The Role of Art vs. the Role of Science
“art upsets [and] science reassures.” - Georges Braque
Before beginning, it is important to clarify that the quote is referring to shock as causing anger or upset. In using reassuring, Georges Braque is referring to comforting. That said, this statement by Braque is true to a point, because the statement also works in reverse. Throughout the history of man, art has been a method for communication, and in the process it has alternatively shocked and soothed the world. Similarly, science has also disturbed and reassured society. This much is evident through an evaluation of both studies.
Recently in the news, art in the form of photography have had a tremendous effect on people. Pictures of the World Trade Center collapsing, people jumping out of them, the Pentagon in flames, and Arabic children celebrating in the Middle East all shocked us. To most, it was incomprehensible that anything like this could happen. The stunning photographs taken pulled the viewer into the scene and they could try to comprehend the enormity of the situation at hand.
Going back slightly less than 30 years, we again see the power of photographs to shock us. The world watched, through a camera lens, as a South Vietnamese security agent killed a Vietcong soldier in the streets of Saigon. This picture appalled a sense of justice in the viewer, and support for any government that would do such a thing dwindled. Later, when pictures of a young girl running from American bombs hit the press, we questioned how we could ever do such a thing.
If one travels back another 15 years or so, one can examine the effect of news reels and photographs on people. As pictures of Nazi atrocities like the Holocaust filtered out people were shocked at such brutal mistreatment of their fellow humans. Anger boiled up that moved us to call for a trial specifically for these crimes against humanity. Were it not for these images, leaders of the free world may not have pushed as hard for a trial of the nation’s leaders.
However, at the same time, photographs have served to calm the anger, and reassure Americans. In reference to September 11th, photos of National Guardsmen in airports reassured travelers that security was being stepped up, that something like this would not happen again. Interfaith services showed us that this was the work of Muslim extremists, and tempered the anger in some at the religion of those who had committed the atrocities.
Going back to WWII, shots of those same concentration and death camps reassured the western Allies that they were doing the right thing. World War II became a moral cause, one in which we morally obliged to wipe out this great evil. We became certain that no matter what else, we had a moral duty to stop the Nazis and those that aided and abetted them.
Art as literature has also had the power...