Aesthetics / Art / Creativity / Humor / Philosophy / Politics / Thoughts

Minimal Art II


Hereby I declare the empty set (referred to in this article as the Empty Set and defined, for example[1], as {x | not(x = x)} to be a work of art. In doing so, I am tying in with the art traditions of the found object (ready-made, objet trouvé),  of conceptual art and of minimal art.

However, I don’t claim ownership of the Empty Set. Instead, I give it to the public domain, with the only condition that no person or organization must ever claim any type of material or intellectual property right, ownership, patent or whatever type of claim restricting the rights of others concerning it. The free status of the Empty Set includes the right to build uppon it and extend it in any way. Since it is fundamental to mathematics and all sets can be viewed as extensions of the empty set, the open domain status of the Empty Set applies to all of these derivations as well. I leave it to the public to discuss if the open domain status of the Empty Set and its derivations is justified or justifiable or not and which things are covered by this claim. Property rights of all kinds are as-if-constructions and are therefore subject to debate.

I leave it to the art critics to decide if it is justified to attribute this to the tradition of found object since it is debatable if it is an object. I leave it to the philosophers of mathematics to discuss that question. If it is an object, the question is if it is an everyday object. One could argue that it is involved in every object, but that is a kind of philosophical question I find not so interesting.

I leave it to the art critics as well to decide if it can be justified to attribute this to conceptual art. There is maybe nothing as conceptual, as unsubstantial, as the empty set, so taking it as a piece of art might be considered as the cap stone of conceptual art. However, classical conceptual artists normally create a physical object as well. It is debatable, as just discussed in the previous paragraph, if the Empty Set is an object in this sense. On the other hand, in many instances of conceptual art, the actual physical object created by the artist is often completely dispensable and it would have been sufficient to just write down the idea[2]. One could say that this blog article is a physical object but it is debatable in which sense it is one.

I also leave it to the art critics to decide if it can be justified to put this in the tradition of minimal art. The classical works of minimal art were paintings with relatively little structure or information content. It is, however, a consequent step in the same direction to also leave out the paint and the canvas altogether. I have done a first step into this direction last year in my article Minimal Art. Since that article contained less information than this one, it might seem to be the more successful attempt in that direction, but on the other hand, the empty set seems more minimal.

If you think this is pure nonsense, you have a point and I would feel honored if this article was seen as being in the tradition of the Dada movement. I leave this question to the art critics as well.

If you think this is not art at all but a text and hence belongs into (nonfictional) literature, I want to point out that it is the Empty Set, not this article, which I declare to be art. (Of course, this article might be art as well, but that is another question). By the way, if this is nonfiction or fiction depends on the status of the Empty Set. If you think the Empty Set is fictional than one could consider this fiction, if it is a real object, this article is nonfiction. I would say it is not poetry in any case, but that depends on the definition. In the sense that this article is self-referential, it should be considered nonfictional if you think the article is a real object. It might be meta-fiction. I leave these questions to those who have fun in such questions.

There are traditions of using art in spiritual contexts. You may do so with the Empty Set as well. I suggest Zen as such a context. This is actually one of the more rational things to do with the Empty Set and I see this as tying in with the traditions of Koan and Enso. If you find this irrational, you may be right as well. Since the human mind does not have a fixed structure, one can consider the empty set to be its core. One may consider the empty set to be the core of creativity as well, the starting point and the total absence of restrictions. The Empty Set is defined by contradictory statements. If you think this is a joke or there are elements of satire, you might also be right, but this type of humor is a basic ingredient of Zen as well, as I understand it. One might argue in what sense Zen is spiritual, but I am not interested in that question. If you don’t understand this article, no problem. If you want to leave these questions open, I am also fine with that.

I leave it to the reader to decide what this article actually is.  ;-)

(The picture is from

[1] I mean the empty set itself, not any graphical or textual representation of it., like, for example the picture above. I also don’t mean any specific definition. There are actually indefinitely many ways to express the empty set. If you think that practically there are only a limited number because very long strings require more storage capacity than is available, I would not say you are wrong, but there are extremely many ways.

[2] I understand that museums or collectors would not buy ideas and the artists somehow have to make money. But maybe the arrival of the internet is changing the rules of the game.

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