Tag Archives: art

You can only go there in your head

“Inner space and outer space are similar, aren’t they really?  You’re never going to get to the edge of the universe in a spaceship.  You might as well try going on a bus.  You can only go there in your head.”  This is a quote from David Hockney in ‘Spring Cannot Be Cancelled‘  by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.  It’s a beautiful book.  Full of thought-provoking insights and recent artwork by Hockney painted in Normandy mainly during the pandemic.  I read it last month while in the Yorkshire Dales [see ‘Walking the hills‘ on April 13th 2022].  Hockney writes about his need to paint.  He finds it utterly absorbing and endlessly sustaining.  Gayford compares this need and experience to the work of American psychologist, Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi [see ‘Slow-motion multi-tasking leads to productive research‘ on September 19, 2018] who wrote about concentration so intense that there is no spare capacity to think about anything else, your self-consciousness disappears and you lose your sense of time leading to a deep sense of happiness and well-being.  I cannot paint but I can achieve something approaching a similiar state when I am writing.

Source:

Martin Gayford and David Hockney, Spring cannot be cancelled – David Hockney in Normandy, London: Thames & Hudson, 2021.

A brief respite in a long campaign to overcome coronavirus

Globally, it is clear that the pandemic is far from over.  However, government restrictions on movement and meeting people imposed at the start of the year combined with a successful vaccination programme have allowed a gradual return to normality in the UK since late April.  I have particularly appreciated this resumption of life over the past fortnight.  While most meetings are still conducted online, I have managed to meet most of my research students in person in our lab, in pavement cafes or occasionally in my office with the window open and wearing masks.  I have even been to the pub after work on two consecutive Tuesdays.  On the first occasion, it was after a progress meeting on a research project when we enjoyed continuing our discussion of a new idea over a couple of beers; and, on the second occasion, t with our faculty management team to celebrate the first anniversary of one of the team joining us, who had only met half the team in person.  On both occasions we had all tested negative using the lateral flow test and we sat outside in the sunshine.  I have also been to three concerts at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall where we wore masks throughout the concert and both the audience and orchestra were socially-distanced.  Last Thursday, I enjoyed Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 ‘Classical’ as well as the world premiere of Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto.  The second concert featured works by Astor Piazzola which were a revelation to me.  I had never heard of him let alone his music and really enjoyed the concert.  However, as I write this post, the number of cases in Liverpool is rising rapidly and we are being advised to be more cautious in our interactions with other people.  Not enough people have been vaccinated and are taking regular tests to allow us to return to our previous state of social interactions.  Nevertheless, I am optimistic that we can eventually take back control of our lives from the coronavirus.  Our global society is a complex system, which like any other complex system, operates without central control but with simple operating rules generating self-organising and emergent behaviour [see ‘Destruction of society as a complex system?‘ on July 31st, 2019] that allows us to find new states to handle changed circumstances regardless of the efforts of politicians.

You can listen last Thursday’s concert on demand at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s website: https://liverpoolphil.com/whats-on/video-on-demand/on-demand-domingo-hindoyan-conducts-stravinsky-howard-ravel-and-prokofiev-with-peter-moore/3926

Psychological entropy increased by ineffectual leaders

Decorative image of a flowerYou might have wondered why I used ‘entropy’, and ‘psychological entropy’ in particular, as examples in my post on drowning in information a couple of weeks ago [‘We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom‘ on January 20th, 2021].  It was not random.  I spent some of the Christmas break catching up on my reading pile of interesting looking scientific papers and one on psychological entropy stimulated my thinking.  Psychological entropy is the concept that our brains are self-organising systems in a continual dialogue with the environment which leads to the emergence of a relatively small number of stable low-entropy states.  These states could be considered to be assemblies of neurons or patterns of thoughts, perhaps a mindset.  When we are presented with a new situation or problem to solve for which the current assembly or mindset is unsuitable then we start to generate new ideas by generating more and different assemblies of neurons in our brains.  Our responses become unpredictable as the level of entropy in our minds increases until we identify a new approach that deals effectively with the new situation and we add it to our list of available low-entropy stable states.  If the external environment is constantly changing then our brains are likely to be constantly churning through high entropy states which leads to anxiety and psychological stress.  Effective leaders can help us cope with changing environments by providing us with a narrative that our brains can use as a blueprint for developing the appropriate low-entropy state.  Raising psychological entropy by the right amount is conducive to creativity in the arts, science and leadership but too much leads to mental breakdown.

Sources:

Hirsh JB, Mar RA, Peterson JB. Psychological entropy: A framework for understanding uncertainty-related anxiety. Psychological review. 2012 Apr;119(2):304

Handscombe RD & Patterson EA, The Entropy Vector: connecting science and business, Singapore: World Scientific Press, 2004.

Season’s greetings in 2020

Zahrah Resh Abstract paintingMy posts at Christmas time in the past have often been pictures of snowy scenes or Christmas trees. This year I have gone for something different. The image above is an abstract painting by Zahrah Resh.  I have used extracts from it as thumbnails in four posts over the last three months and so I thought it was about time to show you the whole painting.  Zahrah Resh is a contemporary American abstract artist based in East Lansing, Michigan who has exhibited at the ArtPrize which takes place over 19 days in Grand Rapids, Michigan attracting around half a million visitors.  ArtPrize started in 2009 and offered the world’s largest art prize of $250,000. We got to know Zahrah when we lived nearby in Okemos, Michigan and we brought a number of her paintings back to England when we moved to Liverpool nearly a decade ago.  They remind me of the people we met and knew during our time in Michigan.  Best wishes for happiness, joy and peace this holiday.

If you are missing the snowy scenes then see  ‘Digital detox‘ on December 27th, 2016 or ‘Season’s greetings‘ on December 24th, 2014; or if you prefer Christmas trees then see ‘Happy Christmas‘ on December 25th, 2019] or ‘Season’s greeting‘ on December 27th, 2017.

And if you missed the posts with the thumbnails that were extracts from the above, or you are just looking for something interesting to read, then see ‘Puzzles and mysteries‘ on November 25th, 2020; ‘Digital twins could put at risk what it means to be human‘ on November 18th, 2020; and ‘Lacking creativity‘ on October 28th, 2020.