Using Art To Stop Time
“Make it new,” commanded poet Ezra Pound. But that’s harder than it seems—because of the brain’s biology, says Michael Clune of Case Western Reserve University.
The brain is always adjusting our sense of what’s new, dulling the initial thrill produced by artistic sounds, images and words by making them familiar over time. So the artist, musician or author’s challenge is to create a work that retains its freshness, writes Clune in his new book, Writing Against Time:
“Clune explains that neurobiological forces designed for our survival naturally make interest in art fade. ‘We are evolutionarily designed so that we focus on new objects and ignore familiar ones,’ Clune says. ‘When the mind confronts a new object, our perception is intense and vivid, but it soon dies with familiarity. Every minute, this feeling fades as the mind grasps the object.’
As writers fight to ward off the reader’s boredom with striking new forms, metaphors, and images, the brain works just as fast to extinguish it. For the artist, writer or musician, creating a sense of newness with each work is a race against ‘brain time.’” (Read more here.)
Fascinating! I think we’ve all had that experience of having our breath taken away by a painting or song or poem—and then finding, after a while, that the same piece of art seems familiar and humdrum. On the other hand, great art seems to be able to hold our attention and interest over the long haul. Really interesting to think of this process from a neurological perspective.