Order from chaos

I’ve just read Matthew May’s book, In Pursuit of Elegance. It’s an easy succinct read and contains some engaging ideas.

There’s a fascinating section looking at the work of Jackson Pollock. It’s an intricate story which I’m shortening a little crudely here:

When Pollock first came onto the scene, a lot of people dismissed his work as just random splashes of paint that anyone could do. Yet his paintings sold for fantastic amounts of money. May relates how, as a byproduct of an experimental art project, a scientist discovered that Pollock’s works were fractal – containing layers of symmetry that you might not immediately recognise.

Although Pollock was clear that there was a guiding principle to his work, it’s fractal nature wasn’t explicit, and may not have been even to the artist. Yet it appears that at some level this was recognised by people, albeit unconsciously. Even though on another level, the stuff looks like random splashes that you’d think anyone could emulate, it turns you can’t.

What looks like chaos can contain order, or be on the brink of order… and that last thing you need to do is “organise” it. An important lesson there for facilitators who are often tempted, or pressured, to add structures or processes to make meetings more safe and orderly.

2 thoughts on “Order from chaos

  1. Ian Glendinning

    Interesting that you mention Pollock. And to tie this order (layers of patterning) from chaos to your previous evolutionary biology reference, I am reading Brian Boyd “On the Origin of Stories”.

    It’s a full blown learned tome on evolutionary psychology view of why art (in general) has evolved and how stories are part of that, not just evolved “bi-products”.

    Interesting is how the range of arts – visual, but not explicitly representational … music, dance … and fictional literature are all part of the process.

    I’ll do a more detailed review, but I think you’d find it interesting.

  2. IdeaFestival

    Tidying up conversation

    Johnnie Moore connects the art of Jackson Pollock to his practice of facilitation, which reminded me of this very, very funny video of Ursus Wehrli “tidying up art” (and having his own Jackson Pollock moment) so that it’s understandable. Straigh…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.