Interactive Perception of Art:
Pavel B. Ivanov
The Fusion of Art and Science for Health and Spirituality
Written: 9 Apr 1997
One of the major causes of anxiety and mental disease is the person's inability to release
the internal tension within the socially prescribed range of acceptable actions.
Infinitesimal frustrations may be hidden from the person's self-awareness,
but the lack of active release results in various kinds of peripheral malfunction
which accumulate to the degree of losing the due physiological balance, and thus
the development of organic or mental disease.
The creative attitude to one's own activity may prevent the accumulation of stresses
by inventing new ways of self-expression in the situations where there are no more
socially admissible ways of activity. The individualised directions of activity
thus obtained avoid social restrictions since they need not be generally accepted
and recognised. Hence creativity will be able to extend the range of possible
actions, so that no internal tension could be suppressed giving way to health disturbances.
There are many psychological techniques aimed to restoring mental balance and overcoming
stress. A number of useful procedures are being exercised by various religious schools,
especially those of the East-Asian origin. However, these exercises generally
concentrate on the personality and self-regulation and do not imply any change in
the modes of external activity, this activity being intentionally suppressed
in some meditation techniques. As a consequence, meditation may be quite efficient
as a way to hide the manifestations of stress, but it cannot lead to its actual dissipation.
Internal tensions can only receive a true release in a productive activity, when
the external world is changed along with the person's organic and mental state.
To control one's affective reactions the person may resort to any kinds of creativity.
However, some of them can only provide a temporary relief, while the others might
become the source of a long-term satisfaction. The more universal is the result of
the person's activity, the more efficient it will be as the means of psychological
self-regulation. One can hardly have too much pride about a momentary product being
of use for a limited group of persons only, in very specific circumstances.
What is required for one's subjective stability is the feeling of their importance
on a larger scale, comparable with the development of the humanity as a whole.
Art has always been one of the most efficient means of affective control.
However, its therapeutic power could be significantly increased if the traditional
passive contemplation of the masterpieces gave way to active co-creation,
including the observer's own interpretations of the work of art. While passive
observation and mute adoration emphasise the distance between the artist and the
observer, and thus enlarge the social gaps, the freedom of touch and transformation
eliminates the boarders between the author and the audience, stimulating people's
self-confidence and making them more self-assured. Therefore, aesthetic education
must be organised in a way preventing the formation of psychological barriers
hindering active attitude to the works of art; people must be encouraged to be active,
and they need examples of such an activity, to get free from their usual timidity and
fear of intrusion. The artists and scientists can provide that help and discover
the most efficient ways of eliminating psychological discomfort through interactive
perception of art.
Creative perception is apparent in the arts, since artists often get to work in
response to somebody else's findings, developing and transforming them in an
individualised way. The traditional idea of the "sensitivity" of the
artist implies the transformation of any kinds of impression into artistic images.
The emotions of everyday life, the reactions to the others' art, the subjective
response to the discoveries of science or political events — everything can
become a source of inspiration. When a work of art appears under the influence of
another work of art, an internal dialogue gets established, when interactive
perception cannot be separated from creation.
One could recall many tales about how the artists fought their pain and misfortune
with the passionate work producing the immortal creations of art. But one does not
have to be an artist to creatively transform everything observed and profit from the
positive influence of that creativity on mental and organic health. Of course,
practising painting, music, dancing etc. can be quite captivating. Still, many
people are not subjectively inclined to amateur art, which may even cause repulsion
due to its apparent difference from the works of the professionals. To serve
people's health, their self-expression should in no way compete with other
people's activities and be free of any obligation. To provide that, there
must exist commonly accessible tools of creative transformation of observed
reality capable of expressing the fine peculiarities of individual attitude
in a readily controllable way.
