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But is it art?

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Rigil Kent
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« on: June 18, 2012, 08:52:43 AM »

Hardly a new question. And certainly a meme in its own right: so much so that artworthiness has not only been comically contemplated in the British hit series, Absolutely Fabulous, but even locally long before the days of Edwina and Patsy.

Several high profile works, contemporary and classic, continue to bring up the question of their status as real artworks. The recent drama surrounding the painting by Cape Town's Mr Brett Murray culminated in a court hearing. I was disappointed to note that the discussions around the big question, How far may art push the boundaries? were pretty thin. But once this question is thrashed out properly, it will mean that we shall also need  a super-duper definition of what constitutes art. Which brings us right back to that old bugbear meme.

So, if the problem of what is and what isn't a work of art can't be solved once and for all by a magnificent set of clear thinkers such as yourselves, I'm afraid it never will. So lets hear it. Smiley

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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2012, 09:08:56 AM »

Here at work we've got an on-site art gallery, and twice a year or so they display new artwork with a discreet (sometimes very) price nudged somewhere on a corner. They like doing "cultural" stuff here.  Anyhows, I love to go browse once they set up, some of the most amazing things are displayed in the name of art, and the prices requested for the items are an amusement in itself.  I often suspect that it shouldnt be called "art" but rather "sarcasm". Last year we had a plaster of paris pig sitting on a toilet seat on the back of a tortoise which sported ears like a bunny's and the pig was hanging onto that with human hands.  Lets imagine a combination of Orwell, Lewis Caroll and Pratchett.

What constitutes art?  Beats me, its like beauty, strictly in the eye of the beholder.
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 09:18:10 AM »

Anyhows, I love to go browse once they set up, some of the most amazing things are displayed in the name of art
Exactly ... good art is awesome to behold. Little else has the potential to move us like the artistic expressions of anoter human being. Its great that your workplace takes an interest in such things. I can't recall that we were ever much bothered with art acquisitions during my years in industry ... and the paint industry at that! Grin

What constitutes art?  Beats me, its like beauty, strictly in the eye of the beholder.
Then who would you say determines the artistic value of a work: the members of the public because they (on average) do or don't like it, or the creator because he says that it is art, and art is what artists do?

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brianvds
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 09:23:56 AM »

Art is whatever is presented as such. The real question is whether any particular work is any good. Yes, a figurine of Christ submerged in urine, or a jewel-encrusted skull, or an artist's unmade bed, is art. But is it worth the millions that get forked out for it?


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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 09:47:25 AM »

Well what is anything "worth"? What you're willing to pay for it. If someone markets something that people aren't willing to pay for, it's a short interval before that item is no longer on the market, be it art or anything else. Many things in this world are sold not according to their inherent "worth" but according to what people are willing to pay for it. We're often willing to pay more for even the cheapest of items if it is convenient for us to pay more at the time (Like picking something up late on a sunday at the local garage-bound woolies).

Much the same the artist does set the price, but if there's no-one who considers that item to be worth that money, he's going to sit with a white elephant. The moment somebody does pay the money, it was worth it, to that person. The problem is usually finding that person.

However that raises another question. Is monetary value not an arbitrary yardstick to be measuring artistic value? Perhaps someone out there creates the ultimate expression of art, but no-one understands it, or values it, and thus it is monetarily "worthless". However still a valid (perhaps profound) expression of art.

I've stood at length in galleries pondering the profundity of a certain work of art only to have someone else look at it, go "Hahaha that's funny", and walk away. So I was seeing something this person wasn't, or he understood the piece better than me. That's why in art, for me, there are no absolute judges.
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 09:53:36 AM »

Art is whatever is presented as such.
I'm making the assumption that we all want to see artists operate without fear of their works being censored or otherwise tampered with, and that artistic endeavours should enjoy total freedom of expression. However,  if art is to enjoy these privileges, as the outcome of The Spear hearing regrettably failed to conclude, then what is to stop anyone from simply labeling a defamatory or other legally dodgy creation or writings as "art"?


However that raises another question. Is monetary value not an arbitrary yardstick to be measuring artistic value? Perhaps someone out there creates the ultimate expression of art, but no-one understands it, or values it, and thus it is monetarily "worthless".
I think this is without a doubt the case. Legions of works are only fully appreciated after the artist's death. Also, an appreciation of a work's beauty, or its successful appeal to our emotions and intellect, does not necessarily equate to an urge to purchase it. Immediate monetary value, to me, is a poor measure of artistic value.

