The Chicken and the Egg

December 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Reality is a sound, you have to tune in to it not just keep yelling.
– Anne Carson

Beauty has never been entirely in the eye of the beholder;
in significant part it is in the design of nature.
– Frank Ryan

All nature is but art, unknown to thee . . .
– Alexander Pope

INTRODUCTION

Many of the pieces included in this collection inhabit the form of prose poems. Others occupy more traditional poetic forms. Some were developed as short essays. Other forms include lists, projects, and more (see Table of Contents).

The texts are divided by subject into four basic categories: inquiries, observations, theories and conjectures, and musings. I have read aloud a number of these texts in programs and concerts as preludes to my musical compositions. Others have been paired with my music in online recordings such as Symbiotica Vols. 1 and 2 and The Chocolate Ear Online Music Series.

A number of the texts owe their inspiration to principles revealed in the foundations of evolutionary biology. Pioneers in evolutionary science in the 1950s, sixties, seventies, and beyond such as Fisher and Haldane, Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, George C. Williams, Stephen J. Gould, Robert Trivers, E. O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Lynn Margulis, and especially W. D. Hamilton, laid the groundwork for a new way of thinking about human nature and the world. To them, I am especially indebted; for they have changed the way I see myself and the world around me.

Collectively, the texts explore aspects of nature, science, art, and the connections between them.

Many of the texts were written as ‘discussion’ pieces for the Nature and Inquiry artist group, to which I have been associated since its beginnings in the early 1980s. The group was formed to share ideas that intersect science and art. Members of the group whose names sometimes appear in the texts include Ron Wallace, Margot Kelley, Nita Sturiale, and Amy Robinson.

Various texts, such as Desire, Form and Process, The Verification of Truth in Art and Science, Knowledge, The Pursuit of Happiness and others, have been subject to intense discussion within the Nature and Inquiry group. I have often rewritten or edited a text following our discussions. Sometimes an idea would emerge from a discussion, and I would follow up with a new text, bringing it back to the group for further discussion. Some of the pieces were written in direct collaboration with various members of the group. In these cases, I have referred to the partnership in the subtitle of the text.

Other texts were designed specifically for the Nature, Science, and Art class, which I have taught for many years in the Studio for Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. These, too, were meant to incite debate.

I have enhanced all of the short essays with images. See Table of Contents for Short Essays.

The texts are arranged alphabetically for ease of reference.

-J. H.

© John Holland, The Chicken and the Egg: A Collection of Writings on Nature, Science, and Art, 2011

Header photo: Blackboard Science and Art II by Stephen Hawks (partial photo)