a justly revered experimentalist, dear Brother. If you really want to know whether your pictures are, as you say, ‘art or not’, you must display them in a public place somewhere, and see if strangers like to look at them. That is the way the game is played. Let me know what happens […] People capable of liking some paintings or prints or whatever can rarely do so without knowing something about the artist. Again, the situation is social rather than scientific. Any work of art is half of a conversation between two human beings, and it helps a lot to know who is talking at you. Does he or she have a reputation for seriousness, for religiosity, for suffering, for concupiscence, for rebellion, for sincerity, for jokes? There are virtually no respected paintings made by persons about whom we know zilch. We can even surmise quite a bit about the lives of whoever did the paintings in the caverns underneath Lascaux, France. I dare to suggest that no picture can attract serious attention without a particular sort of human being attached to it in the viewer’s mind. If you are unwilling to claim credit for your pictures, and to say why you hoped others might find them worth examining, there goes the ball game. Pictures are famous for their humanness, and not for their pictureness.”
That is a quality in the Universe, which exists only because there are human beings. Physicists must from now on, when pondering the secrets of the Cosmos, factor in not only energy and matter and time, but something new and beautiful, which is human awareness.