Quote
So I was seeing something this person wasn't, or he understood the piece better than me.
Even though I'm generally a bit of a philistine in that I know little about things cultural, I am, like everyone else, aware of what I like and every so often a work will leave my quite emotional. But my taste often does not reflect that of others: if I am in the vicinity, I will probably pop in to see the Mona Lisa, unless there's a queue.  Wink

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Hermes
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 12:38:50 PM »

It is worth noting how many times the word skill occurs in association with the definition of art in the Oxford Dictionary.  I particularly like this definition: "Skilful execution as an object in itself".  In this respect I am old fashioned and do not have a high regard for conceptual art that is all concept and no skill.  As a matter of fact I suspect that this trend in art has evolved because of a lack of skill.  I have a particular admiration for stone sculpturing where the artist cannot cover up mistakes.
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spoedniek
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2012, 13:12:42 PM »

...do not have a high regard for conceptual art that is all concept and no skill.  As a matter of fact I suspect that this trend in art has evolved because of a lack of skill.  I have a particular admiration for stone sculpturing where the artist cannot cover up mistakes.
Yes, but skill in what? What about skill in conceptual ideas? There are many highly skilled wild life or landscape artists, but their art is seldom very interesting (I'd battle to remember any of it after moving on to the next painting). I prefer art that has some effect on my often staid point of view, that makes me think a bit about my understanding of the world. Conceptual art attempts to do that, I think. Skill will probably make it more palatable.
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Hermes
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2012, 14:06:13 PM »

Yes, but skill in what? What about skill in conceptual ideas? There are many highly skilled wild life or landscape artists, but their art is seldom very interesting (I'd battle to remember any of it after moving on to the next painting). I prefer art that has some effect on my often staid point of view, that makes me think a bit about my understanding of the world. Conceptual art attempts to do that, I think. Skill will probably make it more palatable.
An artist who cannot compose a concept would of course just be a copy artist.  When one disposes of the requirement for skill in execution, the art is incomplete.  There are forms of art where conceptual development and execution are split between parties, such as the architect and the builder.  Both skills are needed to complete the building.  In my mind a work of art requires more than just an original idea and I suspect that the artistic society are getting away with incompetence due to a public not insisting on skill in execution.   
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spoedniek
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2012, 14:44:01 PM »

I suspect that the artistic society are getting away with incompetence due to a public not insisting on skill in execution.   
I'm sure this is true, but it has probably been true for quite a while (only not saying always as I'm not sure at what point art became art). It's now possible to buy art ideas on ebay from reputable (however you'd like to interpret that) artists. I wonder what becomes of the 'art' if you are more skilled than the seller and render their idea in a way that they'd never be able to. And I can also imagine that artists would attempt to create an artwork that will sell for a ridiculous price (e.g. diamond encrusted skull?) where the art is not in the object but in the reaction to the ridiculous price. Not sure if I'm making sense here. Just sort of meandering...

Perhaps the issue has to do with the fact that we want to put a (monetary) value on something, and skill is perhaps easier to notice than concept?
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brianvds
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2012, 18:29:57 PM »

Well what is anything "worth"? What you're willing to pay for it. If someone markets something that people aren't willing to pay for, it's a short interval before that item is no longer on the market, be it art or anything else. Many things in this world are sold not according to their inherent "worth" but according to what people are willing to pay for it. We're often willing to pay more for even the cheapest of items if it is convenient for us to pay more at the time (Like picking something up late on a sunday at the local garage-bound woolies).

What are the emperor's new clothes worth? In one sense, it is exactly as you say: they're worth a lot because the emperor was willing to pay a lot. In another sense, it is clear that the emperor allowed himself to be conned. I suspect tat with a lot of art, we have the emperor's new clothes all over again: nobody is willing to say it's a load of crap, simply out of fear of appearing to be an unsophisticated philistine.

Quote
However that raises another question. Is monetary value not an arbitrary yardstick to be measuring artistic value?

Somewhat, yes.I think the best yardstick is a work's longevity: we call those works masterpieces that remain popular over many different centuries and cultures. They have a certain whatever-it-is that manages to speak to many people from many different backgrounds. But of course, in this the emperor's clothes effect might also be at work and the Paris Hilton effect, i.e. works that become famous for being famous. It can be difficult to untangle these various influences on a work's popularity, though I like to think that over the centuries the cream will rise to the top.

Quote
Perhaps someone out there creates the ultimate expression of art, but no-one understands it, or values it, and thus it is monetarily "worthless". However still a valid (perhaps profound) expression of art.

It is not clear to me how a work can be said to be great if it leaves everyone cold. :-)

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brianvds
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2012, 18:48:50 PM »

Yes, but skill in what? What about skill in conceptual ideas? There are many highly skilled wild life or landscape artists, but their art is seldom very interesting (I'd battle to remember any of it after moving on to the next painting). I prefer art that has some effect on my often staid point of view, that makes me think a bit about my understanding of the world. Conceptual art attempts to do that, I think. Skill will probably make it more palatable.


