A Copernican Revolution in the Arts

Check out “The First Copernican Art Manifesto” from conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, the basis for his new project opening tomorrow at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco:

Science began with the Copernican Revolution. Recognition that the world is an average planet, and that our place in the cosmos is nothing special, has allowed humanity to make generalizations about the universe based on local observations. Yet while the Copernican Revolution has enlightened scientists for centuries, art remains Ptolemaic. Masterpieces are worshipped. Only the extraordinary is deemed praiseworthy. If art is to foster universal understanding—and be more than a cultural trophy—the great works must be abandoned.
Art ought to be mediocre. The art of the future must be Copernican.

1. Painting must have the average color of the universe. Let it be beige.
2. Sculpture must have the predominant composition of the universe. Let it be gaseous.
3. Music must have the gross entropy of the universe. Let it be noisy.
4. Architecture must have the fundamental geometry of the universe. Let it be flat.
5. Cuisine must have the cosmological homogeneity of the universe. Let it be bland.
6. Film must have the mathematical predictability of the universe. Let it be formulaic.
7. Dance must have the characteristic motion of the universe. Let it be random.
8. Literature must have the narrative arc of the universe. Let it be inconclusive.

To that end, Keats promises that nothing in his exhibit will be a masterpiece. Consider, for example, his monochrome beige paintings (made with latex house paint): Keats says the color came from averaging the spectrum of starlight in more than 200,000 galaxies. “Copernican painting is nothing special,” he explains, “and the same is true for Copernican cuisine and music and sculpture. It’s all perfectly mediocre, like the world. And like the world, Copernican art can reveal to us the nature of the universe, if only we can learn to appreciate the ordinary.”

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