Tibor Vámos

The Butterfly Effect

The academic, Tibor Vámos, opened, on 20 January 1996 in the Mûcsarnok, the exhibition and event series entitled The Butterfly Effect, with the following speech.

A big fuss prevented the vernissage of the Vallon Pont d'Arc. The Unnamed Master passed through every single accessible cave, and via a vocal network, shouted the news: the animals, and thus the representation of hunting, could materialise with the aid of a revolutionary new media: with lines conjured on the wall of the cave!

With hardly one-percent of the couple of million years of human history, i.e., with thirty thousand years before us, the registered event was accompanied by varying opinions. Many saw in it the revolutionary innovation of communication, and with this, of human culture, anticipating the era when it would be no longer necessary to hunt the mammoth, sufficient to draw the animal and the weapon, next to the woman of man to place only fire inside the cave, and to pursue other pleasantnesses, so that the species would endure.

Others saw horrors. What would become of the beautiful blossoms of culture, the descriptive shouting of the hunt, which the later successors recorded as heroic songs? What would become of this accompanying arm-and-leg blustering, i.e., with the art of dance and pantomime - which will be displaced by cave drawing? The passion of drawing denies man from the hunt itself; he will be a stunted cave-creature, on weak nourishment.

It continued in this way in this cave, and certainly elsewhere as well, over the course of twenty thousand years. During the remaining ten thousand years, the euphoria and prophecy of doom only spread and multiplied in connection with each new achievement, which expanded the representational methods of the special coupling of the reality of the external world and the consciousness of the internal world; this continuity could not have occurred differently. Surely, they busied themselves in vain in the cave between two hunts, as well as afterwards; in this way, over the course of a thousand generations of reproductive evolution, man essentially remained exactly the same.

Thus, we can quickly arrive here at the Mûcsarnok, to this exhibition, whose authors have devoted to the presentation of a new representational technical-bouquet, and for which George Soros has provided extremely beneficial funds, and Suzanne Mészöly, Miklós Peternák and their multiplying partners have made enthusiastic efforts stretching into the nights.

I do not aim to review this exhibition; please view it thoroughly with the full use of your visual perception! My aim is a brief explanation and encouragement, putting aside the euphoria, to like what you see and that which is represented behind the vision.

I use this word representation quite a lot, not in the sense of the reception to follow the vernissage, but rather in the way how we in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science and Cognitive Psychology, i.e., the psychology of understanding, use it: the representation of something - in words, in music, in vision, in data, in relation to text and illustration, on paper, on canvas, in marble, on vinyl, in our minds, in the computer. The exciting point of interest is principally in that the enigmatic connections of the various representations attract and repel us; this is precisely what the little sketch of the previous thirty thousand years of art history and the reception of art, and the history of science, aged approximately one-tenth of that, are about.

This is why we also need not defend culture from new tools. The desire for representation, self-expression and the sharing of experience, for the discovery of ourselves in the reflections of the other is our constant characteristic since the age of the Unnamed Master and his audience, our inextinguishable characteristic, the expression of our fleeting and persistence-desiring personality, of our demand for identification with our supporting community, together with our aspiration for distinction on the part of our own individuality. This dualistic style, as a medium, is here among us in this exhibition; the connection between the history and the present of visual representation in the product here is not by chance. Let us appreciate those who fight the perpetually renewing representative struggle for themselves and for us. Let us imagine ourselves in their place: what would we do upon receiving this modern red and black paint and chiselling stone in our own hands?

Thus let us not fear the depository of the tools of representation of the past thirty thousand years. Something is always added and something also always reveals something new from the endless, immeasurable mesh of continuity and change. In this sensation of endlessness, reminiscences always emerge, so that in our century, following brilliant colour and the techniques of perspective, monochrome, unmixed colour and the power of two-dimensional compression re-emerged; the luxuriance in materials and material technologies continually finds its way back to the most primeval - to the material, to pottery. What we have here is not taking away, but rather adding.

- This was the first explanation.

The second: the butterfly. "Predictability: Can the fluttering of a butterfly's wing in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas?" asked Konrad Lorenz in 1949, in a lecture held two days before New Year's Eve at "The American Association for the Progress of Science," a few steps from the White House. The story refers to how the smallest effects can be transformed into critically strong ones under predisposed conditions, and can call forth enormous consequences, and as well, how these are not by chance, but rather predeterminable, at least those critical points, and those potential effects are estimatable. This chaos is not some irrational phenomenon; moreover, with chaos theory, it was transferred from the irrational to the explainable world. This chaotic movement and change, nevertheless, is an essential manifestation of development and destruction, as a virus, which is something much smaller than a cell, and which if fatally infiltrating, can devastate the billions of cells, setting off an epidemic on the scale of human fatality in the millions.

Stuart Kauffman, the distinguished biologist, expanded upon Darwin's evolutionary mechanism with an important theory in the 1970's and 80's. He postulated that life and natural selection move on the border between order and chaos, with this limiting condition abbreviating the slow path of the mechanism of mutation, which even with this hypothesis, could not attain fundamental modification within the already much referred to 30.000 years.

This butterfly-chaos mechanism also works in art. Each perhaps scarcely noticed artistic flap of a wing can be the point of departure for enormous changes; we must pay attention, in fact not dismissively, but rather, sympathetically. If this reception works, it nurtures the propagation of the hopefully good fluttering of wings in the form of a wind which brings fine, fertile rain and sunshine. Here now, among others, is the message that the new technologies support individuality at least as much as the dreaded informational-manipulative mass-feeding spiritual uniformity.

There is, nevertheless, also the other side to this individual-threaded selection mechanism, as with everything, which is the "mass" side. With regard to the cave, I also referred to the beauty of the reproductional mechanism, as a result of which we may gather here in the Mûcsarnok, and perhaps the next thousand generations will also find their own delights. Well, many millions of fertile cells take part in this, until the one, chosen one, fathers the Unnamed Master, or Picasso.

The new tools awaken countless new, unusual associational connections. This belongs to the essence of the thing, as searching for ourselves, and the representation of the world, all work with some sort of association: the new and the unusual help to broaden the horizon in the infinite world, and aid the progression on the new paths among the infinite connective, associational variations, beyond the roads which are already known, and routine. It is not by chance that in our brains, behind the thin layer of primarily intelligence-supporting grey matter, white matter, which realises interconnections as the associational cable-space of the working of the brain, takes up some many times larger space.

Many, many butterflies have to flap their wings numerous times until the Texas tornado arrives someday. Here we have now a butterfly-convention, wing-flapping practice, and a window also towards how many butterflies, individual attempts, and experiments of self- and reality-representation take place in the world, which are all necessary in order that in the unchanging era of change, like the cave-dweller Holocene man in the world of modern technology created, but as yet to be acquired by us, perhaps we can find a more Sapiens-like Homo within ourselves.

With fondness, with the desire for empathy, let us look now at the fluttering of wings!

Translation: Adèle Eisenstein

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