The Art, the Man and the Habitat[1] How to One Construct the World

“The Man lives in the poet”



Prof. Heloisa Helena da Fonseca Carneiro Leão, MSc.

Department of Comunicação e Semiótica, Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC/SP)






This paper aims to illustrate how men and art are constructing the world. The men and the different artistic manifestation represent the vision of the contemporary world they see, the men and their relations as a web of interactions where changes never occur isolated. This situation has the purpose to construct a world to habitat, in which the interaction will generate a web that has no beginning or end. This is an understanding of the world in which sub-systems change the information between themselves, contributing to increase the diversity and complexity. The theoretical fundament of the work is linked to Charles Sanders Peirce, Ilya Prigogine, in the habitat notion by Martin Heidegger and some other artists. Heidegger’s vision is related to the work because it’s reinforcing the human understanding of the world as habitants of one sole location. In this same thinking process, Ilya Prigogine says that creativity is what constructs the future once you cannot define the future through the past. Charles Sanders Peirce defends the notion of semeiosis where the function of the signs directs to an evolution in search of the latest ideal driven by esthetics. Besides these thinkers, some artists are worried with the construction of the world. Among these artists, Lygia Clark proposes that men should search again for the senses that have been lost during the evolutive process and on the other hand, Gilbertto Prado is utilizing the network to provoke the need to be in the world.

Key-words: Semeiosis, habitat, construct, network   


1. Introduction


This essay intends to demonstrate that artistic or scientific creativity is one of the main factors to the options in the evolutionary processes of man. Under this intuition, theoretic basis has as focus on research over sysstems away from balance of Ilya Prigogine, the esthetyc and semiosys of Charles Sanders Peirce, a notion of habitar from Martin Heidegger and some artists worried in building the world. The vision of Heidegger of constructing is pertinent to the work because it reinforces the understanding of man and the world as co-habitants in one sole space. In this same direction Prigogine argues that it is creativity that builds the future, once we cannot define the future through it’s past as wished by the traditional science. Charles Sanders Peirce defends the notion of  semiosys as an action of the sign which points to the evolution of the sign in search of a final ideal which is directed by esthetic. Besides these thinkers some artists are worried with the construction of the world by means of their work. Among them, Lygia Clark proposes that man reincounters it’s senses that were lost along the evolutive path and Gilbertto Prado that utilizes the web to provoke the encounter of man with the world.

2.Charles Sanders Peirce, Martin Heidegger and Ilya Prigogine                                                                                                        

2.1 Charles Sanders Peirce


The presence of Peirce is important to this work due to its esthetic and of his systematic vision of the world. The esthetyc of Peirce is not a philosophy of the beauty but a form of directing a life to reach the admirable[2], being this admirable the end of the action directing to where human strenght should be directed to in order to increase creative reasoning of the world. As a result, art arises as a force to solve the problems of being in the world. Lucia Santaella explains that:


The art is called to answer the calling of the admirable, it is called to increase the reasoning in the breast of life. (...) When the artist intervenes in the bioscience arena, not the art work to be exposed to the contemplative looks that we should expect from him but a inoculation of the admirable and of creative reasoning in the spirit of science since it is a militance of the admirable that the work of the artist engages  itself. (Santaella.2004:113)


Peirce also explains that the universe is composed of two actions: “the diatic action, which is mechanical or dynamic, and the triádica action, which is intelligent or sígnica”. (Santaella.2000:229) The first action is an efficient cause and can also be defined as brutal, while the second action is the final cause, that directs towards an ultimate ideal.  Lucia Santaella argues about the actions of the universe: “These two unseparable ways of action are those that characterizes the semiosys. (...) They work as physical means, as vehicles where information travels”. (Santaella.2000:230)


Peirce proposes, under his evolutionary vision, the existence of semiosys[3] as an action the sign, as the tendency is do signo to grow. As a result, Santaella clarifies:


