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The Universal Language of The Universe is Art

edited August 2006 in Reality
THE universal language of, well, the universe, is art, and to say hello, aliens have apparently already sent us their artwork. The work will be exhibited at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California, from 30 July.

“Aliens have already sent us their artwork, and it is to be exhibited in a museum”

Thank artist Jonathon Keats for this. He was the first to consider that aliens will not send us Pythagoras's theorem or mathematical symbols. "If I were [ET] trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe...I'd try to express something about myself in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art," he writes.

And aliens, it seems, have done just that. Keats says he "decoded" the artwork from a radio signal that came from somewhere between the constellations Aries and Pisces. The signal, detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, was previously dismissed as meaningless (New Scientist, 4 September 2004, p 6).

Keats says the display rights a historic wrong: "Our culture has ignored extraterrestrial artistic expression. This is the ultimate outsider art." - New Scientist
Alien Artwork - Jonathan KeatsAlien Artwork - Jonathan Keats
Though promising as an example of an extraterrestrial transmission due to its repetition, frequency and increasing strength, the signal was discarded as an anomaly and the hype surrounding it was dismissed by many experts in the field, including [email protected] chief scientist Dan Wertheimer.

"There are a lot of people that got interested in this signal when we first reported it," says Wertheimer. "We ourselves were not that interested in it."

In 2005, conceptual artist Jonathon Keats revisited the signal as part of research for a nascent project on extraterrestrial life. Keats' previous projects include copyrighting his brain, attempting to genetically engineer God, and taking a hundred-year-long exposure of a San Francisco hotel room... - Wired

Comments

  • I love the concept of art as communication, but there is a lot in this article which is suspect.

    They dont actually discuss the method with which they decoded the signal, to decode something in a manner unknown then say that a piece of art emerged is questionable, what one mans art is may be another mans radio static, similar to seeing jesus's image printed on a toasted cheese sandwich, or the name of god being imprinted on the back of a toad.

    One thing also i'd like to point out about this is that for art to be a communication form between two endpoints the two endpoints must share the same senses and be able to interpret the same medium, in this case they assume we can perceive the medium of radio waves, an electromagnetic frequency of light, which we can through certain devices. Its like saying a painted artwork is useless to the blind and music is pointless to the deaf (unless of course the sound vibrates though an object and the deaf person feels it, but then itll just be interpretted as series of vibrations.).

    Whats strange to me is that the aliens have assumed that we share the same technology, looking for aliens who send out radio waves is like trying to look out in the universe for a good italian restaurant, I believe as we get further out in the universe life will be wierder than we may suppose, and that laws of physics here may only be local ordinates, we don't know, they may follow much stranger paths than we, and be on different magnitudinal scales alien to us.
  • Robert Anton Wilson used to jovially tease Carl Sagan, accusing him of electromagnetic chauvanism...EM is like smoke signals compared to what may be possible using quantum entanglement.
    There was a famous female percussionist touring some years back, put on a hell of a show, vibes and marimbas and all...she was stone deaf!
  • I kind of agree with transdimensionalrock here (by which I mean I also kind of don't). For me, there's just one thing which is really suspect in this artical, and that's this bit:
    If I were [ET] trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe...I'd try to express something about myself in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art
    If I were a communicative ET, the first thing on my list would not be to "try to express something about myself": it would be to try and make my transmission seem like a coherent communication and not just a load of noise. Tran...rock's point, "what one mans art is may be another mans radio static" (sic), would indicate that art is a bad choice for an inter-stellar telegraph. If you can't be sure that receiving beings can tell that your patterns were created intelligently then your patterns are rubbish

    I guess that's why "mathematical symbols" or theorems have been chosen as human galactic ejaculates, and why "repetition, frequency and increasing strength" in a signal are treated as factors worth looking for - they don't normally just show up in the universe by magic. The same goes for the famous engraved metal plate on Pioneer 10.

    As for tran...rock's suggestion that an artist must share senses with its audience, I'm not convinced. If art is communication - and it can be if the artist says so - then obviously the medium is only relevant to the extent that it determines informational content. Hence, the blue and green concentric circles in the picture in the first post may represent accurately some disturbances in radio waves (or whatever - I'm not a scientist), which are perhaps originally experienced by a human as bleeps in an earpiece. It is just important to know which bits of the representation are coincident only to the chosen medium. So, while a logical distinction between two aspects of an original transmission may be displayed by the use of blue for a visual representation of one part and green for a visual representation of the other, the felt qualities of blueness-seen-by-me and greenness-seen-by-me are not to be interpreted as having come from outer space. Nevertheless, that kind of interpretation of data is easily detectable, so the logical content of a transmission could be properly communicated by a rubbish picture like the one this idiot is trying to con people into paying to see.

    And that hundred-year-long exposure sounds shit as well.
  • edited August 2006
    Wow, harsh words...

    Keats' attempts at expressing himself through the maniplation of extra terrestrial signals (this says nothing about life forms in other galaxies or where the signals originated) surely says a lot more about how humans and the universe play off each other to manifest new forms of reality.

    We are the universe; an infinite pool of inspirational mediums. Give Keats a break I say. His expression pleases me, not because it might be real alien art (I doubt Keats himself really thinks this), but because he has attempted to obtain inspiration from a completely non-human source. It is in the humanisation of this source - yes, through our superbly unique sense systems - which makes random radio wave nonsense into an art form. The universe transcends expression, and yet can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways. We are the aliens in this equation. I like that idea a lot...
  • If you're going to be that charitable to this toss then any idiot could be an artist. Personally, I think art is a good thing, which requires skill and intelligence of a particular kind - maybe of a kind which the artist gets to choose, even - but you can't just have some idiot do something stupid and then make up a story about how it could be understood as being clever after the fact. When you do that , it's you who is "expressing himself through the manipulation of signals" - so if you like what you think about it then it's you who takes the credit for framing it in the way you did, and there's no logical room to praise Keats for it. It's that whole contextualising process which gives conceptual art like this its value, and the context Keats creates is just hollow and nonsensical. This isn't alien art; alien art would not be anything like this; intelligent aliens wouldn't communicate in this way because it wouldn't work.

    This is just the kind of rubbish which gives artists and thinkers a bad name: it's a thick person standing up and saying, "You scientists think you're clever, but you neglected the power of art... the power of concentric blue and green circles! (Which, incidentally, I shall not be explaining)". It's ignoring science, which would be fine, but it's also pretending to address science on its own level: "If I were [ET] trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe...I'd try to express something about myself in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art" - yeah well you do that, Keats, just leave us Earthlings out of it.
  • edited August 2006
    Don't be mean to the handicapped...well maybe this once.
    What is bad art? There I art I don't like for many different reasons, which is not enough in itself to make it bad art. Some bad art I like, it might be kitch, naive, or unintentionally funny. There might be my measure; intention... ( very quantum). If someone produces X because they MUST, or they really lose themselves in the process (meditation), then fine by me, I may or may not like it.
    But if someone does it for money, or sexual display*, stuff it and them.


    *which makes them a wanker
  • edited March 2007
    my garden
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