Any ass can come up with 50 conceptual ideas in a week; everything lies in the execution. Shakespeare isn't great because of the stories (many of which are pretty humdrum), but because of HOW he told them.

Of course, this doesn't mean that technique is literally everything. I know what you mean: even very finely executed paintings can somehow still be very forgettable. And perhaps, for some people a weird installation of a pickled cow in an otherwise empty room (or whatever) may elicit some powerful response. It tends not to do much for me.

Bouguereau is technically breathtaking, but many modern viewers find his work cloyingly sentimental. It is commonly dismissed as "mere illustration," though it is not clear to me that there can be anything "mere" about this:



By comparison, Van Gogh's work is technically crude but enjoys great popularity; it has a certain expressive force to it that somehow manages to speak to many viewers despite the relatively simple technique:



But now I wonder: can something like Tracy Emin's "My unmade bed" (which consisted of exactly that: her unmade bed) even begin to compare to either of the above paintings? Yes, it has a certain zany originality to it. But how difficult is it really to dream up concepts like that? What do they mean anyway? What's the point other than to try to out-outrageous all other artists? What kind of training is really required to come up with such stuff?

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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2012, 19:17:27 PM »

Or, in a nutshell, the answer to the question of what art is, is, “A certain mix within a fairly wide window of possibilities of consensus and controversy.”

The extremes of “yes” or “no” in relation to a given work of purported art are merely endpoints on a continuous scale from 0 to 1, neither of which endpoints is conclusively attainable because of the essential and insurmountable subjectivity of the decision.  It’s a waste of time aiming at a definitive answer without a much deeper understanding of how the human mind/brain works.  Some of humanity’s greatest minds have wrestled with this question.

Futilely.

Fruitlessly.

Frustratedly.

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LJGraey
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2012, 23:52:35 PM »

It's interesting how "what is art?" has become such a common question. There really is so much out there, but it does seem to have become a rather "cliquey" affair. Personally I feel monetary value is the worst yardstick for measuring the true value of art. Modern art especially seems centered more around eccentricity and shock value than around any kind of skill.
I once remarked to a highschool art-class classmate that went on to study art at varsity, that the art-world seems to have become an "industry" very similar to the music industry, where there are a lot of fakers and "industry manufactured" artists, with only a few great talents sprinkled inbetween. In many cases an artist gains noteriety only because one of the movers & shakers of the industry took a shine to them. Other times it's pure novelty, where the artist's background or peculiar style (or age) plays more of a role than any kind of skill.
I used to think that it was about conveying emotion, which should be easy for a master of any craft. Whatever the emotion might be, having the skill to create something that induces a similar feeling in others is what defines an artist. And the method used should be a question of which medium and style would best accomplish that.
It's like a story I heard about Abdullah Ibrahim: he apparently said that only Jazz musicians are real musicians, to which someone else (the name escapes me) replied that he only thinks so because all he can do is Jazz. (I'm not entirely sure how much truth there is to that story. Muso's can be pretty mean. But it has a point though.)
Perhaps art is the same in that regard. I know some of my favourite artists, like Picasso, Dahli, and Bacon, were perfectly capable of producing a normal portrait/still-life in other mediums, they just chose to use a style that they felt best suited what they were trying to convey.
As for Brett Murray's "Spear", I thouht the concept was great, but there were probably better ways of executing it other than the slap-dash looking application of cartoonish genetalia where a loose belt buckle and open zipper (a-la Zapiro) woul have conveyed the message just as strongly. Hasty addition perhaps, or I'm just being unnecesarily critical. Either way, its noteriety alone has turned it into somewhat of an icon. You can't buy publicity like that...
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2012, 09:04:21 AM »

From the posts so far it follows that, at the very least,:

An artwork is an intentional artificial arrangement

An objective qualifier. Clearly natural wonders and events are out.  Accidental works submitted post hoc are also out. For example, the unmade bed mentioned earlier must be made unmade, not simply discovered that way. An exhibition of blank canvasses qualifies. Score a= 0 or 3.

skillfully executed

Still a fairly objective criterion. Score the compliment of the fraction of the adult population capable of essentially reproducing the work using the same methods and materials, s = 0 to 1.

aimed at affecting an observer emotionally

Emotional response to the work would be the first subjective part. It could conceivably be measured by considering the responses of say, 30 individuals right after exposing them to the work. Score e= 0 to 1.

and in a desirable manner

Also subjective, desirability is not only meant in the commercial sense of acquiring the work, but also in that the largest part of the population must be pleased that work was created in the first place. Lobbing a housebrick into a crowd of people will probably not qualify as art, because even though the emotional reponse may be intense, the population is unlikely to find the work desirable. In addition, it will also score low in the "skills" department. Score d= 0 to 1.

such that a + s + e + d > 4,5

Seems it does boil down to voting! Roll Eyes

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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2012, 10:11:05 AM »

I have found that I have a more intrigued response to artworks that are 'old'. Something I know shouldn't be, but is.