No science, no knowledge area or knowledge can never be complete or self suficient. But it is only in the confrontation that partiality of each field is capable of revealing itself. (...) The self conscious hunt criticism and self-alert of truth is what Peirce calls science. (...) Every autogenerative process is a semiosys process. (Santaella.1992:113)


In order to understand the concept of semiosys it is fundamental to understand semiosys as being the action of sign being interpreted in another sign. The action of interpreting is translate a sign in to another one, being as a result the meaning of a sign, of another sign. It can be understood that the semiosys is responsible for the development of a sign chain once Peirce shows that there are no thoughts without sign. It is exactly like this that the signs have the function to multiply itself. Maria de Lourdes Bacha utilizes these words from Peirce to explain the growth of sign: “The typical way of action of the sign is the auto growth through the self generation. The sign, by its’ own constitution is meant to germinate, grow.” (CP 2.230 apud Bacha 2003)


It’s important to explain that the process of semiosys is responsible for the growth of the sign and the action the do sign is composed at the same time by:


The theological process can fail for being theological, the sign projects itself in a continuous prospection to the future represented by his interpreter; it can fail due to the relation existing of incompleteness in the impossibility of total apprehension of dynamic object by immediate object. Besides that, it can also fail because as occurrances of fate, always potentially present, can revert the continuous altering, therefore, the informative content driven to semiosys. (Souza.1996:258)      


On semiosys in Peirce, Lauro da Silveira explains: “We are taken to check the meaning to the phenomenon and when we take a path where we can interact in the future with it. (...) Under this interpretation at this time that best explains what Peirce denominated semiosys” (Silveira 2003:5)


Man as being sign it is mutant and shares it’s existance among the moments of belief, the cause of an acquired habit with those of doubts that are the moments of intranquilities and that tend by this unsatisfaction to a change of habits. On the moment that a doubt arises in a mind there is a rupture in credibility of a determined belief and the habit that was consolidated goes into crisis needing as a result to be changed. The search for a new habit is a result of necessity to enjoy again of tranquility provoqued by a new belief. The search for new habits is the finality of sign, once, as being dynamic, tends to a change of habit to reach as a result its’ growth, its’ evolution. Santaella explains:


(...) There is a tendency of all living things and even non living to acquire habits is not only a law, but a law ruling all laws. The overall laws that turn the regular and intelligent phenomena the most real phenomena in the universe. (...) The Summum bonum of human species. As evolution advances, the human intelligence will fulfill a role everytime bigger in the growth of reality by means of its’ most peculiar characteristic and  inalienable, the self-control. (Santaella apud Bacha 2003).


Semiosys as responsible for the human evolution is important cause it shows the necessity of the acquisition of habits to push the evolutionary process. In the peirceana theory the phenomena acts on us, interfeering in our habits and changing them. As habits passes by our lives we are forced to make decisions and these decisions are responsible for the maintenance of certain acquired habits and also for the refusal of them when put in doubt. This way, the sign chain works: first for the necessity of acquisition of habits and afterwards  for the contingency to change them. 


As a result, the being in the world, the construction depends on the relation in between man, machines and the environment. A semiosys that occurred in between them is fundamental to the understanding of the work, since it points to the environment as a construction. Besides that, the esthetyc as responsible for the growth of creative reason in the world has an important function on the construction of the world. 


2.2 Martin Heidegger


On the other hand, Martin Heidegger understands that it is not possible to reach towards environment if it doesn’t go through construction. The philosopher argues that there could have a construction that does not have the characteristic of an environment. On the moment that a construction does not take in consideration the creation, the new her is a simple construction and functions as a mechanical form. Heidegger does not consider na environment as constructions that does not have an identity. Heidegger argues that:


Habitar will be then, in this case, the objective that presides over all construction. Environment and construction are one another related to the end and the middle.(...) To be a man is: being on earth as mortals and that means: environment. (...) the construction while production (hervorbringen). (...) In being and in it’s things, thought while place, resides a relation of place and space, resides also a relation of place with man. Produce is construct. That’s why true constructions leave their mark over an environment”. (Heidegger.1958:184,190)


Heidegger utilizes of a poem from Hölderlin: “...Man habita in the poet...” to explain his idea of environment. The environment does not refer to the simple living and the poetry should not appear only as a decoration of space. The important to the philosopher is the construction as to cultivate a creation, to reach the environment. Heidegger wishes that poetry makes of an environment a real environment and to reach its’ finality, a poetry needs to be a construction. Heidegger (1958:225) argues: “If we go towards the essence of poetry, we will reach the essence of the environment”.


