Author’s Note

Growing up in a Chinese-American family, I learned that concepts as basic as ‘soup’ were culturally coded from an early age. At my pau-pau’s (grandma on the maternal side), we picked up our rice bowls full of dung kaw tong soup and quickly slurped it down.  At home, my parents scolded me in my toddler years for picking up my bowl of Campbell’s chicken and alphabet soup to my lips. These cultural differences were not explained but taught through frowns and wagging fingers. I quickly learned gesture by gesture that social norms are variable and contextual.  Switching gears from one standard to another norm would not end at table etiquette nor change much as an adult.

For the most part, my agility to change cultures cognitively back and forth would inform many aspects of my life, such as my nomadic lifestyle, multicultural personal relationships, ability to analyze situations with multiple social lenses, and my hybrid art practice. I felt at ease on the road as a foreigner in a strange faraway place, having traveled solo to thirty countries by the time I was thirty. I moved yearly or every two years from the age of eighteen to thirty-five. By the age of thirty-seven, I lived on three different continents: North America, Europe, and Africa. My romantic partners would rarely be American but of foreign origin or multicultural background. Dinner parties at my home would consist of guests from around the world, multigenerational, and different economic classes.

My strong suit of intellectually and emotionally adapting quickly to different contexts expanded my creative curiosity to explore ideas with a hybrid art practice. It was no surprise to find myself in the multidisciplinary Intermedia Arts, Writing and Performance Ph.D. program. With my interest in alternative healing and metaphysics, my research has culminated in elaborating a theory that is a synthesis of wellness, spirituality,  and art that I have called Kosmorganic aesthetics. With the rise in ambient media, cosmological and sensory environments in the past few decades and its lack of in-depth analysis beyond materialist logic, my investigation proves to be even more pertinent.

In my analysis, I examine Kosmorganic art practices emphasizing psychological and metaphysical interpretation while describing empirical differences. Art critics and art historians tend to avoid spiritual notions in modern and contemporary art.[2] If art historians address the spiritual in modern and contemporary art, they tend to neglect the technical, scientific, and empirical elements essential in the artist’s practice. [3] One exception is Lynn Gamwell’s Exploring the Invisible, Art,  Science, and the Spiritual. However, she does not include ritualistic performance art, sound art, art walks, experimental architecture, land art, nor multisensory installation.  

Since academic writing is not inclusive of a broad audience, I wanted to write the theory in a style for the general public. The suspension of tourism at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the idea to write a theoretical paper in an accessible style and form of a travel guidebook since everybody was ‘traveling’ remotely. When I started to write facts intermingled with the fictional space. Kosmorganic art is a place called Kosmorganica. I call practitioners of this aesthetic ‘locals,’ ‘residents,’ ‘inhabitants,’ and ‘pioneers.’ However, for obvious reasons, the artists do not live or consider themselves residents Kosmorganica.

The artist’s interpretation of their work does not necessarily align with art historians or critics’ analysis. For example, Clement Greenberg granted strict formalist interpretations of Abstract Expressionism, thereby contradicting some of the movement’s artists. Many claimed myth, Eastern thought, and the unconscious inspired their painting. [4] Discrepancies between my analysis and the artist’s explanation occur. Some artists recognize the spiritual in their art, and some deny it. Few artists publicly acknowledge the healing aspects of art to the level that I claim in Kosmorganic aesthetics. Most of them avoid art’s connection with wellness, leaving historians or scientists to relegate this aspect to the field of psychology, repackaged as art therapy, color therapy, and sound therapy.

The transformation of critical writing into a travel guidebook posed a challenge. I realized the reader might doubt real examples, such as the neurological studies on meditating monks that led to the term ‘Zen Gamma.’ The reader may not distinguish that James Turrell’s light chambers’ inclusion as frequency healing spaces were not claims of the artist but by me. Yet, I based fictionalized conclusions upon the fact that Turrell’s light work could be measured scientifically to promote well-being. After all, in collaboration with artist Robert Irwin, Turrell conducted tests on perception with anechoic chambers at NASA. Also, scientific studies on color and light therapy for health reasons are abundant. Even if I footnoted references, a critical reader might consider the entire section false in the presence of one fictionalized statement.

