For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn’t there

The group exhibition and catalogue For the Blind Man in the Dark Room Looking for the Black Cat That Isn’t There celebrates the experience of curiosity and speculation as a form of knowledge.

The title of this show refers to a remark by Charles Darwin, an English naturalist and the father of the Theory of Evolution. Darvin’s endevour included research into the fact that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, etc. In his opinion mathematicians were merely concerned with abstraction and only able to express the universe in speculative terms. Darvin claimed that a mathematician’s search for truth was like that of a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Anthony Huberman, the curator of this show, shares the mathematicians approach as one where new forms of knowledge emerge in the process of speculation, where the act of not understanding becomes an active and necessary part in the creation of new knowledge.
The work selected for this exhibition does not only allow, but encourages curiosity and an almost child-like wonder, insisting that an artwork isn’t and should not be an explanation. Their work centers on the fruitfulness of not-knowing, unlearning and productive confusion. As the wonderful catalogue (designed and edited by Will Holder) states “a work of art establishes a state of potentiality, challenging us to change or readjust the way we understand the world. Faced with an object or image we don’t understand, we seek an explanation within our existing epistemological map. When non emerges, we then turn to the map itself – our own consciousness – and begin to examine our own assumptions and to question the preconceived notions upon which they are built.” (2009:89) A few pages later a quote by Bruce Nauman reads “A work of art opens up that world of nonknowledge and helps to make sure we don’t loose sight of it, keeping us curious and actively speculating. Artist’s don’t solve problems, they invent new ones.” (2009:94)
Both the show and the works in it call on us to impose a structure (or structures) of our own, to give new thought ‘Gestalt’ as what we see at first keeps us in the dark.

Holder, Will; For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn’t there; Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, 2009

12/12/2009 at 9:14 pm