Like Heidegger, Vinicius de Moraes argues that the environment the world is linked to poetry and to love and these are the elements that construct the world is linked to poetry and to love and. Vinicius explains poetry as a comparison to a real construction. If the worker, the constructor, the arquictect and the engineer are doing the job in a disconnected manner, only a stack of bricks won’t bring beauty to the construction. But if on the other hand, houver entre eles uma cumplicidade and a structure, the construction will be beautiful. Vinicius uses a metaphor of construction with the objective to explain poetry and advices to substitute the bricks by words. And, to obtain a good poetry, the poet should assume, at the same time, the position of a worker, constructor, arquitect and of the engineer to build the poem. Since the poet has the function to create, he ends up being the responsible for the structuring of language and of civilizations. Vinicius is firm on the position of the poet in society, saying that: “The material of a poet is life, solely life, with all that she has as sordid and sublime”. (Moraes,1991:102)


Vinicius shows in the metaphor of the construction that the vision as a whole is that determines the construction. As a result, it is impossible that a habitar is built on fragments. It is necessary, as a result, to visualize the world and man with inseparable parts of a sole system. In this paragraph is included a systemic notion and a preocupation of building a future along the evolutive path.


2.3 Ilya Prigogine


               “Reality is only one of the

                realizations of the possible.

            Future is included there.

                        Future is one of the possible futures.”

          (Ilya Prigogine)


On the same direction of a construction, of an environment the world find themselves Ilya Prigogine. The researches of Prigogine points to a new vision of the world that goes against traditional visions that understood the world in a reversible constant and determined matter. To Prigogine the world is not given and yes under constant construction which does not allow to project the future through the past. It is necessary, as a result, to look the world through the unstable, chaotyc and irreversible side. This way, creativity that is in nature is amplified in humans where art has a relevant function in the construction of the future.


In addition, Prigogine cites Paul Valéry, when he says that: “(...) the unexpected is my essence, the anguish my true occupation, nobody expresses pain could express the strangeness of existance. Why is that so and not as another way?”. The intention of Prigogine is to call attention to the happening, to something that seem to be unexpected, the contingency, the unpredictable. The chemyst shows the impossibility to include creativity in a world already determined and affirms that shares the vision of Valéry, “that associates creativity to everything that resists to thoughts.” (Valéry apud Prigogine. 2004:21-22) Prigogine argues that like art and science are ruled by creativity.           

Prigogine goes beyond and emphatizes that creativity is present in all human activities being part of all happenings:


(...) the idea that a happenning and creativity would be human feats, seem to to me as argueable. Man is not the father of time nor evolution. He is its’ product. (...) We know today that creativity is linked to irreversible, break of temporary symmetry, through which o future and past fulfill different roles. Chemical or nuclear reactions are irreversible. Dissipate energy. (Prigogine.2004:23-24) 


Due to creativity and of occurrance that fulfill an important function in today’s world is that you can affirm that the future is under constant construction. We don’t live anymore in a period of equilibrium as intended in classic physics. We currently live in a system that finds itself far from equilibrium and as a result subject to disturbances. It is known today that we live in a complex world and that this complexity means multiplicity and conducts life to another form of rationality that is different from that inherited from Illuminism.


Prigogine’s researches explain that this new rationality is a result from a notion of open systems and of the non equilibrium physics. In order to explain this change, it is necessary to understand that a system when is near equilibrium although it suffers fluctuations and its’ equilibrium stay momentarily shaken, he gets to go back to its’ stable position. A stable system is similar to a pendulum that always returns to its’ position after it suffers a shake.


