Can art include elements which are not re-creative? — A questioner, paraphrased
If you recall, Ayn Rand defined art as “a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments,” meaning simply a model of the world that emphasizes what its creator considers important in life. To achieve this emphasis, an artist picks and chooses what to include in his model.
For example, if he believes that the efficacy of reason is an illusion, he might make a movie about scientists using genetic engineering to revive the dinosaurs for a theme park, and then include the creatures escaping and eating a bunch of people.
He would not include the project’s investors making a huge profit on a successful park, even if he believed that such a thing could happen, because on his view that outcome would be an accident.
But suppose some scientists really had revived the dinosaurs, and they really had escaped from captivity, and this had been recorded on video. Would it be in keeping with the principles of a rational esthetics to use this footage in a movie? Is it legitimate to use something real in a work of fiction?
There’s an anecdote from the making of The Room, the most famous so-bad-it’s-good movie ever made, about director Tommy Wiseau’s approach to filming a scene set in an alleyway. He insisted on having a set built for the scene, and when someone suggested that he simply film in a real alleyway, Wiseau responded that he was making a real Hollywood movie, and real Hollywood movies use sets.
This is the approach to art implied by the question I received, except that Wiseau didn’t go far enough. He probably did use polystyrene boards rather than real bricks for the walls of his set, but the fake brick walls would still have been made of real polystyrene, so it would have been necessary to use some kind of material that only appeared to be polystyrene to have been truly re-creative.
But then, that material would still have been made up of real molecules, which would have been made up of real atoms, which would have been made up of real electrons, etc. In the end, Wiseau would have had to conjure matter from the void in order to satisfy the demands of re-creation, but even that wouldn’t have been good enough, because whatever he would have created ex nihilo would still have really been whatever it would have been.
It is, therefore, impossible to produce a work of art, at least if we accept that “re-creative elements” are all we have to work with. If we do not, then we face the question of how it is possible to create something fake when all that exists is real.
In the Sophistical Refutations, Aristotle identified an error he called the “fallacy of division.” This is the mistake of assuming that what is true of a whole must be true of its parts.
For instance, if a ruler is twelve inches long, then each segment of that ruler must also be twelve inches long. Or, if a ball can roll down a hill, then the hemispheres it comprises must each separately be able to roll down a hill as well. Of course, this won’t work. Only a full sphere can roll continuously and make it down a hill.
So, when does a combination of props and actors and artificial lighting, which are real objects and people and electromagnetic radiation, achieve sphericity and gain the ability to roll?
Real things become a re-creation of reality when they come to be arranged in such a way that they appear to be a model of reality from the perspective of a particular kind of consciousness. The characteristic which the whole possesses but the parts do not is the characteristic of appearing a certain way to man.
The premise of the question I received is that re-creativeness is an intrinsic property of certain things, and then the question itself was whether art can tolerate any impurity in its composition in the form of real components. But there are no fake components. There aren’t two kinds of things, the fake and the real, and the question the artist confronts isn’t whether to pick only from the fake pile or to take some things from the real pile as well. Everything is real. The question is only what combination and arrangement of real things will appear a certain way to man.
There is no such thing as a “re-creative element.” “Re-creation” is a concept pertaining to the relationship between a thing and a mind. Just as there is nothing which is fake in itself, so there is nothing which is intrinsically re-creative. Just as something’s being fake always has to do with how it’s perceived, so something’s being a re-creation always has to do with its relationship to a particular kind of consciousness.
Art is made up of real things, and what makes a certain arrangement of those real things a re-creation of reality is how it appears to man.