10. SUMMARY AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRESENT AND FUTURE ART
"In my end is my beginning."
Mary, Queen of Scots
We have seen that apart from hierarchy and open-endedness, which are present in footprints literacy to only a minimal degree, all of the other important attributes of art are present to a considerable extent in footprints literacy as well. (See two Summary Tables at the end of this essay.) These common mindprints and their derivative attributes are: connectivity–disconnectivity, classification, grouping, differentiation, abstraction, generalization, reference or symbolization, thinking in visual universals, thinking in symmetry–asymmetry, hierarchies of symmetries and transformations of symmetries, idealization or schematization, complementarity, induction and deduction, hypothetical thinking, comparison, and many more attributes that have not been discussed in this essay. Thinking in terms of spatial order and causality are present in the two domains, but in footprints literacy it is much more developed than in art. Thinking in terms of temporal order, which is very fundamental to footprints literacy, is quite absent in figurative art. Thousands of years after the emergence of image making, thinking in terms of spatial and temporal order, and causality, became the basis of science, and with them all the attributes mentioned above. All of these attributes were present in footprints literacy long before the appearance of figurative art, and it is thus very likely that the generalization and elaboration of the attributes and skills already present in footprints literacy, were the origin of art. In other words, footprints literacy and prehistoric art are two modes of visual knowledge on two different levels, but one served as the basis for the emergence of the other. It is therefore highly probable that footprints literacy is the origin of art, not only from a graphical point of view, as we have seen, but also from the cognitive point of view. Similarly, it is easy to see that basically the same attributes are present in scientific thinking too, albeit at a higher level than in footprints literacy and figurative art. In a non-trivial sense the early tracker-hunter was also the early scientist, and the modern scientist is a tracker-hunter of a new kind. Indeed the modern scientist has qualities in common with those of the early hunter, but with very important additions. In addition to visual thinking, the modern scientist has also two new modes of thinking: highly developed conceptual thinking and formal-relational thinking, which his predecessor did not possess. In the two new modes of thinking, we find the same attributes that we found in visual thinking, except that here they appear at a much higher level. These two new levels of thinking are free of the main shortcomings of visual thinking, which by its nature is confined to the world of appearances and to subjects that can be visualized. However, these two new levels of connectivity are built on the foundation of the visual connectivity that preceded them by millions of years. In other words, the visual knowledge that was first evidenced in footprints literacy and later in art, was also the cognitive basis upon which all of the other symbol systems were constructed, though they served other, more sophisticated, modes of knowledge.
To sum up - Footprints, then, function in a similar way to pictorial symbols, and a track is a pictorial text. This is usually a quite monotonous text, but occasionally it tells the story of life and death. The hunters transferred that story with dedication, delicately and with endless care, from the animal track prints to the walls in the darkest depths of the caves, so that it would not be erased by the rain and the wind. In their vision they implicitly understood that the prints of things have a different existence from that of the things themselves: that symbols are the connecting link between matter and mind; that symbols bring things into being, and that things persist for only as long as the symbols exist. They understood that symbols, like the gods, exist in a time that is slower than the time in which things exist, and thus always survive them. In the process of the generation of footprints, life touched matter and created the first proto-symbols, or the first link connecting matter, life and intelligence. These footprints seem to be the first stage of art. Moreover, all our forms of literacy are ultimately a transformation on one level or another of footprints literacy, which was almost certainly the first type of literacy that human beings ever developed.
The reader may have noticed that throughout this essay only figurative art has been dealt with and not 'abstract' or 'nonrepresentational' art. This avoidance was of course deliberate and requires an explanation, however short and unsatisfying. It is not very difficult to see that not one of the long list of mindprints and their derivative attributes indicated here as being common to footprints literacy, figurative art and modern science, is present in what is called 'abstract art' (Avital, 1996, 1997a). This fact, strange in itself, should arouse many doubts about modern art. The long list of mindprints and their derivative attributes which have been discussed in the previous sections, is in fact a sketch of the demarcation lines between art and non-art; for these attributes appear only in figurative art and footprints literacy, but not in the art called 'non-representational art', of which abstract art is only a part. That is, if something does not look like a duck, does not swim or fly like a duck, does not quack or waddle like a duck, perhaps it is not a duck. Indeed, in order to prove conclusively that not one of the mindprints and their derivative attributes appears in abstract art, an essay of much wider scope is required. In the meantime, it is suggested that the reader study the two summary tables at the end of this essay.
To put it bluntly, my main argument is, that what is called 'abstract art' is not art at all, and not a new kind of art, but the debris of the old art. In fact it can be shown that the only attribute common to figurative art and 'abstract art' is the fact that 'abstract art' is a perceptual phenomenon too. But the fact that something is perceptual is hardly a sufficient condition for it to qualify as art. It does not follow from all this that figurative art is the only possible art, or that figurative art has to be returned to, something that is anyway impossible. But 'abstract art' is a necessary intermediate stage; a stage of breaking the structures of the old paradigm of art, so that we may build a totally new type of artistic paradigm. As briefly as possible, I shall only point out that the figurative paradigm was content oriented and static, whereas the new paradigm will be structural or systemic, and dynamic (Avital, in press-b). The first depicted explicitly the contents of consciousness, and contained implicitly the structures of mind. By contrast, in the new paradigm a radical reversal will take place: it will depict explicitly and dynamically the ordering structures of the mind, or mindprints, and the contents will become implicit. In the new art there will again be the same basic attributes or mindprints that we saw in footprints literacy and in figurative art, but at a much higher level (The full exposition of the new paradigm, which I have called Artonomy, and its applications to painting, sculpture, music and movement, will be presented in a book largely completed, and entitled: Artonomy: The Dark Side of Realism). In fact, in this new art the differences between art and science are largely dissolved because, in a profound sense, the subject of both is one and the same: the explicit expression or manifestation of the mindprints. I am obliged to content myself with this vague generalization, since any explanation of it would go far beyond the bounds of this essay.