For Prigogine, in a system far from equilibrium, unlike of what happens to a linear system, the system does not return to its’ normal position. In the system far from equilibrium, instabilities and fluctuations are responsible for its’ growth. In this system, the process to return to equilibrium requires an adaptation, a restructuring or a mutation in relation to factors that provoqued its’ instability.


In order to understand how the systems act, it is important to know that they are connected internally and externally. The entire systemic is the responsible of the restructuring of the system for having certain elements and rules.


To occur a new organization in the system, after a disturbance, there is a need for auto-organization. The process of reorganization of the system is responsible for the arising of something new or if auto-organization does not occur its’ death. Can be concluded that the active element in the systemic organization can be said as to stay.  As defined by Vieira: “All things tend to stay”. (Vieira.2000:5)


It is important to remember that classic thermodynamic is responsible for the explanations of structures in equilibrium that operate under isolated systems and in a relative specific long space of time. The structures of equilibrium characterizes the closed systems. However, the moment that the system is not isolated and becomes open, it changes matter and energy with the environment and starts to be understood by its’ dissipative structures. The dissipative structures does not  have an order defended by Ludwig Boltzmann[4] in the classic thermodynamic, on the contrary, are linked to an organization  by means of fluctuation.


The dissipative structure is the result of the amplified fluctuation that connects a function and a structure. In comparison to an arrangement of Boltzmann, where fluctuations have the function reduced to a simple link, the fluctuations in the dissipative structures are essential, because it allows the arising of a new organization and of the new. As a result, Prigogine affirms:


The most important point is that away from equilibrium,  there is no guarantee that the system would go back to its’ initial state after being disturbed. On the contrary, the system begins to explore new structures, new types of organizations space-time, that I denominate dissipative structures. (...) Several times I described this behavior saying that the material near equilibrium is blind; each molecule can only see their neighbors. Far from equilibrium, although we have long reach correlations that are essential to the construction of new structures. Life would be impossible without these processes in non-equilibrium state. (Prigogine 2001:70) 


This way, instabilities, from the aspect of a system that finds itself far from equilibrium allows the discovery of something new. The search for the new is an eternal environment, an eternal construction. On the other hand, linear system can be seen as a construction that is not an environment, once you dispose the possibility of creativity. In the first system dialogue happens in between all their elements and in the second happens a pathe previously determined.  


3. Artists concerned in changing the world into a habitat


Several contemporary artists reflect in their work worries with the human being. In this work enphasys falls over Lygia Clark and Gilbertto Prado. Lygia represents art of “real” space, while Prado works with digital space.


It is important to recall that in the artistic process it is possible to notice a great change in doing and receiving the work of art. In the moment that the artistic object does not portarit nature the focus becomes fixed on the language of art and the artistic procedure aquired a value preponderant. From this moment onwards it is the process that is important and the a ephemeral of work becomes constant. The artist utilizes space around and his body as elements of creation and support.


As a result, surfaces a body art and the happening that has as an objective unfetishism human body in order to break the idea of beauty originated from classic art. The intention is to bring the body to its’ real function of “instrument of man where man is dependent. (...) The usage of the body as a way of artistic tends today to relocate the research of arts in the way of basic human necessities going back to practices prior to history of art, belonging to our own origin of art”. (Glusberg.1987:43,51)


One example in brazilian art is the work of Lygia Clark that uses the body to provoque sensations. In this sense, Lygia in the last stage of her artistic path proposes a therapy by means of humans senses.