One time I stood in a gallery admiring a quite ordinary painting of a croissant, some grapes, table setting, etc... executed beautifully. But what struck me was the vividness of that painting, calling out to me from across the ages. I noticed the details, the construction of table, the tablecloth... all transporting me back in time to another era. Did the artist ever contemplate that 100's of years later a man "from the future" would be standing there contemplating back at his thoughts, techniques, setting, etc? More intriguingly, people from the same era wouldn't have given subject a second thought. Moreover, there is probably a lot of art out there that we don't give a second thought, but which may appeal to people in the distant future much more, due to it reflecting our age.

Arty people like to carry on about the importance of the "provenance" of a piece, and I do think it does make a difference to the appreciation of a work. Not so?
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« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2012, 10:41:08 AM »

It’s upwards of 1.3 million times as complicated as that…

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spoedniek
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« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2012, 10:51:57 AM »



ugh, back to the real world then...  Smiley
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brianvds
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« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2012, 11:43:36 AM »

aimed at affecting an observer emotionally
Emotional response to the work would be the first subjective part. It could conceivably be measured by considering the responses of say, 30 individuals right after exposing them to the work. Score e= 0 to 1.

What about illustration, which is often intended to be accurate rather than to elicit an emotional response? I find that if it is very well executed, it sometimes elicits an emotional response anyway, in the same way that any display of technical virtuosity will. But the whole intention of the paintings of birds or plants in your field guide is to allow you to recognize them, not to convey any deeper meaning. Yet, at least to me, they are often more magnificent as art than most of what I see in galleries nowadays.

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« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2012, 11:48:21 AM »

Arty people like to carry on about the importance of the "provenance" of a piece, and I do think it does make a difference to the appreciation of a work. Not so?


It shouldn't make a difference, but I guess it does, looking at some old painting and realizing that this was touched by the master's hand, and viewed by people who would find our age utterly alien. Still, there is too much hype about that too, e.g. the way in which an old painting suddenly acquires or loses value if it is discovered that it was/wasn't made by some big name in art. Goya's "The colossus" comes to mind. Well, not by Goya, as it turned out, and now suddenly its monetary value has plummeted and it has been demoted in general. But I think it is a pretty neat piece of painting, Goya or not. If it was great work before we discovered it's not his, then why is it suddenly no longer a great work when we discover it isn't his?

This effect is of course even more marked in modern art, where the "my four year-old kid could do that"-effect is at play. With such works, their ONLY is the signature on them.

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« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2012, 12:21:21 PM »

As for Brett Murray's "Spear", I thouht the concept was great, but there were probably better ways of executing it other than the slap-dash looking application of cartoonish genetalia where a loose belt buckle and open zipper (a-la Zapiro) woul have conveyed the message just as strongly.
Actually I like the execution.  The perspective bringing the genitals to eye level, the Leninesque pose, the political poster style and the red and black colour scheme all contribute to a very intimidating sexual/political portrayal.  Zapiro is an excellent artist in his own right, but with an emphasis on ridicule rather than intimidation.  
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2012, 12:44:04 PM »

What about illustration, which is often intended to be accurate rather than to elicit an emotional response?

Brian, I don't think an illustration where the draftsman merely aims to inform should qualify as art, however skillfully executed. The intent to convey emotion is lacking. Its sort of like the difference between manslaughter and murder isn't it? Undecided

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brianvds
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« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2012, 18:29:27 PM »

What about illustration, which is often intended to be accurate rather than to elicit an emotional response?

Brian, I don't think an illustration where the draftsman merely aims to inform should qualify as art, however skillfully executed. The intent to convey emotion is lacking. Its sort of like the difference between manslaughter and murder isn't it? Undecided

Rigil

Go tell that to illustrators. :-)

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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2012, 21:53:12 PM »

Go tell that to illustrators. :-)
See no reason why they should mind, as there is nothing that necessarily makes an artistic drawing superior to a technical one.  They serve different purposes, and are good at totally different things. A technical drawing of, say, a bird in a field guide must obviously be more accurate than it's possibly more whimsical artistically rendered counterpart.

There is yet another possibility, namely that of decoration or craft, such as a bird motif embroidered on a scatter cushion or a napkin.

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« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2012, 05:56:43 AM »

Go tell that to illustrators. :-)

See no reason why they should mind, as there is nothing that necessarily makes an artistic drawing superior to a technical one.  They serve different purposes, and are good at totally different things. A technical drawing of, say, a bird in a field guide must obviously be more accurate than it's possibly more whimsical artistically rendered counterpart.

