Thought — 2 Min Read

What I Believe

by Case Greenfield, April 26th, 2023

Thought — 2 Min Read

What I Believe

by Case Greenfield

April 26th, 2023

My art strives to express the believe that we live in a very confusing mix of realities and convictions, and that personal well-being comes from developing an appropriate mental model that maximizes your expected fitness payoff.

It has been over two years now, that I have been thinking about my art. I have come to a few conclusions, so far:

  1. From cave art to the classics to modern art, from figurative to abstract to conceptual, to “post-modern desperation” the purpose of art went from clear and pragmatic to vague and subjective.
  2. Technology has had a big impact on (artworks and) the art creation process, from simple tool to photography to digitization to artificial intelligence resulting in reduced necessity of personal handcraft skills for artists.

These fading boundaries and ubiquitous technology have driven art towards the role of expressing believe and meaning.

Art used to tell about reality (cave art), used to mimic reality (classical art), to escape from reality (post-modern art). And technology has ‘democratized’ art, ie. everyone can make beautiful artworks now, everyone can be an artist. So what determines “good art”? What is left for “good artists”?

Good art expresses what an artist believes

Good art has become the expression of what an artist believes. Good art confirms and challenges what the beholder believes. It makes the beholder feel good and it makes the beholder think at the same time.

So, what do I believe

I believe that the most fundamental mechanism in our lives – often leading to success and failure, happiness and torment – is, what I call “mental models”, the realities that we create to shape ourselves. That is where it all starts.

I believe that our brain is the basis of the things we do. And our brain has evolved into a survival organ. It’s purpose is to ensure survival of us individually and as a species. And those who know the future have the best chances of survival. That is why the brain has developed into a ‘prediction machine’. Continuously, the brain tries to predict what will happen next.

And as we do not have full knowledge of what will happen next, the brain has evolved into a ‘next step guessing machine’. It tries to guess what will happen next. And it does so based on … a model that we have created about the world around us, our “mental model”.

So, it is very simple. The better your mental model, the better your predictions, the higher your chances of survival.

But wait a minute. Isn’t that what philosophy is all about? Trying to figure out the true nature of reality? Yes, but here’s an interesting insight from Donald D. Hoffman: veridical perception minimizes expected fitness payoffs. In other words, trying to – rationally – understand the world distracts us from evolutionary survival. So, in case of an emergency it is better to act impulsively – based on your internalized mental model – and save yourself than to try to really understand the situation and be too late for action.

And oppositely, a mistaken mental model can come at tremendous cost for you (and does for many of us).

Here’s how I said it in an earlier story: People often mistake their own understanding of people and events as objective truth, rather than as merely their own interpretation. That phenomenon, called “naive realism,” leads people to believe that they should have the final word on the world around them. “We tend to have irrational confidence in our own experiences of the world, and to see others as misinformed, lazy, unreasonable or biased when they fail to see the world the way we do,” [UCLA psychology professor Matthew] Lieberman said.

In other words, don’t believe everything you think! Or better, make sure that what you believe is correct (because it is the basis of your actions).

So, it all starts with developing the right mental model. But that is not so easy, because we live in a confusing world with several layers of reality stacked on each other. I have called them universal reality, scientific reality, group reality and personal reality. And nowadays, there is also a digital reality.

And all of these realities exist.

So what for my art

My art strives to express the believe that we live in a very confusing mix of realities and convictions and that personal well-being (happiness, success, whatever your definition of well-being is) comes from developing a mental model that helps you achieve well-being.

How does it express this confusing mix of realities and the mind model that helps you achieve well-being?

Well, by mixing well-thought intent and spontaneous expression in the moment of creation, and by using mixed media techniques, such as acrylic, pastel and oil paint, markers and spray, combining different color palettes, graphic and painting styles, abstract and realistic elements, different scales and more, into a varied yet consistent whole – creating artworks with both an identifiable tension and an identifiable feeling of comfort, that I like to call “Warm Grounding“.

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