3.1. Lygia Clark[5]


Brazil was the pionner to utilize the body as an object of art under Lygia Clark and of Helio Oiticica. Since 1976 Lygia proposes that the human beings free their sensibilities and that live the present: “The living of the present, the art without art.”(Milliet,1992:100) Lygia was moved by the idea to free the individual from its’ ropes and advices: “modern man should disregard this excess of rationalism that is in the heart of our thoughts.”(Milliet,1992:102)


The vanguard work of Lygia is recognized internationally and represents the looks of individual towards himself, provoquing its’ rebirth through the rediscovery of lost sensations. This search for new meanings of myself is a path to a body poetry. Lygia’s vision shows the actual preocupation in looking the body not as something internal and closed but as a dialogue with the world where a defined inside and outside does not exist. “In the sensorial phase of my work, I denominated ‘Nostalgia do Corpo’, the object was still an indispensable way in between sensation and participant. Man find its’ own body through the touch sensations done in objects outside themselves”(Milliet,1992:119)

The “Relational Objects” of Lygia, cannot be admired as exposed objects in museums, because outside the most important function that was to promote an encounter of the individual with himself, lost its’ reason. Lygia notice that art is not tied or minimized itself to to an object of art, on the contrary, has the power to act as an experience and participate to modify the world. The contemporary esthetyc practice understands life as a creative potential, where an artistic production only represents one of the dimensions of the work. The first intention of current art is the creation and the multiplication of signos, to promote the encounter of the individual with reality. Being like that, contemporary art work provoques an exchange and a game in beween what is visible and what is not visible.

Lygia, by inserting creativity on the breast of science (psychology), antecipates the interdisciplinary vision and goes to encounter of the theorysts cited in this work.


3.2. Tecnology Art


The path of change in the space of art, knows a speed with no limits in history on the twentieth century. Today space in art does not exists “it is a space with no space, a nomad space, a space clear of webs, a dispersão in waves of the tradicional picture in the electronic flow. (...) The representation is never an innocent copy of reality, but a choice of a reconstructed space”. (Bardonnèche.1997:195,196)


Some artists are observing the body in its’ totality and utilizes the interfaces with the objective of “connections in ciberspace as extensions of conscience”. (Venturelli,2001:53) Gilbertto Prado is among the brazilian artists that explore the body in its’ relation with machines and the tele presence possibilities.


3.3. Gilberto Prado


Gilberto Prado afirms that the universe is connected in webas a result of  Ciberespace and that this space above all a space of perception and of information.


Prado worries with the possibility of interactivity offered by electronic means, arguing that contemporary work have the characteristics that were not present in the traditional work. Prado is worried with the possibility of getting some feed-back from machines, objects or current instruments. Machines respond from its’ own actions, showing that interactivity have peculiar characteristics that did not exist in the past.


In electronic art, the artist creates, also needs to create some interfaces to provoque the spectator to intervene and enrichens the artistic work. The relation of an artistic work with the receptor is different in the electronic universe because when an environment or space is created, where people meet, the answer depends only on the group and each group is unique. In this case preliminary possible data does not exist to the artist because random factors are too big, which makes the basis of work be open and umpredictable.


Prado in “Desertesejo”[6] creates a virtual  interactive multiuser environment to internet. In this work the artist gives options to the participants in order to choose how to get into the web space. There are three possibilities of navegating: the first one as a serpent - visualizing the world from the dirt and crawling way. The second one, as a panther by having a vision of the world from an intermediate position and the third option as an eagle – visualizing the world from space. The participant can travesty of the figure that wishes the most, taking advantage of the potential of electronic means that allows simulations and dissimulations.


On space in electronic art, Prado cites Roy Ascott: “Art in this space of data, under continuous flow from electronic telecomunication is always incomplete, undetermined, a current flow. In the telematic art does not exist creation without participation and does not exist participation without distribution, interactivity in art as art: culture as connection”. (Ascott apud Prado.1997:300) 


Lygia and Prado provoque sensations and utilizes several artistic forms to establish esthetyc propositions in the encounter of man with the world. The intention of these artists is to emphatize the changes that happens, the relation of the individual with the group, the passage of biological body to robot and on the other hand from robot to biological. For Lygia the relation of the artist with the receptor is direct because it doesn’t need a machine although Lygia utilizes the “Relational Objects”. Prado focuses on the effects and the possibilities that technology can provoque sensations.


