AI: Quantum Artistic Power Transference

Currently, I am reframing this huge aquatint by Joan Miró. Sometimes, while working, I get a little giddy when I think about how I have my grubby little hands all over a piece of paper that Miro did as well. Like his artistic powers reside within the paper and by touching it, I will absorb something of him. I call this phenomenon Quantum Artistic Power Transference. Of course it’s not real. But the feeling is real and I think it’s something we all experience from time to time- that ineffable quality of being connected – to history, to talent, to something outside of ourselves.

So tell me, do you ever get that ‘connected’ feeling? What triggers that experience for you? It doesn’t have to be art. It could be the sight of Ada Lovelace’s favorite T-shirt or Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Strat.

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Brian George

Brian George is an illustrator and designer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In his spare time he makes videos of Spirograph drawings and complains about doing laundry. Website: Twitter: @brianggeorge Insta: @brianggeorge If you're into what I'm doing, feel free to throw down a bit in my tipjar here: @brianggeorge

Related Articles


  1. Ooooooohhhh. This is one of those things that I refuse to buy into but at the same time, find it IMPOSSIBLE to ignore. Bruce Hood goes into this phenomena in detail, using the infamous “Would you wear a serial killer’s sweater?” as an example. He explains that whether you believe it has the owner’s “essence” or not, it acts as a social cue to recoil at the sweater. It tells people that you abhor murder.

    In the other direction, during a recent trip to the American Museum of Natural History, I came upon a large iron meteorite they had on display. Iron. The last element forged in stars before the reaction requires energy to continue, rather than emit it. I put my hand on the meteorite, knowing that it was the cast off husk of a dead star, and feeling that connection—that kinship—with it. I told Audrey that it was the closest thing I’d have to knowing my creator.

    It was easily the hippiest, trippiest, woo-woo-iest thing I’ve ever done. But then again, there’s nothing fake about the “religious experience,” only in attributing it to anything other than our fascinating brain chemistry.

  2. Following up from Maki: I think you’re still too hard on yourself. There’s nothing woo-woo-ey about feeling awe while you touch the husk of a dead star! “Intense feelings brought about by experience flavored with knowledge = the good life.”

    I’ve thought about all this in regards to heirlooms. I know there’s no essence of my Grandpa in his chair that I now have, but I like the reminder-of-time, sts, I get when I sit in it.

  3. @Maki: I was thinking about that ‘serial killer’s sweater’ study while writing this. I find the associations and emotions with which we imbue objects really fascinating. But I think your story about the chunk of iron take the cake. It gave me shivers!

    @Matt: Yup. Same thing with various items of my dad’s.

    @Ryan: We need to take you on some sort of field trip to clear this up.

    @Kahomono: Rad!

  4. I remember reading Walter Benjamin back in college and having this big debate about his idea of the “aura” of a work of art.

    Most people took the stance that essentially, there was no such thing, and ultimately a reproduction is just as good as an original.

    But I disagree. I’d be really iffy about using a word like “aura” to describe the difference, but I think there’s a definite difference in the experience of seeing an original vs. a reproduction.

    The thing is that history isn’t a story or narrative, really. It’s stuff that physically happened. It was the actual process of lives, things, objects, the world. And that history ends up written into how the present physical world is organized and shaped. You want to understand the history of a city, walk around it.

    When you end up seeing, say, the erased De Kooning drawing by Robert Rauschenberg, you’re not just looking at a slightly-smudgy piece of blank paper, you’re looking at a physical object that was physically touched and changed by De Kooning and Rauschenberg, the real thing that exists in real space and ended up in front of you, in a real room. It’s the real result of real actions by real people who lived real lives. You could, theoretically, touch it with your own hands. And that *realness*, the physicality of it, that connection to history as this shaping of the physical world instead of just being an idea, that’s what grants it an “aura”, the sense of connectedness, and creates a level of meaning that you don’t get from reproductions. It’s a lovely thing.

    It might seem stuffy and old-fashioned, and perhaps like I’m reifying the notions of genius and the artist, but it’s not really about that. It’s just about the fact that things have ended up arranged in this world the way they are as a result of real actions. And it’s through that arrangement of physical stuff that history and past lives and actions and everything stop being ideas or stories and become something more tangible, more meaningful, and something to which you are connected (by also being part of the stuff, and part of the arrangement of stuff).

