WE CAN DISCERN BETWEEN ORDER AND CHAOS,
BETWEEN COMPLEXITY AND SIMPLICITY
In the city of Seoul, South Korea – at the Lotte World Mall, a series of paintings were being exhibited. One of the paintings was an abstract work, consisting only of splashes, splotches, and other random brush strokes. At the base of the painting was an assortment of paint cans and brushes.
Then, on March 28, 2021, a security camera recorded an unidentified couple observing the painting. The camera continued to record them grabbing one of the cans containing black paint and a brush and adding some brush strokes of their own.
When authorities apprehended them, the man and woman explained that they didn’t intend to vandalize anything. They merely saw all the paint cans and brushes at the base of the painting – and its apparent lack of order and symmetry – and concluded it was a participatory project. In other words, they believed the viewers were invited to make their own contribution to the painting.
Unknown to them this painting was the work of John Andrew Perello, a famous American abstract artist. He called this work, “Untitled.” The paint cans and brushes below the painting were all part of the exhibit, intended to display the work he put into it. Supposedly, this young couple’s vandalism “ruined” a $440,000 painting.
But the South Korean authorities are hesitant to press charges against the couple. This is because, as the article notes, “misunderstandings with some modern art are to be expected.” Korean artist Ha Jae-geun stated that, “due to the characteristics of contemporary art, there will be many happenings like this.” To the average person the “characteristics” of contemporary are include a distinct absence of design, order, symmetry and complexity. Some would also include an absence of talent to its characteristics.
One positive aspect of this vandalism is that John Perello’s painting is getting more attention now than ever before. People are now flocking to a painting they previously ignored.
This incident illustrates something profound. It demonstrates that people are able to discern when order, symmetry, and complexity are present – and when they are not. The absence of order, symmetry, and complexity only leaves chaos. And the quality and value of one example of chaos is indistinguishable from that of another example of chaos.
As the article mentions, art of this type tends to be mistaken for something other than art. Indeed, there have been some exhibits of modern and abstract art which consisted of nothing but trash (e.g. the works of Gustav Metzger, Damien Hirst, Joseph Beuys). And they’ve been mistaken for trash by cleaning crews, who’ve dutifully discarded them.
This couple looked at Perello’s work and believed their talents were equal to those displayed in his painting. So, they added theirs to his. Now his painting is getting more attention than ever. Doesn’t this suggest that their contribution is equal to or greater than his?
The fact is, in the absence of order, symmetry, and complexity – elements which characterize our universe – only chaos exists. And within chaos, all things are equal. The black splotches they painted are equal to Perello’s splotches. For, by what standards can one artist’s chaos be rated as superior to another artist’s chaos? Only the subjective judgment and preferences of each viewer can determine their respective value and quality.
Think about it. Our ability to discern the presence or absence of order, symmetry, and complexity is applicable to our study of the cosmos, the observable universe. This is particularly true when we consider its origin. For our universe is not characterized by chaos – as is Perello’s “marred” painting. Whether examining the measurable and predictable natural forces which exist (electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, and gravity) or studying the complexity of living things or looking at the structure of individual atoms – order, symmetry, and complexity are everywhere.
Now, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, chaos will be the ultimate outcome of our universe. For it predicts that all things are moving from a state of order and complexity to disorder and entropy. For example, the complex systems within each living organism will eventually break down – largely due to accumulating genetic mutations. Cancers will become increasingly common in both people and animals. And all of life will eventually break down. But science clearly recognizes that such is not yet the case.
But if all things are moving from order and complexity to disorder and entropy, then their starting point must have been a higher level of order and complexity than we now have – perhaps perfection. And where could perfection – or a higher level of order and complexity – have originated from, if not from God?
The Holy Scripture offers the best explanation for the presence of order, symmetry, and complexity (minus perfection) in the universe. According to the first three chapters of Genesis, God created this world and its biosphere and considered it very good (Genesis 1:31). But when the first man and woman disobeyed God, death entered the universe and God cursed it for humanity’s sake (Genesis 3:14-24).
Centuries later, after humanity’s violence filled the earth, God destroyed all land-dwelling creatures with a great flood (Genesis 6-8). Only Noah, his family, and the inhabitants of the ark escaped. This cataclysm disfigured the earth and made it less habitable. And Paul the apostle describes our current creation as writhing in pain, awaiting to be delivered from its bondage to corruption – that decline towards entropy (Romans 8:19-22). This deliverance will ultimately come after the resurrection of the dead and the ushering in of the new Heaven and new Earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1).
The universe still abounds with order, symmetry, and complexity. Yes, creation has been seriously damaged by humanity’s sin and God’s judgments. And to this present day it continues to break down, as genetic mutations, cancers, and illnesses get a firmer hold on living things. But, like a damaged masterpiece of Michelangelo, Raphael, or da Vinci, there still remains enough evidence of God’s genius and design throughout creation. As Paul declared, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
PRAYER: Dear God in Heaven, please open my eyes to the reality of Your existence, to the truth of Your word, and to the only source of salvation from sin and damnation – Your holy Son Jesus Christ. I confess my sin to You and humbly ask Your forgiveness. Save me, dear Father, make me a new creation in my heart, and prepare me for eternity with You in heaven. For Jesus’ sake I ask this, Amen.
(Information from: https://allthatsinteresting.com/john-andrew-perello-painting)