There is yet another possibility, namely that of decoration or craft, such as a bird motif embroidered on a scatter cushion or a napkin.

Rigil


It seems to me that just about any category, whether it be art, music or horses, will have somewhat fuzzy borders. Some things will definitely fall within the category, other things will definitely be outside of it, but on the borderline there will always be things that are debatable. Is a zebra a horse? How about Eohippus?

Thus endless debate about what art is, is probably pointless, because the debate mostly concerns the fuzzy borders. I had this discussion the other day with a guy who is vehemently opposed to modern art, and he disagreed with me, but I think he was just very much disturbed by the possibility that fuzzy borders would keep on shifting until everything he hates about modern art ends up being dignified with the term "art." Thus he accused me of being a postmodernist relativist etc., even though my tastes in art are actually quite conservative. :-)

There was a time not too long ago when there was no clear distinction between illustration and fine art. What is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes other than a series of illustrations of bits and pieces from the Bible? Many of them would actually not at all look out of place in a modern graphic novel:



The Pope would have had him strung up had he simply pushed his unmade bed into the chapel, methinks. I think the distinction between the two originated partly when illustrated books became widely available, but also because artists began suffering physics envy. Thus they (well, some of them) wanted to portray what they did as something of a philosophical, intellectual pursuit rather than what was increasingly thought of as "mere" craft. And so we ended up with an aloof, intellectual-sounding terminology: words like juxtaposition and dualism and post-industrial feminism started creeping into reviews. There was ever less craft and ever more concept. In many art schools, especially at university art departments, learning the basics of drawing was even thrown out the window altogether as being old-fashioned.

Lucky for us illustrators kept those skills alive or we would have lost everything that their predecessors took several centuries to learn. It seems to me that art really is a craft far more than an intellectual pursuit, and that in our egalitarian age, it is high time that we stopped thinking of that as some sort of insult to artists. I do not know of a single highly skilled artist that would mind in the least to be called a skilled craftsman. Quite the contrary. And the ones going on about "mere" illustration are almost invariably the ones who cannot do it themselves: " expressing yourself" with "intellectual art" has often become little more than an excuse for laziness and incompetence.

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« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2012, 11:04:29 AM »

[Spanner-in-the-works time]
One aspect that often features prominently in connection with art is the purported artist’s “suffering,” how s/he has “paid his/her dues,” that they are “sensitive to subtleties,” that they have “unique insight” and that they “need their freedom” to create.  Everyone wants to be an “artist” of some kind and there is a strong propensity for using the epithet “artist” as a badge of honour to signify all the hardships that they face in pursuit of their art.  In contrast, calling yourself a “scientist” or something technical that’s not directly associated with the art world is typically said without much expectation of eliciting expressions of deep reverence and awe from the listener.

Personally, I think “artists” just whinge a whole lot more than other people.

Creativity is a central precept for art.  If it’s not creative, it just ain’t art.  Consider that there are as many ways of, say, painting a given person’s portrait as there are people contemplating that project.  Each rendition is unique to the artist who produced it, and the same artist can also do different versions of the same person’s portrait.  This uniqueness and individuality goes to the heart of art’s alleged strength, and “creative” is the word we use to praise this or that artist.  The more we like an artist, the more “creativity” we ascribe to him or her.  How curious it is, then, that we invariably forget how truly creative scientists and engineers who work at the cutting edges are.  How curious that artists usually decry the type of creativity where there is just one way to arrive at and render a theory or method or procedure, namely the correct way, by combining disparate bits of existing knowledge in novel ways in accordance with certain strict rules.  To my mind, the latter is a much superior kind of creativity that requires significant skill in its execution and which meets all the requirements that entitle it to be called “art.”

On the whole, as a category, I don’t like artists very much.
[/Spanner-in-the-works time]

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« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2012, 11:53:17 AM »

Personally, I think “artists” just whinge a whole lot more than other people.


We have here to distinguish between artists and aaahhhtists. The former are folks who are skilled at drawing and painting. The latter are the type of hip, self-indulgent people you see on artsy TV programs. Have you noticed that? How they pronounce the word as aaahtist? :-)

You are of course right: math, science and engineering require creativity on a scale equal to anything Michelangelo engaged in (and note that Michelangelo was also a skilled architect and anatomist, and let us not even go into the talents of his contemporary Leonardo). One of the many ways in which postmodernist art and philosophy have harmed us is that ultimately, it has harmed the reputation of all artists, including the genuinely skilled and respectable ones.