  5. P.S.

    There’s also the cool aspect of “meaning” and where that comes from.

    If I type the word “God”, all that’s *really* there is some pixels arranged a particular way on your monitory. But through the fact that you’re assuming I’m a real person (not just a random spambot), and I intend a real meaning with what I’m saying, and we’re using this semiotic system of generally agreed significance to those arrangements of pixels, then meaning comes out of it. And those arrangements of pixels can actually get very powerful depending on what meanings are there… people can be moved by them (like in the iron meteorite story), or angered by them (anti-feminist Elevatorgate trolling), or whatever.

    And the erased De Kooning, well… all that’s REALLY there is a smudgy blank piece of paper. But through De Kooning’s sense of it, the life he imbued into it through his creativity, and Rauschenberg’s sense of it, how he changed and nullified it through his creativity (or destructivity?), and me, Natalie, and the sense I bring to it seeing it and knowing of it and feeling moved by it… well, between the three of us the meaning emerges. That’s also a lovely thing!

    Serial killer’s sweater isn’t just a sweater. It’s a serial killer’s sweater! It’s physically the same as it always was, and doesn’t have any novel properties, but it ends up imbued with meaning by how we see it and relate to it. Same with Sweater Mom Knitted For Us, or… to use an example from my own closet, My “Lucky” Green Sweater which I’ve had for a decade and was wearing the very first time I ever kissed a boy. It’s “just” a mass produced green sweater, but it’s also a lot more than that, by means of how I relate to it and feel about it and what it means when I wear it. No other sweater can possibly mean the same thing to me as that one does.

    (I don’t actually believe in luck, btw. I just call it that.)

  6. Illuminated manuscripts do this for me, even at one step removed. I once sat in a tiny park next to a busy arterial road so engrossed in a folio sized book about the Lindisfarne Gospels that I didn’t notice the light was failing until I couldn’t read the text anymore. It had nothing whatever to do with the subject matter of those manuscripts, I’ve never been religious, but for some reason that style of illustration triggers in me a sense of history like nothing else.

    Years later my girlfriend, eventually my wife, wrangled a work sponsored trip to VeloCity, the world cycling conference when it was being held in Dublin, Ireland. She asked if I wanted to go along and I struggled for an answer because the cost was prohibitive. The tipping point came when I realised that I could see the Book of Kells.

    It’s housed at Trinity College in it’s own special exhibit. It’s a good bit of theatre that exhibit. You walk in through a maze-like set of rooms with the history of the book, the places and history of where it’s been kept covering the walls with text and pictures.

    The room in which the book, or rather the pages that are being displayed at that time, resides is dark with down lights shining on a flat glass display case the size of a moderate kitchen table. When I reached that room the display was completely surrounded. The small throng was slowly circling it counter clockwise, there were several other illuminated works to view. I got into the circle and was working my way towards the Kells pages but got more and more annoyed as people would enter the room and rather than get in the queue they would push in right where the Kells pages were.

    Realising that I was getting so annoyed that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience anyway, I bailed and went to look at what else there was to see. This mostly consisted of The Long Gallery in which hundreds if not thousands of antique volumes are kept. It was practically empty and it was a bibliophiles absolute nightmare. All those treasures, literally just out of reach protected only by a dusty velvet rope. Well a rope and a guard.

    We got to chatting with the guard and at one point I mentioned my frustration in not being able to see the Book of Kells. My wife, being a more practical sort, asked him when was it not busy. He looked at his watch and said “Well, right about now is usually not too bad.”

    He was right. I walked in and there was only one other person. I got to stand and gaze at that illuminated piece of history for maybe five minutes undisturbed.

    It was different than looking at reproductions even though it was behind glass. Profound. Moving. I think the main difference is that seeing the physical object that was created with so much love and skill so very long ago makes the passage of time real in a way that reproduction cannot. It is essentially different because all those years happened to that actual object right there and because that object is indisputably real then those years are made real too. And in exactly the same way it makes the artist who painted it real.

    It’s not mysticism, it’s not metaphysics, but it is emotion, very human emotions. In order to connect with things as abstract as memory and history sometimes we need a real, physical object to remind us of the reality of the past.

Leave a Reply

Check Also
Back to top button