Visions in catastrophe; conflict and the creative mind. A computational art historical analysis of cataclysm, war, and artistic production.

One hundred and twenty three of history’s most important artistic creations when mapped¹ in relation to the incidence of wars, massacres and genocide, reveal reoccurring patterns of creative human output that flourish after cataclysm. The dataset reveals a statistically significant² increase in creativity after periods of social upheaval, with a pronounced peak in artistic production that occurs during conflict.³

  1. The proximity of artistic output to cataclysm is coded using a colour refraction scale where white represents those works of art produced during conflict, while colour bands refracting away from white – yellow, orange, red – representing works of art created, one, two, and three years post conflict. The further away from white, the greater the time separation of the date of creation from the conflict event.
  2. Statistical analysis reveals that there is a significant difference from the normal distribution : D'Agostino-Pearson test statistic χ² equals 309.7075, which is not in the 95% region of acceptance, -∞ 5.9915. The p-value equals 0, P ( x≤309.7075 ) = 1. The observed effect size φ is large, 0.915, indicating that the magnitude of the difference between the sample distribution and the normal distribution is large. The measure of skewness is 3.6101, and the shape is asymmetrical right/positive, indicating that the distribution is heavily skewed toward 0 values.
  3. A significant proportion (55/123) of history’s most important works of art were created during conflict. 82 out of 123 works of art were created five years or less post conflict.