My late uncle was a commercially very successful impressionist painter. He had no hint of the "artist's personality" and the last forty or so years of his life were mostly uneventful - he was too busy working to engage in scandal and remained happily married to the same woman for forty or so years. He rose at the same time every day, spent six to eight hours painting, attended no wild parties, and pursued little in the way of weird philosophies (although he did have a certain liking for woo-woo theories - ancient astronauts and that sort of thing - but in his case it really showed a general interest in the cosmos and the world around him. He read Sagan with just as much interest.)

He was also an avid amateur glider pilot, and was fascinated with aviation. He even now and then painted aircraft, although it was by no means what he specialized in:



When he was a child he wanted to be a pilot and was sort of diverted into art because at the time there wasn't any opportunity for him to pursue a career in aviation. But he read voraciously on the subject, had a great knowledge of aeronautics, built and flew his own model aircraft etc. He was greatly impressed with the work of some illustrators, notably Hergé (creator of the Tintin comics). He once pointed out to me that in the Tintin book "Flight 714", in a scene showing a passenger jet landing, all the details of both the cockpit and even the position of the flaps and ailerons on the wings are exactly correct for what the craft is doing - this sort of attention to technical detail greatly impressed him (as it impresses me - Hergé is one of my favourite artist, "mere illustrator" or not!)

All this just to demonstrate that being artistically creative need not turn one into an enemy of science or technology. Quite the contrary: it is when an artist or art lover goes on and on about the evils of science, and how math is all just cold logic, and how engineers have no soul, that I know I probably needn't pay any more attention to their art than to their philosophy. Yet how quick they are to run to a scientifically trained doctor at the first hint of sickness!


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« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2012, 12:40:29 PM »

We have here to distinguish between artists and aaahhhtists. The former are folks who are skilled at drawing and painting. The latter are the type of hip, self-indulgent people you see on artsy TV programs. Have you noticed that? How they pronounce the word as aaahtist? :-)
That’s most certainly possible but I can truly say that I have never encountered a self-professed artist — famous, middling, unknown or infamous — who isn’t at least on some level a shrill petulant egocentric fathead about their work, so my selection/confirmation bias is probably stronger than it should be.  Moreover, by virtue of their nature, this is the type one is most likely to bump into, and yet it’s still astonishing how common they are.  I don’t doubt that there are notable exceptions.  I just haven’t seen any.  That said, I’d’ve loved to have spent some time with a few selected artists whose works have impressed or moved me to see what sort of people they were behind the façade.

Growing up, Asterix, Lucky Luke and Tintin were among the staple reads in our house.  The quirky charm of peripheral details in many Asterix panels is heart-warmingly amusing.

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« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2012, 15:18:30 PM »

The quirky charm of peripheral details in many Asterix panels is heart-warmingly amusing.
Reminds me of the hours spent deciphering a MAD magzine's margins...  (bout as Art as I get, just like no spirituality whatsoever, our creator has endowed me with no art or fashion sense at all)
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« Reply #29 on: June 20, 2012, 16:34:08 PM »

One of the many ways in which postmodernist art and philosophy have harmed us is that ultimately, it has harmed the reputation of all artists, including the genuinely skilled and respectable ones.
Just to qualify this:  If you ask me, that’s among postmodernism’s pettiest offences.

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« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2012, 16:48:51 PM »

Artist MC Escher (1898-1972) was an interesting case. He drew  his (no pun intended) inspiration from mathematics of all things. When you Google his biography and quotes, he comes across as sharing Brian's uncle's work ethic: less glitz, more graft. He said: " The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure" I can only assume he was talking about the Platonic mathematical world. Pretty cool methinks.

http://www.mcescher.com/

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« Reply #31 on: June 20, 2012, 17:04:13 PM »

Quite so.  To get a better handle on Escher’s work in the context of modern mathematical theory and development, I strongly recommend reading Douglas Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.  And in the literary world, there’s the wonderful Lewis Carroll who does mathematical and logic tricks in and with smart prose.  Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice explains many of Carroll’s linguistic capers.

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« Reply #32 on: October 27, 2014, 10:36:22 AM »

The question remains, is it art?
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« Reply #33 on: October 27, 2014, 14:27:34 PM »

The question remains, is it art?


It's art, but is it GOOD art?  :-)
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« Reply #34 on: October 27, 2014, 14:45:08 PM »

The question remains, is it art?


It's art, but is it GOOD art?  :-)



Is art not just in its totality a subjective experience, anyway?
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« Reply #35 on: October 28, 2014, 04:58:30 AM »

The question remains, is it art?


It's art, but is it GOOD art?  :-)



Is art not just in its totality a subjective experience, anyway?


Once we have established criteria, we could judge works of art according to those, reasonably objectively. E.g. one can tell which of two portrait likenesses is the more accurate (assuming one is more accurate than the other). But should art necessarily resemble the world? That is a way more subjective thing.

It seems as if some works of art (and music, and literature) have a certain "something" that makes it appealing to many different times and cultures, and those are what we usually call the classics. If we could precisely codify what exactly that "something" is we could probably all produce masterpieces.

But then, even with the classics, the Paris Hilton effect plays a large role, as Mikhail Simkin tries to show on his provocative website at http://reverent.org/
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« Reply #36 on: October 28, 2014, 07:18:05 AM »

Brian, after a lot of contemplation, I think what you said right in the beginning of this thread hits the nail on the head:

Art is whatever is presented as such.

Which, of course, offers the audience no guarantees. But perhaps that is how it should be.

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« Reply #37 on: October 28, 2014, 08:30:57 AM »

It seems as if some works of art (and music, and literature) have a certain "something" that makes it appealing to many different times and cultures, and those are what we usually call the classics. If we could precisely codify what exactly that "something" is we could probably all produce masterpieces.
This reminds me of an experience I had at school concerning English Creative Writing as it was called at the time.  Early on in Standard 8, quite by accident I hit upon a type of composition and a writing style to go with it that significantly improved the marks my essays were awarded from that point on.  (That content and style is perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham.)  I ported these principles to the other two languages and my marks improved, er, markedly there too.  I remember being a bit concerned that this apparent preference was one limited to the particular teachers concerned, or possibly the school as a whole, but my matric marks eventually disabused me of that worry.

So it seems there are indeed such “universal” ingredients, at least in certain art forms.

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« Reply #38 on: October 28, 2014, 10:15:16 AM »

Art is whatever is presented as such.

I can throw in with this to a large degree. But I usually value originality and what you describe, Mefi, makes me hugely uncomfortable. Formulaic anything gets boring quickly, and I used to roll my eyes when people had to read out their essays in class, each with a pre-set theme and structure, going by the textbook. I always preferred an alternative interpretation of the subject material. I didn't do great but got better grades than most, likely because I was in a bit of a backwater Afrikaans school and my spelling/grammatical skills exceeded that of my classmates.

FWIW: In std. 2 a teacher marked my essay down with: "Children of your age shouldn't write like this". I thought this was a definite mixed message, and still think the teacher was being a bit of a retard.

Not that I claim my English is perfect even to this day. I often read my posts here in retrospect and cringe a bit.

That said, I think the difficulty in art is that each piece of art presents something different to be appreciated. There's a universe of different things that qualify something as "art" and that's what introduces the difficulty in people trying to apply reductionist principles in classifying it.

Some art presents beauty, some art presents incredible human suffering to prompt the viewer/listener/reader into action, some art is there to make the recipient reflect on their own behaviour/psychology/struggles/place in the world/etc. Some art is somewhat like a puzzle, leaving you lingering trying to tease the meaning out and rewards you, much like any other puzzle, once you do (or think you do).

Often the more "abstract" art is trying to convey a raw emotion using nothing more than the ferociousness or subtlety of the brush strokes. If it is done well I do appreciate it. However I think more often than not, it fails miserably and just appears like a mishmash of random paint.

More often than not, you walk into people's homes and find "art" that is merely there to look nice hanging on a wall, to give a certain colour or feel to a room. I don't qualify that as "art" art, yet I still think it fits into the general art category by lending a certain mood or feeling to a room. Then again, so does a blank wall painted a certain colour.

And this is where I come back to the admittedly thorny issue of originality. Is a guy pumping out moulds of ducks and selling them in a curio shop making art? I would say no. Seeing the same knitted-dress Barbie doll covering a toilet roll doesn't inspire much feeling in me, other than total apathy. But then by the same token, if we mass-produced perfect stroke-for-stroke copies of the Mona Lisa, would that make it not art? After a while, it's impact would diminish and nobody, IMHO, would consider it art any more.

It's like your favourite song, that you listened to just one too many times in a week, and can no longer stand. (EDIT: Or like yet another italian villa some person has built in the middle of joburg. Maybe the first one was a good idea, but after 100 it got a tad... repetitive)

I think there's something in this. I think true art requires novelty.
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« Reply #39 on: October 28, 2014, 10:29:34 AM »

I think there's something in this. I think true art requires novelty.

Then a giant butt plug in the middle off Paris is a novel as it gets.  Grin

But I agree with everything you said.

My father in law is a part time painter. And we've had the debate a few times,
that in painting you don't need or want a perfect copy of some scenes you have photos for that
rather a more abstract picture where the artist has left his impression is better.
Unless you going for a photo realistic painting in which case the skill is what is appreciated.


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« Reply #40 on: October 28, 2014, 11:21:03 AM »

That content and style is perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham.