4. Conclusion


The artists shown in this essay are compelled in transforming a simple living of man in a environment by construction. All the considerations taken here have the objective of understanding world as a system of conections where a dialogue in between man and the world happens. Art arises as a power to meet one of the possible paths and goes into the encounter of Peirce making grow the creative reasoning of the universe.


If we understand man as an unquiet and mutant being, we need to insert him in a world that follows him. More than that, it is needed to aggregate them, because it is impossible to visualize man and the world as two independent pieces of a same game. On the contrary, we should imagine them as one unit, siamese brothers with a job of constructing themselves. Therefore, it is not man that builds the world nor the world that builds man, they build themselves simultaneously. It is an eternal build up, an eternal environment.


Some contemporaneous artists have in mind that through the body it is possible to instinct what is happening in the world and how this world is being received by the body. In addition, it is possible to create other worlds, let flow imaginations and dreams that were limited to the most intimate wishes. Today it is possible to experience sensations without leaving a spot.


From what was exposed in this work the notions of construction, environment, esthetic and semiosys points to the need to visualize the world as a dialogue system and bring to discussion creativity as the building of a possible future. As a result, man, as said by Villaça is: “an undone being, incomplete. This is the advantage of man and it’s objectives that is to reach perfection. From body building to body modification, from fashion to urban tribe creations, the human being builds it’s identity after interventions with themselves and in nature”. (Villaça.1998:capa) To end the words of Lucia Santaella and of Edmond Couchot. Santaella explains the function of art in the construction of life. Couchot argues about interactivity on artistic work that utilizes new technology:


When the own design of life is in game and put on hands of humans, the high sensibility of the artist cannot interfeer this design. That is why, com o faro sensível de que dispõe, the artist today has a vital role to fulfill issues of life. The peircean esthetic help us to think about this role. (Santaella.2004:112)


Find themselves, artificial intelligence and life. On the basis of neural webs and of genetic algorithms prevail the same principle: that of a a high level of interactivity of complexity in between constitutive elements of life or of artificial intelligence (genes and neurons) that thanks to its’ configuration interact to produce emerging phenomena. Interactivity reach a superior stage in complexity and autonomy. In this sense, she follows a cibernetyc evolution. While the  “first cibernetyc” was asked more over notions of control and communication (in animals and in machines) and of information, the “second cibernetyc” preferrebly questioned about self organization notions over emerging structures, webs, adaptation and evolution inquiries. In an analogue matter, while the first interactivity interested of its’ interactions in between computer and man in a answer-stimulation model or action-reaction, the second interested more for the action while guided by perception embodied, by sensor-motor processes and by autonomy (or by “autopoïèse”). (Couchot.2003:31-32) 















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[1] Environment in this essay is linked to Heideggeriana notion, that assumes a construction of space and not only a simple living.

[2] “The ideal of the ideals, the summum bonum, that does not require any justification and explanation”. (Santaella. 1994:126)


[3] Semeiosis: “By ‘semiosys’ I understand an action or influence that consists of or  involves a cooperation of three subjects, the sign, the object and the interpreter, tri-relative influence this one that cannot, in any way, be solved in actions in between pairs. Semeiosis, during greek or roman period, during Cícero time already, if I can I recall, meant the action of pratically any species of signs; and my definition applies to everything that behaves to the denomination of  ‘sign”. (Peirce. C.P5.484 apud Santaella 2000:29)


[4] Boltzmann (1844-1906) Austrian Phycist, established the basis of Classic Physics statistics, and related  cinetic to thermodynamic theory. Theoretic Physics suffered important changes during the 1860’s thru the 1870’s, after the establishment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics done by Clausius e Kelvin; the cinetic theory of gases by Clausius and Maxwell and of the eletromagnetic theory by Maxwell. (


[5] Images of Lygia Clark work can be found in the following addresses:

[6]The work of Gilbertto Prado can be seen under the address: