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RAE 2008

Rearch Assessment Exercise 2008

Mike King

I am a polymathic researcher, working across the domains of art, science and the spiritual, and have published related articles, book chapters and reviews, along with exhibitions of digital artworks, since 1989. The term "the spiritual" is taken from Kandinsky’s Über Das Geistige in Kunst (a direct translation of "das Geistige"); is recognised as problematic; and is pursued under cognate terms such as "religion", "metaphysics" and "the postsecular".

Research projects examine the intersection of two of these three domains, though in a key paper published in Leonardo (Vol. 31(1), pp.21-31, 1998), I set out the terms of the three-way enquiry. This long interdisciplinary enquiry is now bearing fruit as a book series: the first is published by Lutterworth Press in November 2007, and is called Secularism: The Hidden Origins of Disbelief (ISBN: 0 2271 7245 0), and the companion volume, Postsecularism: the Hidden Challenge to Extreme Religion will be published in November 2008.

Further books are in preparation pulling together the art and science strands of the research. So far, I have been the recipient of three AHRC awards and a BA bursary in pursuit of these projects.

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Research Outcomes

Outcome 1 - Art and the Postsecular
In this journal paper I pursue the intersection of art and the spiritual, examining key 20th century painters who were influenced by such spiritual currents as shamanism, Theosophy, and Buddhism. It pulls together some fragmented scholarship in this field under the rubric of "postsecularism", a sensibility defined as having embraced modernity while rejecting one of its rejections: the spiritual. Crucial to the significance of this work for fine art is a fine-grained articulation of "the spiritual" which other scholarship to date is lacking in. This articulation avoids the monolithic conception of religion as found in post-Christian modernity, the Greenbergian foregrounding of structure, and postmodern Marxist reductionisms of art as commodity.


Outcome 2 - Virtual Visions - the Physics and Metaphysics of Light and Space
In this conference paper I pursue the intersection of art and science, looking explicitly at how the discipline of physics provides aesthetic source material for digital fine art printmaking. The digital medium - pursued since my doctoral thesis on this subject at the Royal College of Art - provides a range of new media for the fine artist, within which spectrum 3D works are somewhat neglected. This paper provides an account of the development of my 3D "Sculptor" system (previously described in a Leonardo paper, Vol 24, No. 4, 1991) to include algorithmic elements that derive from the physics of light and space, and includes discussion on their metaphysics.


Outcome 3 - From Max Ernst to Ernst Mach - Epistemology in Art and Science
In this conference paper I pursue the intersection of art and science, through the work of painter Max Ernst and physicist Ernst Mach (a serendipitous wordplay). Mach, though a key forerunner of the Logical Positivists - and therefore naturally associated with a horror of all things "metaphysical" - turns out to have a subtle approach to the pursuit of knowledge in physics. His subtleties lend themselves well to a juxtaposition with the "knowledge" pursued by Ernst in his artistic representations of the unconscious. The paper argues for an epistemological pluralism across the domains of art and science, requiring both different kinds of knowledge and different exploratory methodologies.


Outcome 4 - Computers and Modern Art: Digital Art Museum
In this conference paper I pursue the intersection of art and science, and also touch on the spiritual, in relation to the history of computer art. While the ubiquity of computers in the visual arts now make the term "computer art" perhaps redundant, the early pioneers from the 1950s to the 1980s included significant artists and a coherent discipline that can legitimately be considered an art movement. This paper details the significant pioneers, locates their aesthetic within Constructivist and other modernist traditions, and describes the Digital Art Museum project to archive and promote understanding of their work.


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