Creative writing? Nope, never was a reliable source of marks for me. My heroes consistently failed to extract themselves from the impossibly convoluted and hair-raising horrors that I penned them into, and the stories almost always ended with someone that wakes up with a start ... it was all a dream! Clearly, I  took my literary inspiration from Dallas.

Then a giant butt plug in the middle off Paris is a novel as it gets.
Serious? You should visit PE. We've had one for ages.

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« Reply #41 on: October 28, 2014, 11:40:28 AM »

Perhaps it is the case that if, as brianvds suggests, “we could precisely codify what exactly that ‘something’ is” then anything based on such a codification ceases to be art for want of originality (or an essential element thereof).

However, it’s not obvious to me that, provided such a codification is sufficiently abstract, it would somehow forestall originality.  An accomplished artist who works in a particular medium with a preferred style (e.g., a painter who only does pointillisms on hardboard) can of course only render works that are physically possible with that combination of medium and style, but that does not mean the art so produced lacks originality because the content of the work counts at least as much as its presentation.

And so, with regards to my earlier post about English Creative Writing, it is similarly a bit of stretch to suggest that because an author works in a particular genre with a style that is their own but still recognisably derivative of other authors, such an author lacks originality because plot, structure, character development, etc. are also critical ingredients (Stephen King and John Grisham are good examples).

The “type of composition and a writing style” I wrote about isn’t a rigid algorithmic or automated procedure where you churn out virtual clones under different titles.  Rather, it’s a somewhat fuzzy and loose collection of flexible guidelines and preferred ways of structuring a story, of phrasing things, of characterisation, of plot elements, and so on — and also what to avoid concerning those aspects.  I think the school’s aim was to inculcate the ability to recognise what is generally thought of as good writing, and to get pupils to emulate it.  It’s not an easy thing to convey those aspects of writing, and I suspect the teaching thereof is even more difficult, hence the focus on classic literature where the pupil is exposed to them and will hopefully try to imitate them, eventually to refine the overall flavour of their writing to their own unique blend.

Finally, we must not lose sight of the fact that, lacking precise evaluation criteria, a work of “art” can only become a classic through sufficient consensus of various individuals and parties.  As individuals, we may or may not like a specific painting or sculpture or composition, but our opinion in any particular case has only limited relevance concerning whether the work in question is true art or not.  For example, I have a pervasive and especial, even morbid, dislike of collages but I wouldn’t presume to suggest that they aren’t art.

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« Reply #42 on: October 28, 2014, 14:35:04 PM »

I wrote a few poems not sure they qualify for that somewhat esoteric title. Each time I did this, it was done expressing some emotion such as losing my grandson or deep love for my wife etc. Also when I was diagnosed with MDR TB. I don't claim they were "arty" but they did give me a sense of release and today I can go back and re-read them with some "revision" of those erstwhile emotions: Here's one written by my son in law:
BLVD

Specious delicious
Fishnet stocking

Vivacious salacious
Shaven haven

Magnetic fluorescent
Fifty buck special

Inconsummate delegate
Irritating (b) itch
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« Reply #43 on: October 28, 2014, 15:06:15 PM »

FWIW: In std. 2 a teacher marked my essay down with: "Children of your age shouldn't write like this". I thought this was a definite mixed message, and still think the teacher was being a bit of a retard.

Lemme guess: your essay was titled "50 Shades of Grey." :-)
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« Reply #44 on: October 28, 2014, 15:40:33 PM »

Not at all anything risqué, but I'm stumped about what it was about... That was a long time ago.
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« Reply #45 on: October 28, 2014, 15:42:08 PM »

I wrote a few poems not sure they qualify for that somewhat esoteric title. Each time I did this, it was done expressing some emotion such as losing my grandson or deep love for my wife etc. Also when I was diagnosed with MDR TB. I don't claim they were "arty" but they did give me a sense of release and today I can go back and re-read them with some "revision" of those erstwhile emotions

I dabbled some as well a long time ago. Helped me deal with depression quite well actually, I lived.

EDIT: Reg that poem, I will recount some "wisdom" I encountered years ago: "Bitches aint nuthin but tricks and hoes."
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« Reply #46 on: October 28, 2014, 16:59:04 PM »

Quote
your essay was titled "50 Shades of Grey".
that was one of the worst books I have ever read. Self-indulgent crap...sex is great but jisses man it was gross and I am by no means an angel
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« Reply #47 on: October 29, 2014, 08:37:30 AM »

FWIW: In std. 2 a teacher marked my essay down with: "Children of your age shouldn't write like this". I thought this was a definite mixed message, and still think the teacher was being a bit of a retard.

Lemme guess: your essay was titled "50 Shades of Grey." :-)


50 Shades of Miss Grey Wink
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« Reply #48 on: February 05, 2017, 17:26:29 PM »

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