My initial experiment to normalize the language of critical academic writing in the style of a travel guide quickly broke down. When trying to back my thesis questions, my writing style strayed in the direction of literary criticism and argumentation. The promotional tone of travel writing added an ironic twist that invalidated any valid claims and arguments. Written at the height of fake news of 2020, my postmodern style-swapping approach of an academic paper and tourist guidebook would inadvertently contribute to the age of misinformation. The fictionalized version arriving before its referential authentic source would be equivalent to the Tao of Poo being written before the Tao Te Ching. To remediate the situation in my timeframe, I stripped down the travel analogies to recount the true story of Kosmorganic aesthetics minimizing jargon, yet maintaining a critical analysis.

Despite this Kosmorganica accident, my thesis lay intact, albeit in not in the linear fashion of persuasive argumentation. The most comprehensible way to navigate this website is to start with the ‘About’ section or download the pdf of it. This section is necessary to read before the rest of the website to minimize confusion.

This website accompanies the Ph.D. research project, ‘Frequency bathing art walk.’ This section is also available for download as a pdf. However, some meta-links elaborate on the art walk theory located under Wellness retreat and the Aesthetics page. At this point, the visitor is free to explore Kosmorganica in a non-linear fashion, as is the inherent method of this platform.

[1] Empiricist Edmund Burke described a sublime experience as one where ideas and knowledge of the natural world derives from our senses, perceptions, or emotions. Burke, E. (1764). A philosophical inquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful: The fourth edition. With an introductory discourse concerning taste and several other additions. London:  R. and J. Dodsley.

[2] Art historians, D.Kuspit, L.Fanning, L.Gamwell, C.Spretnak, J.Kosky explain that the rise of secularism and scientific innovation led to empirical rational interpretations of art. Even if artists identified metaphysical and spiritual notions in their work as in abstract expressionism, minimalism, and land art, critics and historians restricted their analysis to Greenbergian standards. Clement Greenberg’s formalism became the hegemonic voice for art interpretation in the 1960s.

‘It is as if the near-consensus among art world professionals that modern art must be kept free of spirituality so that it can maintain its high level of seriousness is a defensive action solely to preserve the preferences of the art world itself.’ Art critic Clement Greenberg paved the way for secular formalism as the ‘sole sophisticated way to analyze art.’ Spretnak, C. (2016). Spiritual dynamic in modern art: Art history reconsidered, 1800 to the present.3-8.C. Spretnak explains there are four movements that lead to the secular vision of art: Renaissance Humanism, Reformation and papal corruption, Enlightenment and emphasis on the individual and Scientific revolution. Spretnak, C. (2016). Spiritual dynamic in modern art: Art history reconsidered, 1800 to the present.7.

J. Kosky asserts the economic impact of academic funding of research confine scholars and students to seek scientific reason to validate their work avoiding spiritual notions in their research.

Secular art criticism omitted religious or spiritual connection to artists and their work. ‘ Using the word ‘spiritual’ in art in the 30’s and 40’s was dangerous to an artist’s career. Pousette-Dart, R. in Tuchman, M., Freeman, J., Los Angeles County Museum of Art., Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, Ill.), & Haags Gemeentemuseum. (1986). The Spiritual in art: Abstract painting : 1890-1985. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.pp. 18.

[3] Henderson examines modern artists interested in non-euclidean geometry and the 4th dimension. She observes that art historians ‘have most often ignored or dismissed references to either of the ‘new geometries’ in the writings of modern artists and critics… historians tended to misinterpret the terms as purely mathematical or purely mystical, missing the variety of views between the two extremes.’ Dalrymple-Henderson,  L. (2018). The fourth dimension and non-euclidean geometry in modern art. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

[4] Rushing, W.J. (2016). Ritual and Myth: Native American Culture and Abstract Expressionism. In Tuchman, M., Freeman, J., Los Angeles County Museum of Art., Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, Ill.), & Haags Gemeentemuseum. (1986). The Spiritual in Art: Abstract painting: 1890-1985. (pp.273-295). Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Winther-Tamaki, B. (2009) The Asian Dimensions of Postwar Abstract Art. In Munroe, A. Exhibition, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860 – 1989. (pp.145-157). New York, NY: Guggenheim Museum.