Friday, January 26, 2007

Creativity, Einstein, Picasso and All is Not What We See

I went to a lecture last night at the science museum on Einstein and Picasso. Now I should preface this by saying that I have a real soft spot for Albert E. I have a large picture of him on the wall of my study saying,

Imagination is more important than knowledge

and am very fond of his relativity theories. When we studied them at uni, we were all so blown away by the implications that the lecturer had to stop every lecture half way through and tell jokes so that we could get our breaths back.

This lecture, by a guy from UCL who has written a book,
Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time and the Beauty That Causes Havoc, was very inspiring to me. To cut a long story short, he is saying that Einstein was THE scientist of the 20th century and Picasso was THE artist, and they had their most creative periods at the same time, 1905-1907. And then he looked at the atmosphere in Europe at the time, the zeitgeist (yes, I can use that word because he did, ok?), and what people were talking about. Well, it was all about the nature of space and time, and so of course both Albert and Pablo picked up on these currents, both of them having a little band of fellow creative and deeply poor men (mostly men) with whom they hung out and chatted about philosophy and literature etc...

He showed how both Einstein and Picasso moved from Perception to Conception, which, I think, meant that they showed us that what you see isn't what you get. You might think that you are seeing two things happening simultaneously, but Einstein showed that there is no such thing as objective time so while for you these two things are happening at the same time, for someone else one event happens before the other.

And Picasso in 1907 unveiled a painting in which he painted several views of one of the women in the painting at the same time. So, if I understood, her face was both in profile and also face on to the viewer. He painted simultaneity, he warped our notion of space and time.

Alright, this is all getting a little lengthy, but I was inspired by how these guys (and let's extend it to women too) took what had come before and gave it a twist, looked at it in a new way. They didn't work in a void, they read and learned about new ideas, and then they applied them in a unique fashion. May we all be so creative.

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