One of such tools is suggested by modern computer technologies and the development
of software for sound and image processing, which may provide a way for creative
communication through the works of art. Thus, some prototype could be transformed
using a number of standard procedures until the result of transformation is felt
self-contained enough to satisfy the individual's sense of completeness. Such
transformed image can be added to the pool of available prototypes to be used
in further transformations. If the reference to the original(s) is attached to
each image, the authors of the originals get a good feed-back and may profit from
the interpretations of their works they could not preview. However, the pool of
the possible transformations of the original image may annihilate the very
notion of the original, since every one of these representations might serve as
the prototype for the rest. Participating in such an activity would give people
the sense of equality, annihilating the differences between the author and the
interpreter, since professional artists may contribute their works as well as
those who had never dealt with art at all, and are not going to. On the other
side, this is a kind of communication that permits most flexible ways of
self-expression, allowing, for example, scientists to transform their attitude
to the world into artistic forms, while artists might stimulate the scientist's
intuition through their interpretations.
For interactive perception of art to be used for stimulating general creativity,
the procedures available must be efficient enough, being based on the objective
laws of human perception and aesthetic perception in particular. Aimless wandering
among images may only be of a limited value for mental health, and the variety of
possibilities may be discouraging. The scientific study of human creativity
must indicate the directions of the development of the interactive perception
of art, which would be most suited for therapeutic and stimulating purposes.
Additionally, other ways of automated image production could be suggested, which
would stimulate people's creativity providing powerful and easy control over
the process through few enough parameters.
To explore the possibilities of using interactive art perception for health
support, the possibilities provided by the Internet could be used. A number of
special WWW sites could be created containing the materials aimed to stimulating
and developing people's creativity as one of the means of restoring the internal
balance and hence mental and organic health, including:
An expandable collection of images, or other works of art, free from any legal
protection against possible changes and version exchange.
The images may be changed or merged until the result is satisfactory for the
creative observer. The author of this new version must be able to submit it
as new prototype to the same pool.
A collection of the tools of creative transformation, so that any version
could be specified by the prototype and the parameters of the transformation;
this collection may include both original software for free distribution and
the information about the commercial software available and the ways of its
using for creative perception.
The examples of the interactive perception of the works of art and the
indications of how to get started. The process of co-creation must be public
and open to study.
The guidelines for using co-creation for overcoming stress and improving health,
as well as the information about any research in this field.
To simplify the subjective transformations, a few standard zone scales
can be provided, so that any transformation would combine the discreteness of
switching from one zone to another and the continuity of the fine adjustment
of "intonation" within the zone.
The parallel informal exchange of opinions and ideas could be one more source
of free creativity. Such discussions must be free from criticism, and no
product may be said to be better than any other one. The comparisons of
the qualitative type may, however, be allowed: the difference between
the products has to be understood as the difference in their emotional
contents and subjective attitudes.
The materials to be presented on such Web sites must be of a non-profit nature,
and free for downloading. Every person must be able to try the procedures
described and add their own contribution to the site. Such contributions might
include new images or variations, new ways of creative transformation of images
(up to transitions between different kinds of art), as well as the links to
related projects or useful software.
It is important that professional artists participate this activities along
with the persons far from the arts, encouraging their perceptive experiments.
The artist's consent to arbitrary transformations of their images would also
remove any legal limitations concerning image morphing. On the other side,
the experience of such online co-creation might provide a new source of
scientific ideas too, opening new prospects for the scientific investigation.
The collection of the examples of the influence of art and its creative perception
on health would become useful experimental data for further analysis, and
eventually developing new therapeutic or educational techniques.
In a somewhat different aspect, this work could be considered a part of the
general process aimed to the fusion of art and science for the progress of
human spirituality, when art would use science as methodological resource
and the source of inspiration, while science would use art as creativity resource,
exploring fundamentally new modes of perception and inventing new conceptual
frameworks, thus acquiring more conceptual freedom. Spirituality, concerned
with meaning, with significant values and a sense of purpose, would be enhanced
by the fusion of art and science, thus bringing us the serenity we need to
survive in a human society beyond control.