David Bohm and Art

Pictured above is Quantum Cloud XX (2000) by the artist Antony Gormley. The Quantum Cloud series can be viewed on Antony Gormley's website. In Maddelaine Roseanne Phillips Thesis Gormley: Contemporizing The Index she quotes Gormley as follows:

"In particular, he [Antony Gormley] began to explore the ideas of relativity and quantum theory proposed by physicist David Bohm, notions of time and space as suggested by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, and some aspects of astrophysicist Martin Rees’ theories on nuclear fusion. Of this interweaving of artistic form and scientific theory the artist [Antony Gormley] has said," -- Maddelaine Roseanne Phillips

[Quoting Gormley] "There is a duty for the contemporary artist to acknowledge that our understanding of matter has shifted so radically from a belief in absolute laws of mass or light to a recognition of the mutability of appearances and substances … From my point of view the artist is less divinely inspired and more driven by curiosity to look more closely at our material condition and to discover, with the help of science, how to look at it differently." -- Antony Gormley

In 2000 Gormley met with Basil Hiley and F. David Peat, both of whom are physicists who co-authored books with David Bohm. Peat describes this meeting:

"One afternoon Basil Hiley and I were talking about pre-space when the sculptor, Antony Gormley, joined us. Gormley was very interested in space as much of his work dealt with the inner space of the body. For a time he listened to us and then asked when we meant by algebra. We told him that the famous mathematician, David Hilbert, called it a 'relation of relationships.' Gormley liked this."

David Bohm on the Word 'Art'

"A very good case in point is provided by considering the word art. The original meaning of this word is ‘to fit’. This meaning survives in articulate, article, artisan, artifact and so on. Of course, in modern times the word art has come to mean mainly ‘to fit, in an aesthetic and emotional sense’. However, the other words listed above show that art can also call attention to fitting in a functional sense.

The fact that we are hardly aware of the syllable art in words such as articulate or artefact is an indication of an implicit but very deeply penetrating fragmentation in our thought between the aesthetic, emotional aspects of life and its practical functioning aspects. This fragmentation tends to operate also in the meaning of the word beauty, which is ‘to fit in every sense’. Nevertheless, this word also tends mainly to emphasize aesthetic and emotional fitting.

It can be seen that, in a very profound sense, all these activities are concerned with fitting, i.e. with art. All that man does is a kind of art, and this implies skill in doing things, as well as perception of how things fit or do not fit. This is indeed self-evident for the visual or musical artist as well as for the artisan. It is true also for the scientist and the mathematician, but less evident.

It is clear, then, that reasoning is to be regarded as an art. And thus, in a deep sense, the artist, the scientist, and the mathematician, are concerned with art in its most general significance, that is, with fitting." -- David Bohm

Art and Science

"I think the scientific and the artistic spirit have something in common. The scientist wants not only to learn about the facts, but to understand how they cohere, fit together, and make a whole. The scientist even uses criteria such as beauty and symmetry to help decide which theory he wants.

The scientist cannot capture the whole cosmos in thought. In his mind he makes a kind of microcosm, which we see as an analogue of the cosmos. In this way we try to get a feeling for the whole. The artist I suppose gets a feeling for the whole some other way." -- David Bohm

Bohm-Biederman Correspondence

From the book:

"This book marks the beginning of a four thousand page correspondence between Charles Biederman, founder of Constructivism in the 1930s, and David Bohm the prestigious physicist known for his interpretation of quantum theory. Available for the first time, we are given a rare opportunity to read through and engage in a remarkable transatlantic, intellectual discussion on art and science, creativity and theory."

Bohm Interviewed About Art

In a comprehensive series of interviews with David Bohm by Maurice Wilkins the correspondence with Biederman was brought up and Bohm goes on to speak about art and Biederman in significant detail:

"So, now the idea was that during the 19th century art was entering a period of crisis because traditionally people were expected to imitate the appearance of nature according to this conventions, what people thought was the appearance of nature. Artists had developed certain conventions and whoever didn’t follow them was not thought to be producing a good likeness. Even people like the English artists, mostly landscapes, Turner, he was innovating quite a bit. He was sort of breaking out of some of the conventions of appearance and going into light, the question of light as a basic part of the experience. So in the early days there was some innovation going on. As the century wore on the crisis got harder. What were artists to do? When the impressionists came, there was the first big change, the first really fundamental change that Monet began. The impressionists, each one were somewhat different. They weren’t all the same. But they were sort of experimenting with changing the meaning of life. Now Monet thought of making little elements of primary color and building everything out of that. When you get close to it you don’t see very much. As you step back suddenly it seems you see a whole space with people and objects, three dimensions and all sorts of things. What Biederman said that what Monet was doing was recreating the order of space through the properties of primary spots of color, primary elements of color, small elements. Now I just sort of anticipate here. This was a little bit like the simplicities which I talked about breaking up space into simplicities. You could imagine putting colors on these and trying to build some images out of them. Colors of varying intensity. When I thought of Biederman, I saw a relationship in his talking about and what I’ve been interested in, which I want to pursue a little bit later. At first Monet was regarded as really absurd and ridiculous and not art at all. Only later did people accept Monet and the other impressionists as artists. But they had already made a radical questioning of the notion of order that instead of trying to imitate by little very fine gradations of paint, they used these small blobs of color. Or brush strokes or whatever form they took. It was the pointillists who had little points of color."